Author's page

( 1964 - 2014 )


1964 born in Fehérgyarmat
1979-1983 lives in Füzesgyarmat
1984-1989 graduates in Hungarian Language and Literature from Kossuth Lajos University (KLTE), Debrecen
1989-92 assistant, then senior lecturer of Classical Literature Department, KLTE
1992 95 scholarship from the Hungarian Academy of Science
1995-present lectures at KLTE, Debrecen
1998 obtains PhD in Literary Studies
2000 reader at KLTE

His prizes include:
1989 IRAT Quality Prize, 1993 Pro Culture Prize from the City of Debrecen, 1995 Alföld Prize, 1996 Tibor Déry Award, 1998 Ernő Szép Award, 1999 Csokonai Prize, 1999 Vilmos Prize, 2000 Zoltán Zelk Prize, 2001 János Barta Prize, 2002 Attila József Prize, 2003 Vackor Prize, 2004 Milán Füst Prize, 2005 Palládium Prize, 2006 Artisjus Literary Prize, 2008 Prize of the Belletrists (essays)

Occasion. Like. Anything

Szilárd Borbély’s fourth book of poems has created a grammatical system of relations, has twisted words, word classes, suffixes, the boundaries of words and sentences, punctuation and the elements of the simile, etc., in such a way that the linguistic substance thus created can emblematically embody the breaking up of the personality (the first person singular narrator, the “I”) and make possible its external examination. The persona of the poems lingers in places like the street, the park, the cinema or the theatre; the poet is walking, musing and is reflected from different surfaces. In the prismatic fractions of the “I” there are ‘life’, ‘occasion’, ‘roles’, ‘appearance’, ‘existence’, ‘identity’, ‘similarity’, ‘imitation’, ‘scenery’, ‘poster’; there are speech and silence, sign and reference and the meaning of things; his world is peopled by the tumble-over supple-jack, the chess-piece, the blackbird, the man, the woman and the angel. The text alludes to literary works and there is a mock ars poetica, claiming in one and the same poem contrary things about poetry: “Without rules I think there is no art” and “art just like language is irregularity“(without rules). This fragmentariness creates a space for emotionally grave half-sentences, but it withholds all through the book “what still can be talked about”.

Place Of What

“Szilárd Borbély’s poetry is the existential poetry of a state of life that is for some reason reduced, eroded. His circumspect way of speaking, his vague punctuality, his meandering lines, and even his emotions and tenderness seeping through objectivity, renders his poetry akin to the French nouveau roman, distantly to turn-of-the-century German naturalism, or, more closely, to the hyper-realism of modern painting. It is inherent in Borbély’s approach that he does not write specific poems as much as one whole book that can be divided into musical moments that in fact, despite its diverging elements of style, creates a homogeneous, musically structured whole. It is not the world he depicts but a stream of consciousness, the constant modifications of his own mind.” -Lászlo Lator “To be able to approach these texts, one must accept that the poem itself is a space-like entity, created by the elements of language or, more precisely, of utterance handled materially, and (even more importantly) by their relations. The texts thus literally become textures, tissues, but at the same time gain a representative force as well. The space-experience in Szilárd Borbély’s poems has always appeared in the form of repetition and fragmentation. The pattern of fractions draws the contours of the intimate presence of one person and, at the same time, the picture of linguistic thinking, which involves ignorance and oblivion just as well as knowledge and memory. And thinking, in Szilárd Borbély’s poems, following the way of sensation, and not at all independent of it, strives to know the object of sensation. So in his case, language is the medium of sensation, and this way the metaphoric movement of language becomes slow and full of obstacles.” -Gábor Schein

Funeral Pomp

The book revives the medieval genre of the Sequence, together with allegories and (folklorized) language. In the appendix, a dryly told piece of news relates the story of an elderly couple, robbed, the wife left dead. From the initials and from certain textual references, the victims turn out to be the poet’s own parents. Szilárd Borbély recreates the language of Baroque poetry such that he is able to mix (and so rebuke) the holy with the profane, the solemn with the everyday, the spiritual with the shockingly physical, the lamentation with the brutality of the facts. The tone remains fully impersonal and yet speaks for all humankind. The first cycle of the book, Sequences for the Holy Week, correlates the mystery of Jesus’ birth and death yet, as László Márton observes, “Easter ‘cannot fit into’ this tracing together of Christmas and the Holy Friday; the poems constantly underline that the bloody ’substituting sacrifice’ was worthless, salvation is cancelled, there will be no resurrection. This is not simple blasphemy, it is much more; Funeral Pomp, if I understand it correctly, announces the revocation of the Gospel.” The second part, Amor and Psyche, after Angelus Silesius, applies and turns out the allegory of (pagan) love sacrifice as it was transported into Christian mythology, depicting the separation of the Body and the Soul, or the abuse and destruction of the Soul by the Body. With this book, Szilárd Borbély has gained the unanimous appreciation of critics.

Ramifications of a Murder

This volume of essays by Szilárd Borbély was one of the most gripping and original books to be published in recent years. The various genres of which it is composed (essay, interview, review, sketch of photograph, response to a questionnaire, meditation, short story) are linked by an existential subject: the stark fact and metaphysical scandal of a murder. The murder in question is, at one and the same time, the death of Christ (the cover of the book shows Hans Holbein’s ‘Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb’—a painting that, according to Prince Myshkin in Dostoevsky’s novel The Idiot: “Why, some people may lose their faith”), the ends of twentieth-century Hungarian poets Attila József and Miklós Radnóti, and the Shoah. It is also the murder of Borbély’s own parents, who were the victims of a particularly brutal assault committed in the course of a robbery. ‘Ramifications of a Murder,’ the last piece in the book, relates in spine-chillingly precise, razor-sharp and yet sensitive language what it is possible to relate about that traumatic event. The ramifications referred to in the title highlight the absurdity as well as the facticity of the events. The branches on which he is diverted lead him far away—inconceivably far, one might say—whether they concern the novels of Imre Kertész, the suicide of Attila József, or the shocking description of a photograph that is a hundred or so years old. Szilárd Borbély manages, by force of his individual character, temperament and credence, to resolve the antithesis and tension between the most personal trauma and the most intellectual forms of thought. That is illustrated from several angles by the published interviews with him. This carefully edited book (Vigilia’s essay series, which includes posthumous works by literary historian and critic Péter Balassa and poet and novelist Zsuzsa Beney, is one of the most striking publishing ventures of the recent past) is a disturbing, radical piece of reading that will cast a very long and abiding shadow on the reader.

To the Body: Odes and Legends

Szilárd Borbély (b. 1964), an exceptional representative of the nation’s middle generation of poets, is the one to explore physicality in the most radical terms. The very title of his latest volume, To the Body (A Testhez) indicates that, for him, this is a central theme. The poems in this meticulously edited work comprise two classical genres: odes and legends. One of Borbély’s secrets lies in the unparalleled deftness with which he combines prose and lyricism. Worn and tattered lines come together in poetic consonance. Borbély is partial indeed to such oscillations. And, as in all true poetry, form here transfigures into content. Irony has a special place in Borbély’s tragic, somber world view—an irony like an inner rhyme, in that it breaks out not at the end of each line but, rather, unexpectedly, in the middle. This new volume’s most staggering episodes concern mothers who have lost, miscarried, or aborted their children. For Borbély, the autonomous existence or the nonexistence of the embryo is a radically existential matter: Where does life begin? And ensuing from this question comes another: Where does it end? As he writes in one of his poems, “Time winds up in the Word.” And it is on this note that the volume includes its share of Holocaust stories and accounts of other traumas. Borbély’s language is in places pure and unadorned, and elsewhere lavish and baroque. “The body is the syntax of language.”

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