Author's page

Balázs GYÖRE
( 1950 )

» Dad of the Dead ( 2003)
» Krízis (1998)
» Happybook (2001 )
» My Father's Friend (2006)


Balázs Györe was born in Budapest in 1951. He is the founding member of many important literary groups, the most important of which is the Örley Circle and the Szépírók Társasága (Belletrist Society). In 1985 he became secretary of the Attila József Circle, and founding editor of a book series of translations, Műfordítás-fűzetek. He is the editor of the Újhold Yearly and the journal 84-es Kijárat.

Dad of the Dead

Györe commemorated his father with this work: “He closed his life long ago. He never opened it up for us....Understanding, that is the task now. The task is to understand a man. This is the work left for me by my father.” The autobiographical prose novel, which was serialized in literary journals, was followed with great attention by the public and critics alike. It examines the figure of the father and also that of the son, the writer, and the progression of writing, during which the dead father comes alive and a secretive and incomprehensible person becomes closer to the reader. The essay-like text is not a linear story, but the examination of a character. The elaborate style seems deceitfully close to spoken language, and its intensity captures the reader. His father, Pál Györe, whose adult life was darkened by the memory of a suicidal father, wished to become a writer but instead, as a man of great learning and a fervent admirer of Bartók, he only dared to collect books and great quotations of famous writers from which he planned to prepare a volume of his own. “I am propelled by the wish of my father (especially in his early years) to become a writer. Genetics, oh! But why couldn’t he become one? This is the question that should be answered again and again.” His father, an amateur librarian, lived as a kind of a hermit who was unable to share his feelings with his family (“We never did embrace each other.”) The cover of the book, however, subverts the image of this severe father by showing him in a photograph standing on his head in his bathing suit; he must have had his playful side, the picture states; his diary notes, found by his son, Balázs, also demonstrate his strong sense of objective observation and self-irony. The son includes the diary notes in his own text, doing the father some justice: if he himself couldn’t become a writer, then, Györe says, he will become a book, an object he always loved. “Do I want to write you down? Do I want to make you a book? An object that can be taken down from the shelf?” The critics were right to try to understand the secret of this “masterpiece”: András Forgách, for example, has proven that the rather short text (of some 170 pages) contains not less than 469 questions (and approximately as many exclamations); as the quotation (of the father, perhaps) says: “The essence of man is to question.” The objective, minimalist descriptions serve as a counterpoint to the passionate questions and exclamations, and the text becomes musical. Forgách has also pointed out how important parallel structures are in the novel: “The book is built on such parallelisms: he can draw parallels (or rather hoist the separate entities into the metaphorical space of a simile) in such a way that he never destroys their separate being. This is one of his writer’s tricks with which he manages to make his text passionate even its absolute zero degree of objectivity. He is the master of describing objects, but still, he is also a master of subjectivity.” “The dead have no use for love....Strictly speaking, it is useless to try to understand and present the life of a dead person, because the dead can’t be addressed any more. It is the person trying to understand the dead who becomes the subject of the understanding process. Pál Györe was more incomprehensible and impenetrable for his son in his life than in his death. The paradox of the book is that understanding is in fact the only form of atonement for a dialogue that never happened.” -Gábor Németh “Ladies and gentlemen, here’s a contemporary writer who plays for life and death. Did I say: plays? But how should I put it? That’s how he tries—only he knows why—the almost impossible. This is his greatest chance. He tries to write down the proof of things as we learned the concept in mathematics.... This prose is an extreme rarity in our literature....Balázs Györe is unflinching while completing his task.” -Dezső Tandori


“A masterpiece!” says Dezső Tandori. The first part of this reflexive and anguishing text is about the narrator caring for his terminally ill father while he meditates on the existence or absence of love. After part two, a woman named Margit appears, and through the detailed description of her apartment we get a closer look at her personality. The novel, which is more a piece of autobiographical writing, is truly an account of a crisis, of a life arriving at a turning point. “Real, this is the word I would like to use here. Real writer. Real sentence. Real and true; but of course this is only a metaphor. It means to put down a sentence which is true to its essence, not its own parody. A real living thing. Not a kind of tidings about another sentence of the same meaning.” -Péter Esterházy


At the beginning of his volume A valóságban is létezik (It Does Exist in the Real World), Györe quotes the great writer Sándor Bródy: “The document talks while the world is drowned in time”; this could be the epigraph of his book Boldogkönyv, a record of his wife’s illness: depression, which isolates her from the world. Her husband tries with all his might to help her, for example by reading her literary masterpieces out loud, but in the end there is no hope for any real recovery. The writers whom Györe considers to be his predecessors are such autobiographical authors as Hemingway, Kerouac, Henry Miller, Beckett, Géza Ottlik and Sándor Mándy, whose main sources of inspiration were not fantasy, but facts. For Györe writing provides the only antidote for nervous breakdown and total defeat, the only proof of reality and a pledge to survive. His method of writing is a sort of strolling around, watching the world and registering it afterwards. That is why his whole oeuvre may be read as a complete and complex whole, a continuous text. No wonder, therefore, that the things he said in an interview about Happybook might be read as a reference to his book Crisis: “My God, here’s an extremely hard situation, an acute crisis; let’s see then, how much literature can help now?” And that’s how he speaks uniformly of his oeuvre: “In any case it is my life I wish to understand: I want to see my biography most clearly, in order to understand everything that has happened, to understand why things happened, why I was born, and why I had exactly these people as parents, friends and lovers. If people say that my works are not novels, or even literary products, but mere documents, I surely won’t be hurt, because documents are more important to me than anything else. I want to record my life, and everything is important: dates, fact and names alike. I could never ever change one single name in my writings for a fictitious one because whenever I tried, my writing was blocked, as opposed to real writers, who write fictitious stories. In this sense I will always remain an amateur.” “I have never heard or read anything from Györe which would imply that anything else should have happened to him than that which happened to him, the minimalist “györebalázs”....This is terrible asceticism....Happybook pulls a gigantic number of strings. We feel that it was written in a feverish dream. But is this really true? For everything becomes so balanced. When we write in such a feverish condition, we must achieve the effect of coolness. Oh, my God: the nature of Györe’s book does not only imply and state that we can not judge them, but also that we should not even quote them. Because every statement is then reduced to an almost formula-like minimalism. It is very good that there are no symbols, generalizations or theorems; this examination does not intend to have any practical uses....Thus Györe’s minimalism is a kind of objectivity. No one (including himself) could bear such a great amount of analysis. And no, it’s not a Freudian analysis; our novelist is far from these subconscious depths. And yes, he is a novelist here. Not a close onlooker and not a helpful but impotent companion. The book is engrained with the silence of doubt.” -Dezső Tandori

My Father's Friend

In his prose works Balázs Györe treats the most personal events that occur in his life. The most recent of these, Halottak apja (Dad of the Dead) concerns the narrator s discovery of the diary of his father, Paul Györe. Using the diary, the narrator writes a memorial to the father, conjuring up his life and his figure, drawing on his own memories both as a child and an adult. As he mourns, the son squares accounts on many matters: the revealing diary substantially alters his image of his father. He then discovers a picture taken of his father s friend, Lajos Berecz, at Lake Balaton. In this picture the friend is bending over and the father leapfrogging over him. This new volume is dedicated to that friend. He comes to the conclusion that his father did not actually have any friends, because he was incapable of friendship. But back in childhood he was given to understand that this man was his father s friend. So who was he? And what does friendship mean? Those are the questions the book raises, and there are no easy answers. The writer zealously sifts through family documents he has found, inspects the objects that have come down to him, reassesses the recollections and declarations of family members. His instinct to document things is tinged by reflections that philosophically analyse the facts. From this highly personal material the author assembles another shockingly exquisite work pervaded by existential excitement. Györe utilises the alleged deficiencies of writing to delineate and bring out the alleged deficiencies of existence. -Ákos Teslár, Élet és Irodalom

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