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Biography

1940 born in Budapest
1958-1963 studies Hungarian and English Philology at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest
from 1972 lecturer, then senior lecturer in the English Department of Eötvös Loránd
1990-2003 leader of the English American Workshop at Eötvös József Collegium, Budapest
2003- present president of the Hungarian Literary Translators' Association (MEGY)

His major prizes include:
1992 Candidate's degree in Literary Studies, 1992 Book of the Year Award, 1996 Soros Foundation Oeuvre Prize, 2007 János Apáczai Csere Award

I Say, You’re Lucky
1981

István Géher is a poet, a translator, a literary historian, an essayist and a teacher to the core, in one person. In these 63 numbered poems, he shows a passionate desire to examine himself (his dilemmas and his decisions), to measure life morally or, at times, to express his rage. His early poems are closed entities; while in their intensity they let the reader come close, their enigmatic puns nevertheless keep him or her at a safe distance. They show the vulnerable, independent intellectual bound to adapt to the world, or protesting against it—Géher, as a Shakespeare scholar, often borrows the mask of Hamlet, who is roughly his age, as if we caught the prince in the middle of one of his soliloquies. At other times, Géher compares himself to the Everyman of the morality play: Well-worn, like Everyman, among them, wear your own badly cut world: bear yourself. -IV. MORALITY Particularly beautiful are Géher’s Cantos, in which his true personality surfaces most often.

what’s up, catullus
1984

Géher’s second volume continues with the numbered poems of the first, and in its second half there are notes in order to help with the wide range of literary allusions. Yet, like Eliot’s notes to The Waste Land, this is rather a pseudo-scholarly critical apparatus. The diction is different here; Géher’s tightly-knotted sentences are full of inner puns and linguistic reflection. The poems expose a vulnerable self-respect and dignity, his world consisting of friendships, love, the bringing up of children, a moral stance, the atmosphere of the university seminar (here Géher plays the role of Prospero in the classroom) and the spiritual environment: Hungarian and world literature evoked in the quotations. These are values whose perishable nature is set by their place value. To safeguard them, as if one’s own identity, one needs to have a certain inner resistance. The tension of the poems lies in the opposition between the revolt of the intellect and the rational compromise accepted for these values’ sake. “The key of István Géher’s poetry, I believe, is a Faustian revolt, that of the scholar, the lonely intellect, who makes his “tricks” with a superior knowledge, if for nobody in particular, someone who resists all kinds of outer demands, who keeps brimstone, instead of incense. The way in his poetry and prose he turns words around in the kaleidoscope of his mind, forming the actual constellations of their meanings into something finite—the way he writes and the way he thinks (the way he teaches writing and thinking, and lives a life of teaching and writes about life) helps to observe the personality, the teacher, the poet, the persona of the poems and the representative of his masks, simultaneously, in his own mirrors.” -Mónika Mesterházi

A Shakespeare Reader: Our Portrait Reflected in 37 Pieces/Plays
1991, 1998

For decades Géher has taught Shakespeare’s works in close reading. He opens this book, which is a university reference book as well, with an introduction about the author’s age, theatre, biography and work (e.g. about much debated questions of chronology, and in these issues he is willing to take sides). He offers an introduction to the separate genres and summarizes the actual plays, providing the most crucial results of philology; yet in his personal and passionate tone, true to Jan Kott’s spirit, he suggests parallels to contemporary (political and personal) issues as well. His characteristic sentences build elements of the work in question into themselves almost imperceptibly, together with elements of language in general (and thinking as it is present in language), but Géher never loses himself in the details. His analysis often leads to revelation, even while leaving questions open to further consideration.

Anacreontic Songs
1996

Instead of the Catullusian vivamus, the theme of this book is aging: how to face death in an alarmed, realistic and nostalgic way, with Anacreon’s wine and love—in Anacreon’s mask, but in a more sombre, tangible and personal way than in the real Anakreon’s poems and fragments (especially of the mood of the collections called "Anacreontic songs"). István Géher hardly borrows the Ancient stage props; he speaks in his own voice, if from behind Anacreon’s mask. The scene of the subsequent cycles is once again private life: in a society that has seen rapid deprecation, even teaching and quality work seem to be one’s own business. The form of the poems is faultless and applies varied Greek measures. Reading them, one immediately senses the rhythm, but poetic metre never breaks, rather it stretches a natural diction. “The light, Anacreontic form of the songs, the rhythm that is easy to memorize, to tap or dance out, imperceptible, steals a sense of bitterness in the poems, the facing of the present’s greyness and the future’s darkness, and, at the same time, a new kind of revolt: life’s revolt in the form of love against old age and the thought of death.” -Mónika Mesterházi

“Where Is This Sight?”
1997

The highly organized cycle of the new (1997) poems in this collected volume is situated in the churchyard, where the poet faces death, and phrases his radical words accordingly: what is decaying in me, shall rot, let the poem throw it out The background is Act V. of Hamlet, from where the quotations placed as titles come. The reader should recall the atmosphere of the play: the naturalism and the humour of the grave diggers, poor Yorick’s leaking skull with its existential connotations, and Hamlet himself, jumping into the grave and “lecturing” on love, with the similarly surprising leaps of his associations (“Woo’t drink up easel, eat a crocodile?”), and finally we should recall Fortinbras, asking the title question of this collection: “Where Is This Sight?” While the mottoes link the poems to Shakespeare’s play, within the poems they are a reference point: the text from Hamlet starts (or explains) associations that compose a strong textual web, and the quotations are built into the poems as earth, stones, bones, decay, mouldering, skulls, graves all become objective correlatives of the poet’s private world.

Annual of Years
2002

There is meaning in this seemingly tautological title: István Géher recorded the passing of the year from week to week (that is, in exactly 52 poems), and in this way recalled previous years. The poems this time consist of sixteen iambic lines with varied rhyme scheme, but like the sonnets before, they are divided by a caesura in the middle, which is also a turning point. “Géher wrote up the whole verse calendar of his life in this poem sequence and, indeed, we can walk among his memories (from young childhood to adulthood, among moments of love, family, of the wilderness in Hungary and abroad, etc). When we put down the book after the 52nd poem, we may feel as if we have walked through a verse epic—that the poet has initiated us into his most intimate history, which is the highly authentic terrain of sensual and personal existence. We might say that each piece deals with some secret or with the relationship of an enigmatic personal world’s secrets—and these are not the issues of vanity, of worldly success, but here is an ethical man capable of deep feelings, who is willing to share them with us.” - Miklós Fogarassy

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