Author's page

Biography

1969 born in Budapest
1989-1995 graduates in English at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest
1996-1997 grant to study at the University of Oxford

Prizes
1996 Sándor Bródy Award (best debut of the year)
1997, 2000 Theatre Critics’ Award (best play of the year)
1998, 2000, 2006 Dramaturgs’ Guild Award (best play of the year)
2000 Ernő Szép Award (best play of the year)
2002 Tibor Déry Award (literay achievement
2003 Belleletrist Society’s Fiction Award (best novel of the year)
2004 Attila József Society’s Fiction Award (best novel of recent years)

Márton the Linesman Out in the Cold
1995

Marton, the seventy-eight years old linesman is not only the protagonist of Hamvai’s first novel but partly the narrator of it as well. The book represents the story of his life, which is – like all stories – a strange mixture of reality and imagination, truth and lies, petty affairs and fatal events. The stream of consciousness technique allows Hamvai to give a moving combination of Márton’s monologues, recollections and conversations with his friend in the pub or with a former schoolmate, his arguments and the events taking place on the borderline of present and past, of reality and surreality. The linesman is roaming all around Budapest carrying a Great World Atlas; policemen help him to come off the top of Nyugati Railway Station; his frend dies; his ex-wife, Denise, who either left the country or got murdered, returns, or at least Márton imagines that she has returned. The representation of all these events balances between farcical and tragic while recreating the atmosphere of the turn of the millenium and of the past decades with an astonishing authenticity. The paranoiac Calvary of the Everyman-like protagonist – who had only one chance in his life to be a referee and even that match was cancelled because of the fog – evokes laughter as well as sympathy in the reader. At the time of writing the novel the author was in his twenties. Still, he reveals „abundant and deep psychological knowledge about aged people and succeeds in offering an indirect summary of the last 60-70 years of Hungarian history through many of its bitter experiences” (György Spiró). Hamvai was asked to adapt the novel for stage, and the dramatised version bearing the same title and performed in Merlin Theatre (Márton played by Tamás Jordán) also proved to be a great success.

The Last Life of the Manwolf
2001

The ’prikolics’ or manwolf is a creature from legends, the emblematic figure of a familiar still surrealistic world. This sense of strangeness can also be traced in all the other characters of the novel, who live either in the Budapest of the nineteen-nineties or in a small Transylvanian village a century before. In other words, „the borderline dividing ’reality’ from ’legend’, ’objectivity’ from ’myth’ and everyday ’facts’ from ’miracle’ is blurred” (István Margócsy) in the world of the novel. The loosely connected short stories make up a rich plot including the subplots of several stories told, dropped and taken up again again in such a magically casual still elegant style that provokes important questions regarding accident versus fate, everyday versus miraculous events or the relationship between the individual and history. The framework, in which all the subplots make up a coherent unit, is not revealed to the reader till the very end, when the latest descendant of the Varga family, who is the last female manwolf as well, finds the long sought treasure. It is obviously not the outcome, however, what matters the most in the novel, rather what happens in the meantime. For instance the opening scene, when one of the main characters dies in the toilet of a Burger King during a power supply failure, which is understood by the person in the neighbouring compartment as a sign for Apocalypse. Or the excitingly creative and parallel love life of the two friends, Klemm and Baán. Generally speaking: all the repetition of elements, characters and situations, which motivates the reader to interpret them in light of each other, which necessarily results in questioning our first impressions or judgements. The plot with its plenty of unexpected twists expresses a truly postmodern view of a world consciously constructed and reflected upon to a degree of shocking uncertainty. „The most essential feature of the novel – besides its plasticity and realistic motivation – is the transcendental humour or humorous transcendence. The author himself speaks about the ’fatal irony of things’. " (Zoltan Zsavolya)

Headman's Holiday
2005

Six plays by Kornel Hamvai are included in this collection. The genre, topic and tone of the pieces show great differences, but they share certain distinguishing features. Mostly, these are the brilliant construction of the plot, the lively dialogues, a philosophical sense of humour – both at the level of the text and in the situations –, and the representation of history from the point of view of the Everyman. The greatest success has probably been the comedy with the same title as that of the collection. This „universal grotesque vision of the everyday absurdity of history” (István Margócsy) has been translated into eight languages. „The real trouvaille of the drama is the unusually deheroic representation of the Jacobin revolution. We might call the Headman’s Holiday a bottom view of thermidor.” (Anna Földes) Jean Pierre Roch is a headman in the country who is ordered to travel to Paris, since the needs for his trade have outgrown the local capacity of the capital because of the French Revolution. His roaming and his ruminations are depicted in a cruelly funny style. He is trying to find his way and role in a world turned upside down, where individual and historical role, honesty, love, and truth seem just as doubtful as the comic scenes following each other are only the reminiscences of drama in the classical sense of the word. The menagerie of the murderer employed by the state, of the beautiful widow hungry for men, of the suicidal scientist, and of other characters point out the uncertainty of several human values considered to be essential and eternal, and the play claims for a revision of these values in a hilariously comic way.

Download contents in PDF!