Author's page

Biography

Born in Budapest in 1955, Péter Farkas has resided in Cologne since 1982. From the late Seventies he was active in the work of Hungary’s democratic opposition as editor of the samizdat Túlpartról (‘From the Far Side’).

Eight minutes
2007

This is a heart-rending yet dispassionately precise scrutiny concerning two old people, a married couple who are shortly going to die but are, as yet, still alive in a vegetative state. They are no longer able to recollect everything, but they love one another. They go through all the pains of physical and mental deterioration (sex included!) and take delight in the last little pleasures of live (damson jam, for instance). They are living in an unnamed town, and they themselves are not given names. All that s important is that they are human beings, sentient, breathing creatures who are ready for the final destruction. Their fate acts as a mirror to their younger fellow humans. That is how we shall be in our senility, if we get that far for better or worse. Miklós Mészöly s novella Film, a sort of a slow-motion account of an old couple shuffling along a deserted city street as dusk approaches is the most obvious precedent in the depth of insight it affords into old age, but Farkas s short novel could be said to outstrip even that. The title given to the volume is an allusion to the fact that if the Sun were to be destroyed, we on Earth would only know about it eight minutes later. What more can one say. Farkas s language strikes me as distinctly accomplished, accurate and sensitive.. He manages the trick of being able to make a Beckettian world rich A splendid little volume for which I wish a good fate. Péter Esterházy, Élet és Irodalom

Creation
2010

Péter Farkas is among the most secretive figures in contemporary Hungarian literature, and at the same time his writing packs the most into the least space. The mystery surrounding him is heightened by his having lived for thirty years far from the heart of the Hungarian literary scene—more precisely, in Cologne, Germany. And so it is an event in and of itself when he publishes a new book. But this is not primarily why Creation is the event that it is. Each of this novella's three self-contained chapters set themselves the task of elucidating a visual image that centers on one of three themes summed up succinctly in the chapter titles: “Hunger,” “Solitude,” and “Fear.” What concerns Farkas most alongside, and even more than, the tried and tested craft of describing an image in words is the broader, conceptual issue of just how the muteness, the numb silence, the wordless meaning of a painting or a photograph can be demonstrated by, of all things, words. Doing so requires not only a new language but also a new perspective. The book's three key images are bound by the stark fact that each of them speak of the outer limits of the human condition. The first chapter was inspired by a photograph of an emaciated person in Sudan at the extremes of his life and death struggle. Hunger has rendered him so terribly thin that his body is on the verge of losing its human character. As we read the text, it is as if time itself were drying up all around us; Farkas’s description of this image, concentrated as it is on the extremes, holds us captive to a single moment. The picture, taken in 1993, can be seen at jamesnachtwey.com/jn/slides/g22.html, included as a link on the author's home page, interment.de/farkaspeter/kreatura.htm—whose visitor will find a rich store of notes on the cultural-historic context of the three chapters that comprise Creation. The book's second chapter takes us on the trail of a series of pictures Farkas took in Paris tracing the final path of the renowned poet Paul Celan—from his Parisian flat at Avenue Émile Zola 6 to the foot of the Mirabeau Bridge on the Seine. Celan's fate—or, it might be said, his fatelessness—captures the essence of the solitary existence. And Farkas’s text is a feat of virtuosity when it comes to portraying a space. Indeed, here, it is not so much time, but space that empties out, as the exuberant streets of Paris all at once fall silent. The third chapter, entitled “Fear,” recounts the delivery of the German lyric poet Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin (1770–1843) to a clinic after being declared mentally unfit—as portrayed by a classic painting by Francis Bacon. Hölderlin’s forced confinement occurred on September 11, 1806. It was precisely on September 11, 2001, that Péter Farkas was reminded of this fact, and so the 9/11 mystique weaves its way into his text, as does the metaphor of the tower, for the poet ended up famously living out the final decades of his life in a tower. And so another manifestation of time manifests in this chapter alongside historical time. Creation is a stirring, radical work that renders the mercy of the merciless into words and, indeed, back into images with a metaphorical force.

Download contents in PDF!