Author's page

Biography

1956 born in Budapest
1981 acquires teacher s diploma in History and Literature in Eger
1988 diploma in philosophy at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest
Since 1982 he is a full-time writer producing fiction, plays, scripts, essays and poetry as well as translations from German.

Prizes
1985 Zsigmond Móricz Literary Grant
1987-88, 1992 Soros Grant
1989 Prize for the Literature of the Future
1990 H. C. Kaser Prize (Italy)
1991 Milán Füst Prize
1993 IRAT Prize of Excellence
1994 Tibor Déry Prize
1994 Alföld Prize
1995 OMI Grant (New York)
1996 DAAD Grant
1998 Gyula Krúdy Prize awarded by the Soros Foundation
1999-2000, 2002-2003 NKA Grant
2001 Attila József Prize 2001
2001 Ernő Szép Prize 2001
2002 Sándor Márai Prize
2005 Édes anyanyelvünk (Our Dear Mothertongue), József Katona Grant for Playwrights
2006 Litera Prize
2006 1st Prize at the HP Short Story Competition
2007 Palládium Prize

Plastic
1985

László Garaczi started as a poet; this is his first book of short prose. His method of writing was best summarised by himself in an interview: During the process of writing I often revise the text, measure the words slowly and precisely, but when I finish and publish it, I never touch it again. ... Superfluities must be cut out, however painful this may be. I find some masochistic pleasure in killing off my own lines. If I think the text is as dense as possible, I begin to mould it into precision. The title of the volume can have many meanings: one is plastic as material, or plastic as drug, the other is a pack of Hungarian cards (the parts of the text can be considered different cards), or even the plastic bomb of terrorists.

No sleep!
1992

A collection of texts, which for lack of a better name may be called short stories, which are termed by the author bitter and disillusioned but which are seen by both readers and critics alike as humorous. They mingle childhood memories with events from the present; real and surreal visions are mixed, mythical structures are imitated and parodied. The book has a similar effect on the reader as a colourful trip . The writing usually takes up a thread, some kind of a trail or scent (an emotional thread), and follows it while describing many unconnected motives and incidents, and at the end reaches something many times the starting point itself. The subjective camera means that the viewpoint of the texts changes continually, sometimes creating an uncertain, even volatile atmosphere, sometimes an intimate and homey one, in accordance with the acts of the person whose viewpoint we follow.

What Fun We Have on This Coach Ride!
1998

László Garaczi s autobiographical series, Mintha élnél (As If You Were Alive, 1996) and Pompásan buszozunk (The Splendid Bus Ride) tells the story of a boy growing up in 1960s socialist Hungary. The title of the first, Lemur, Who Are You? refers to a line from James Joyce s novel Ulysses. The second volume is somewhat better organised, having a more unified plot. This high-spirited young boy is becoming socialised at the end of 1960s, at the time of the ideological, physical and spiritual decline of the golden age of socialism. Garaczi s post-modern playfulness, bliss and radical cheerfulness (as a critic observes) are all at their very best. He conjures up a unique world with all its paraphernalia: the words, expressions, forms and regulations that have become increasingly difficult to recall. However, a gesture, some now outdated jargon, or the name of a clumsy plastic object can immediately create a sense of community among members of the same generation. Garaczi is having great fun, sorting through this vast store-house of memories. The description of an awkward afternoon recalls thousands of others, and the irony is further increased by the employment of various frames of time. Garaczi reconstructs linguistic worlds; this is one of the most dominant features of his book.

MetaXa
2006

This short novel is the fourteenth volume to be published by László Garaczi, adding to his previous output of short stories, novels, plays and feuilletons. Unlike two earlier short novels, Mintha élnél (As If, 1995) and Pompásan buszozunk! (The Splendid Bus Ride, 1998), English translations of both by the author's wife, Ildikó Noémi Nagy, were published in Hungary in 2002 in a single volume entitled Lemur Who Are You? That book took the form of autobiographical pieces, while this latest work is very definitely non-autobiographical. It is precisely by the attempt to distance himself from the Ego that Garaczi seeks to represent the way in which consciousness operates. The main protagonist is a person who, as a result of an incident that is never fully explained (possibly a suicide attempt), has been admitted to a psychiatric home and, on his female doctor's advice, is writing his memoirs. Though it mimics a rambling, incoherent, tormented memory, the text is nevertheless, paradoxically, extraordinarily organised, well-balanced and disciplined. The main protagonist (who in the third chapter, again on Dr Hirsch's advice, bestows the name of Felix on himself) is torn between two women and driven by his own artistic vision (he is the viola player in a string quartet) and unable to find a solid footing for himself in the world. His strange story, from a booze-up in Farkasrét to jumping into the Danube from the Elizabeth Bridge, unfolds in fragmentary splurges of dense, highly intricate narrative, interspersed with a multitude of vignettes, scenes, allusions and motifs that form one great monologue which is a sensitive register of the ebb and flow of the conscious mind. The novel is a single sentence, and the text, written throughout in lowercase letters, has been arranged by the writer into four chapters (ME, YOU, SHE, X) with no full stop at the end of the sentence - the novel, that is to say. These formal devices reinforce the feeling that here we really do have someone who is writing for his own benefit, not for others, and who wishes to pull out from himself and set down his own inner world. In imitating that process, an autonomous linguistic world is constructed that is full of irony, humour and playful elements, with brilliant miniature sketches that track the vibrations of the soul. "The greatest merit of Garaczi's novel is to be discerned in the crude and impish uninhibitedness of its linguistic gestures, or in other words, its extreme assertion of linguistic ornamentation and the boundless freedom with which linguistic statements are arrayed alongside one another." -István Margócsy, Élet és Irodalom "MetaXa is not just an outstanding work of Garaczi's personal oeuvre but of contemporary Hungarian fiction." -Béla Bodor, litera.hu

Face and About-Face: Confessions of a Lemur.
2010

A surprising new take on army life under a dictatorship The Hungarian literary world was long awaiting the newest novel by László Garaczi—one of the most compelling figures of the nation’s epic middle-generation of writers—and there is hardly a doubt it will also be discussing it for a long time to come. Face and About-Face is the third book in Garaczi’s magnificent, autobiographical trilogy whose previous volumes included As If You Were Alive (Mintha élnél, 1995) and The Splendid Bus Ride (Pompáson buszozunk, 1998). More precisely, it marks a new direction. True, on the surface it seems in Face and About-Face that everything is proceeding in the same, by now natural riverbed of autobiography Garaczi has established as his niche. The first two volumes were about childhood and teenagehood, and were written with a refreshing wittiness and a bewildering verve; this newest novel conjures up the events surrounding the writer’s years as a soldier. And yet the book’s approach to narrative and to language and, thus, to the world itself marks an about-face indeed, one that bears upon all parties concerned: the protagonist, the story, the author, the reader. Garaczi’s wittiness has taken on more of a bitter edge, and his verve has turned into prudent and just-plain attentiveness. The first-person protagonist joins the army on finishing secondary school, in the mid-1970s. Those readers expecting Garaczi to dish out savory, smutty soldier’s stories will be disappointed, however. Those awaiting a work in which memory beautifies the brutal ordeals of the past, or one that by contrast explores the liberating effect of the communal experience of army life, will likewise be disappointed. But this remarkable novel offers no more of the usual stuff to those expecting a reproof of the repressive forces of a dictatorship, a stirring portrayal of totalitarian hell, or an ideological expose of a society’s terrible truths. “Words are precise and well-mannered, and at other times they are ambiguous, messy, untidy, smudgy, and mortal,” observes the protagonist toward the beginning of the book (p. 8), while yet a child who veritably devours up all new words and ideas that come his way. “Words leave me in the lurch no matter how I try,” he says toward the end of his latest story (p. 155). Garaczi’s new novel is indeed a staggeringly credible portrayal of how such disillusionment over language comes to pass in the course of one young man’s experience. The novel’s greatest virtue is that it paints neither a pretty picture of things nor a derisive one. On the one hand, Garaczi avoids the traps inherent in traditional storytelling; on the other, his lean anecdotes revalidate the justification for telling a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. In Face and About-Face, Garaczi traverses anew, and around, the stations along the path of individuality so credibly, so palpably that we never fail to identify with the protagonist’s sense of alienation. In the process of seeing him from so far we practically recognize ourselves in him. This mindset presupposes a sense of irony that is at once resigned and yet life-affirming: “I was discharged, I lost my virginity, and it’s still only three-thirty.” Face and About-Face is a tautly constructed, long-matured, richly detailed, meticulously written novel. It is simultaneously a map of the public mood of the mid-1970s; a novel about that unavoidable life experience common to almost all men of Hungary and the Eastern Bloc more generally—namely, military service; and an initiation novel that proves itself to be a sensitive and courageous, and yet respectful new delineation of Géza Ottlik’s mid-twentieth-century classic School on the Frontier, a novel-cum-memoir that recounted the experiences of a group of friends at a cadet school near the Austrian border in the 1920s.

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