1902 born in Felsőrácegrespuszta
Nehéz fold The Weight of Land,Under Winged Skies
1916 his parents separate; moves with his mother to Budapest
1922 goes to Paris after brief stays in Vienna and Berlin; studies at the Sorbonne
1924 first publications in emigrant magazines
1926 returns to Hungary
1946 member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences
1948, 1953, 1970 wins Kossuth Prize
1966 travels to New York as a guest lecturer for P.E.N.
1974 made a commandeur of the Ordre des Arts et Lettres in France
1983 dies in Budapest
His prizes include:
1931 Baumgarten Prize, 1966 Le Grand Prix International de Poésie, 1970 Herder Prize, 1977 Laurel Wreath of the Republic of Hungary - on his seventh-fifth birthday, 1978 Prix des Amitiés Françaises, 1981 Mondello Prize, Italy
Perhaps no other writer did more to shape 20th century Hugarian literature than Gyula Illyés, the politically and morally committed poet, novelist, dramatist and essayist. Illyés has been considered a national poet and was indeed devoted to finding solutions to the problems and the fate of Hungarians, both those living in Hungary and those outside the borders. Many saw him as the conscience of the entire nation. His early poetry was influenced by the French avant-garde, as well as Hungarian folk poetry. His detailed imagery, gripping rhythms and colourful variations on a theme immediately caught the attention of critics.
His own words testify to his convictions: “A poet cannot and must not be other than original. And an original poet is he who is not satisfied with the current explanation of the world, he who will regenerate the words of the tribe, and give voice—previously considered unintelligible—to new realities. The succeeding generation inevitably recognises, amid recantations and hymns of thanksgiving, the truth and immense force of those teachings that often bring about epochal changes. The poet’s responsibility is thus established, recognised.”
An outstanding prose writer, Illyés was not really a novelist, but more of an essayist. His fiction is generally documentary in nature, aimed at description and exploration, exhibiting Illyés’s best qualities, his irony and ethical commitment. This volume is the biography of Sándor Petőfi, Hungary’s most well-known and mythical poet. Instead of treating the facts of Petőfi’s life with the customary reverence, Illyés examines him both as a poet and a man, and with his keen insight subsequently demonstrates the young poet’s (and of course his own) creative methods.
People of the Puszta
The book is an enthralling combination of several genres, simultaneously a novel, a diary and a sociographical report. After reading André Gide�s Travel in the Congo, Illyés decided to write an essayistic novel based on his own experiences in the land (no less wild than the Congo) where he was born and raised. Concerned with the fate of the oppressed Hungarian peasantry, he became a committed spokesman for the rights of the landless. The sociography was widely read by members of various social classes, producing reactions of outrage at the depth of oppression and poverty which the book exposed. It was also a turning point in Illyés�s career; after returning from Paris and visiting his homeland, the writer recognised that he must leave artistic experimentation behind and return to reality. From then on, his only aim was to write the truth about his age and society in order to help better the lives of those he documented.
Puszták népe began as a series of articles on the lives of �agricultural servants�, the most defenceless and exploited social class of the country, the people from whom Illyés emerged as an emissary of a formerly silent community. Returning from France, Illyés saw his own folk with the eyes of a stranger (�as an African tribe whose language I happened to speak�), and the mostly happy memories of his childhood were blurred by their endless misery, preventing their perception with adult eyes. It was a barbaric tribal world where men fought and stabbed each other, families clung together as a matter of life and death, and children knew everything about their parents� sexual lives since they shared one room.
Illyés describes their everyday lives�their eating habits, their work, their songs and their celebrations. He shows, too, their cruelty to the elderly, as well as how terribly indifferent the employers were towards the toils of the destitute.
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