Author's page

Biography

1936 born in Kolozsvár (Cluj, Romania)
1950 studies at the Calvinist Academy of Kolozsvár
1952 imprisoned for five years for distributing political flyers and "subversive activities"; released in 1954
1955-60 studies Protestant Theology at Kolozsvár University
1960 works as an archivist
1964 works for a translation agency
1968-present freelance writer
1970-75 member of the Romanian Writers' Association
1982 resettles in Hungary
1984-present editor of Magvető Publishing House
1998 guest of the DAAD Artists' Program of Berlin

His prizes:
1970 Prize for Prose Writers, Romanian Writers' Union, 1975 Critics' Prize, 1975 Prize for Prose Writers, Romanian Writers' Union, 1985 Book of the Year, 1986 Attila József Prize, 1989 Tibor Déry Grant, 1989 Book of the Year, 1990 Artisjus Literary Prize, 1991 Prize of the periodical Magyar Napló, 1992 Oeuvre Prize of the Soros Foundation, 1992 Tibor Déry Grant, 1996 Pro Litearura Prize, 1996 Márai Prize, 1998 Laureate of the Hungarian Republic, 2002 Hungarian Literary Prize, 2003 Kossuth Prize

Sinistra District. Chapters of a Novel
1992

Writer Clara Györgyei describes this outstanding work: "We are in the realm of the anti-utopia, a cursed, amoral totalitarian existence, poignantly familiar. The ambiguous setting, a metaphorical province is...somewhere in the Carpathian mountains of Romania, near the Ukrainian border. It is a dark, destructive, devastating region, a "freezing hell" whose inhabitants live in captivity, some in enforced bondage, some in self-imposed exile. This baleful, restricted territory, controlled by an impersonal, sadistic secret police and/or military force, is not merely a fictional communist camp or penal colony, but, as the title suggests, an absurd, post-modern gulag, an irrational survival zone of demonic proportions. The time is either the recent past or the near future - possibly a period following a nuclear holocaust."

The Archbishop’s Visit
1999

Another mythologically timeless novel situated in the Carpathian mountains, The Archbishop's Visit expands out into ever-widening circles. Bogdanski Dolina, a valley surrounded by piles of garbage that give off a sickening, soporific stench, is governed by the clergy, although rumour has it that they are the dreaded mountain huntsmen of the past, now bearded. The inhabitants are expecting the visit of an archbishop, and in the background a coup d'état is plotted. In the middle of the village there is a "hospital", a penal colony where real and alleged consumptive patients are locked for good. The laws of this world are amoral but logical, and the outsider soon conforms to them. According to fellow writer Lajos Parti Nagy, it is a beautiful and dry novel of passionate and economical hopelessness.

The Stench of Prison
2001

Following the practice of conversation-based portraits of writers such as Borges or García Marquez, this book is a reworked version of what was originally a radio interview, conducted by a friend and colleague, the poet Zsófia Balla, who likewise hails from Kolozsvár. Balla's questions therefore come with an insider's knowledge, but they are not intrusive. Roughly one third of the book is devoted to the story of Bodor's imprisonment, told in a dry and ironic tone, but it touches upon the grim political and intellectual climate that ruled Kolozsvár's particular version of Eastern Europe's common plight during the 1960s and 70s. Although there are appended bibliographies of Bodor's own works (including translations) and of selected articles that review or discuss them, this book is much more about Bodor's life, temperament and character. He has a reputation for being an intensely private person, but here he chats away companionably whenever the opportunity presents itself. "I strongly suspect that if the people I write about didn't breed bears in the odious darkness of abandoned mine shafts, but cheerfully raised pigs on the heaven-lit Hungarian plains...my work would be much more uplifting, but no one would ever read any of it." -Ádám Bodor

The Birds of Verhovina
2011

Much like Ádám Bodor’s most celebrated work, Sinistra körzet, his most recent, Verhovina madarai (Birds of Vehovina) is a cross between a novel and a collection of short stories. Th e location this time is in the mountainous region of Sub-Carpathian Ukraine, in the fi ctional village of Jablonska Poljana, located in the real Verhovina District. It is a small settlement that has become detached from the rest of the world, where time stopped moving forward in the 1950s, where books are burned to provide warmth, washed clothes smell worse than dirty laundry, and the connection to the present and modernity is exhausted by the presence of a Stihl power saw. Th e volume’s short stories are connected by the variety of absences it puts forward. In Verhovina, there are no birds. Th e characters have no desires, their knowledge is confi ned to their survival instincts, and they are strangers to the concept of friendship. Ennui, resignation, acquiescence and delirium are their driving instincts – this is how the villagers exist in the borderlands. Th e characters have no past lives. Th eir stories begin when they enter this enclosed, militarized plane of existence, and end when for whatever reason they leave it. Th ey do not belong anywhere and are tied only to the “here and now”, and their obscure backgrounds make it unnecessary to treat them as individuals. Th eir complicated, foreign sounding names (for example Anatol Korkodus, Edmund Pochoriles, Damasskin Nikolsky) and their occupations recalling the dictatorial past (for example water commissioner, intendant, honorary police offi cer) function only as a way to label them. Verhovina madarai does not feature a plot. Th e volume is a collection of the characters’ stories, which dovetail again and again through the intricate web of time and the interaction between its characters. Th e reader loses his sense of time as the recurrent passages recalling earlier moments highlight the concentricity of the stories, emphasizing the sense that everything is stuck in time and space. Th e subtitle Változások végnapokra (Variations for the End of Days) therefore does not refer to a community on the verge of collapse, but to a permanent state of being. Th e powers that be have Brigadier Korkodus, the settlement’s leader killed, the number of the dead increase, children are born with three legs, women remain pregnant for two years at a time, and a demon arrives at the village inn, while those living in this zone acknowledge these phenomena as a matter of course and wait for the prophecy of the end of days to arrive, as described in their own book of statutes, the Eronim Mox szakácskönyve (Eronim Mox's Cookbook).

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