Author's page


1930 born in Budapest
1954 receives her diploma as a Doctor of Physiotherapy
1954-87 works as a doctor
1969 Sándor Weöres introduces her in the anthology, Költők egymás közt (Poets Together)
1993 candidate in Literary Theory; teacher at the University of Miskolc
2006 dies in Budapest

Major prizes:
1979 Milán Füst Prizen, 1990 Attila József Prize, 1990 Prize of the Szépirodalmi Publishing, 1991 Kortárs Prize, 1992 Critics Prize of the journal Holmi, 1998 Prize of the Soros Foundation, 2006 Prize of the Belletrists

Tierra del Fuego

Beney was one of the most original, most metaphysical poets of her time; the musical resonance and philosophical purity of her verse will surely provide work to many generations of readers and critics to come. The epigraph of this volume of collected and new poems is a quotation from Kafka: Writing is a form of prayer . Here are not only many of her best poems, but also some excerpts of her volume of verse for children. The tone of the volume is of grief and love, commemorating the poet s lost loved ones (the most painful to read are the poems in which she remembers her little son); and it also contains long excerpts from the unique volume Versek a labirintusból (Poems from the Labyrinth), which can only be compared to John Donne s Holy Sonnets in their unrelenting quest for truth. In the poet s own words: My first volume ... bore almost the same title which I have now chosen for my collected poems. The line which I have always considered most important has remained the same, even after the labyrinth of years which I have left behind: your hope in your absence . This is clearly a parallel and a paradox at the same time: the separation of me and you, being and nothing, and at the same time the foreboding of their mystical unity. In their simultaneity? In the way time slips through into the eternal? Or in the timeless? The question loses its validity only in the inner happenings of a passing life.

Metaphors of Thought: Essays on the poetry of Attila József

Zsuzsa Beney published a volume on the poetry of Attila József in 1989; this collection of essays is an enlarged and revised edition of that volume, one of the very best essays ever on Attila József’s poetry and personality. Beney is well-versed in contemporary literary theory and philosophy, but uses it only as a background, for her language is clear and her voice at once passionate and exact. As a poet of similar metaphysical interest, she knows quite well that any poem by József, “although written in a quite colloquial idiom by a poet who seems to be easily understandable, is inherently unintelligible by the rational mind.” The “Foreword and Confession” at the beginning of the book should serve as an example for future literary critics: “I have dealt with Attila József’s poetry for many years, from my childhood until now, when I feel it important to try to put in words what I learn from him about—words? life? the relation of the two which gave meant the meaning of my life... The secret of Attila József’s poetry for me is the interrelated coexistence of the clearly described sensual phenomena and the crystal-clear definitions of a thinking mind.”

Between Words and Silence

Notes translator and fellow poet George Szirtes, “Although Zsuzsa Beney is best known in Hungary as a poet, it is her 1993 book of seven essays ‘Between Words and Silence’ which is her first book to have been translated into English. Essays with titles like ‘Between Autumn and Winter’ and ‘Between Dawn and Morning’, her short but elliptical text itself hovers between poetic and prose writing in style. The book is an extended meditation on border-lines and transitions, and Dr Beney’s meticulous, teasing thread of thought slowly embroiders itself into an intricate texture of repeating yet subtly varying motifs. The book comes to resemble the mirrored labyrinths and the ‘cobweb-like’ pattern of streets in the ‘unknown city’ she returns to throughout the essays. Intellectually and spiritually ambitious, Zsuzsa Beney’s ‘Between Words and Silence’ is an extraordinary introduction to the isolated otherness of Hungarian literature.” The 200 page book was translated by Marc Griffin and published by Mare’s Nest Publishing, London. One morsel: There will come a time when neither being, nor unbeing, nor the past will be missed. Memory and life evaporate. Unbeing unravels in our hands.


Péter Dérczy writes: A small, slim black volume, the title on the cover in white, and under it a Japanese character marking the word winter . Inside there are two cycles, one untitled (at least it is unmarked, but it must be the Winter cycle), the other the Fifteen Haikus (1972, shown perhaps for the reason of historical truthfulness), and this means that the fifteen three-line poems have no title but build up to a continuous whole....Hungarian literature has barely produced a more subtle and spiritual oeuvre than the poetry of Zsuzsa Beney. Her poems are so ethereal that for at first we don t even realize their themes; this is only revealed during repeated readings. They seem to be immaterial, a transparent veil of life, although their matter is carefully and firmly finished. It is not me saying this, but the poet Sándor Weöres, in 1969, when she introduced her in the anthology titled Poets among Themselves. His words are often quoted since, and this means that Weöres at the time was very clear-sighted in seeing the poetry of the beginner Beney and has realized that its essence would remain unchanged in spite of all the subtle changes (even when he formulated his doubts concerning this). Beney was thirty-nine years old at the time; thirty-five years later, today, I would be unable to describe more accurately her poetry, or even this volume, but I presume that even Weöres himself could only repeat his own words.

Neither Fire Nor Night,

Your hope in your absence. The volume opens with the emblematical poem, Tierra del Fuego ; the slim, essential volume contains new poems and a collection of the poet s earlier verse. In her previous volume, Tél (Winter, 2003), she wrote exceptionally short and dense poems resembling Japanese haikus. Her road could have led to silence as a consequence, but instead she returned to her earlier style. (Form, by the way, was never a central issue in Beney s poetry because the contents of her poems never changed; one of her best critics, Péter Pór, even ventured to say that her whole oeuvre is in fact one and the same poem.) The mirror images of the invisible (Vigil) are emitting dark light on the interfering meeting points of created and perishing life . The question is: Do we exist if we are not visible in the empty mirrors of our life and death reflecting one another? - The Moment ) Sándor Weöres, when greeting the newcomer, called Beney s poems a veil of transparent, immaterial light , and indeed, its musical and beautiful exterior immediately charms the reader but at the same time covers the important discoveries that can be made if we find the deep philosophical (and always paradoxical) problems under the light and radiating structure.

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