Author's page

György FERDINANDY
( 1935 )

» Wild Ones (1986 )
» Strange, Foreign Love (1990)
» Message Board (1991)
» How He Could Whistle (2001)

Biography

1935 born in Budapest
1950 student at the Piarist School in his hometown
1954 forced by the regime (having been categorized a bourgeois) to work in the Ikarusz bus factory in Budapest, and later as a conductor
1954 student at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest
1956 after the fall of the Hungarian Revolution, leaves the country
1959 receives his PhD in Literary History at the University of Strasbourg
1956-1964 lives in Paris; works as a dock worker, publisher s agent, in a car factory and in a bank; meanwhile he writes stories in French about Hungarian emigrants
1964 invited to teach in the Spanish language and moves to Puerto Rico
1962-1970 radio programming editor
1966 published in Hungary for the first time
1964-1976 teaches Western Civilisation at the University of Puerto Rico
1976-1985 field worker for Radio Free Europe; returns periodically to Hungary, teaches at the Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest and the University of Pécs
1988 after numerous foreign language publications, his first Hungarian novel appears in Budapest; afterwards his foreign language books appear in Hungary

Major Prizes include:
1961 Del Duca Prize (France), 1964 Saint Exupéry Prize (France), 1993 Book of the Year Prize, 1995 Attila József Prize, 1997 Sándor Márai Prize, 2000 Gyula Krúdy Prize

Wild Ones
1986

This short story collection appeared in Chicago. The stories are based on the writer’s own characteristic experiences, full of “tales from far, far away” as the writer calls them. “[Fredinándy’s work stands out for its] “unsure autobiographical elements, classically structured stories, novel self-reflection, hazy or elegantly cold sentences. This unmistakable atmosphere is based on some kind of new mixture of sensitivity made up from the shouldering of the frailty of man, the objective description of great tragedies, the compassion for the weak and sentimentality controlled with irony. The speaker is seemingly untouched by the exotic or grey sceneries of the past of his missed opportunities—the reader, nevertheless, feels a strange, painful, inexplicable nostalgia.” -Gyula Doboss

Strange, Foreign Love
1990

“On my tropical island the old sometimes assemble to talk about the only event of the twentieth century, the hurricane of 1928, which had almost destroyed the coffee plants of the Cordilleras. They keep nodding in a melancholy manner, with a deep boredom in their misty, wet old eyes. We Hungarians, on the other hand, were quite spoiled by history: ... some of us have become the citizens of four different countries without even leaving our homelands, others have roamed the world collecting citizenships. From the experiences of this roaming, I have collected this book which includes the prose of thirty years. My eye is a western one, and perhaps my technique as well, for I have lived more than half of my life in the Wild West; I am convinced, however, that what I write is Hungarian literature. The book consists of the five volumes that appeared between 1965 and 1986 in Munich, Paris and Chicago in only two or three hundred copies. The background was the scenery of my life in the West, in France, the beaches in the south of Spain, America, and the small Caribbean island, from where, as a gift, I bring back to the Hungarian reader this strange and unusual, but—as I feel—authentic and highly personal book.” (György Ferdinandy)

Message Board
1991

In a “shitty room rented by the month, under the hoop of the Equator” exotic characters live: “These tiny tropical women are strange creatures. They know how to keep men at bay. They are nevertheless frightened by every independent, free man. Who has a life of his own.” (“Hummingbirds under the Window”) The volume starts in Hungary with the story of a boy named Yuri (his name, of course, resembles the author’s own, Gyuri); it continues with the first person singular story of emigration after the fall of the Revolution, and then ends in Hungary again. In between there are authentic stories of tropical women, the different ways of life in exotic countries, where someone—a Hungarian writer—is still writing in Hungarian, a language no one understands outside the borders of the country. “What I experienced there was concentrated loneliness” says the writer about his Puerto Rican period in an interview. “Romanticizing home-sickness is characteristic of the amateurs, who write their books with their tears. I don’t write with tears, I write with pen and ink. But nevertheless, it is quite a bad thing that you can see your friends and loved ones only once a year. In these circumstances, one can easily shut others out: he can become bitter and taciturn. These things are not natural, but have become his habits during the long lonely years. Not to mention the fact that in a foreign-language environment a writer has no opportunity to control his writings.” When he returns home, he continues writing because this is the only thing he can do: “At dawn I sit back down at the table. It is a stubborn habit no day can start without. I re-read what I wrote during the night, I revise it, cross it out. Time passes, murky morning dreams fade away. All that I shouldn’t think about. Ultimately, the things I do are all right. It is correct and proportionate. This is all I am able do: I simply couldn’t do anything else.” (Without Perspective—excerpt from the book)

How He Could Whistle
2001

“There’s something in me that resents success and has no taste for shrewdness. People, though, consider me shrewd, which deeply troubles and displeases me. This is totally untrue. I think that my deep devotion to the oppressed and to misfits is present in all of my writings. Since my first experiment in prose, the short-story like “Tube-dwellers” has appeared, [and] nearly two hundred of my short stories have been printed: fifteen Hungarian volumes and nearly as many translations into French, Spanish and German. The essence of things, however, has not changed a bit. The tube-dweller of Strasbourg has remained faithful to his country and has tried to defeat the Wild West when he could. Please do have a look: I have never ever written about successful people or happy situations. To write bestsellers for good money? What a good idea. But I could never do this. In a text that I have just finished, I wrote about the writer’s conscience. The hero of “How He Could Whistle” is a poor unknown man who intends to write bestsellers. For months he collects the material, exciting stories about rapists and murderers and adventurers. In spite of all this, the novel can only depart from the duldrums when the narrator is able to find his own former self and his unlucky characters again. ‘I have written about them all my life’ he realizes suddenly. ‘The chronicle of the losers and the oppressed. Simple, monotonous little songs.’ And from this debris no bestseller can be written.” (György Ferdinandy)

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