Author's page

Biography

1926 born in Szeged
1944-50 prepares to be a journalist; studies philosophy, ethnography, Hungarian and German literature at Szeged University, then sociology, philosophy and psychology at Budapest University; qualifies as school teacher
1954 editor, and 1964-1987 editor in chief, Móra (Juvenile) Publishing House
1978-95 president of the Hungarian Section of the International Board on Books for the Young (IBBY), member of the International Andersen Board
1977-79 awarded József Attila and Ifjúsági Prize
1980 member of the board of the Hungarian National Committee for UNICEF
1983 receives Deutscher Jugendbuchpreis
1986 awarded A Gyermekekért (For Children) Prize
1988 receives the Polish Prize -Knight of Smiles-
2003 awarded the Kossuth Prize; dies in Budapest

If I were a Grown-Up
1965

Janikovszky's most characteristic and best genre was the child's monologue. "Be happy while you're young!"- the grown-up warns his son in this book. Yet "every child knows, even the smallest," that to be grown-up is far better. A grown-up can do as he wants, whereas a child has to do what a grown-up wants. Here, then, the protagonist-child dreams of all the funny things he could do if only he were a grown-up.

Who Does This Child Take After?
1974

Janikovszky s personal favourite among her works deals with adolescence. As long as I was small and clever and nice and good-looking... the teen-age boy s litany begins. But now, as I am bigger and say stupid things and am hard to tolerate and to look at, people can t believe it s the same kid. In Who Does This Child Take After Janikovszky examines profound difficulties not present in If I Were a Grown Up. Naturally, this teen-ager s parents used to have better company; they used to spend their time more wisely; when he will not answer their impertinent questions; when he does answer them, they are all the more offended. They tell him that maybe one day he will regret it all; remember the golden days , they keep saying. But our teenager-protagonist is in no hurry, and if his parents leave him be, he enjoys life all right. Janikovszky knows that adolescence is one of the most difficult periods of life. Perhaps also the most beautiful, but here she has in the back of her mind her own life as a mother putting up with her teenage son. As she noted in an interview, without the conflicts of those years, she might not have been able to write this book: during the most trying years of the mother-son relationship, she consciously practised identifying with the kid s state of mind and emotions.

Now I go to the Nursery
1975

In these nine stories Janikovszky tells us about the 3-year-old Dani s surprises and adventures: the first day at the nursery, the struggle for the nurse s love, the nurse s struggle to tame an unruly boy, or the need for bravery when one wants to cry we read the simple but logical mindset of a child.

The Thing Is...
1979

In another of the monologues, Dani, in his first year of adolescence, finds himself with all the characteristic worries and predicaments. His parents won’t relent in asking him to tell them about his holiday, which he doesn’t want to discuss; Ancsur, the girl he can’t get out of his mind, has grown taller during the summer, taller than him, and she has not sent him the postcard he expected—can they possibly date? But maybe the postcard was delivered to the wrong mailbox? And maybe she is only taller in that awful pair of shoes? At school, of course, the teachers are hard to satisfy. Dani starts new activities and ignores old tasks. Theatre rehearsal and football matches cannot both be attended. And these are not all of the problems Janikovszky’s young protagonist faces.

Now I Go to School
1983

Dani now tells the story himself. When we left the nursery, even the cook was crying, and she told me, I will never forget you. This was a bit strange, because I never thought that she would forget me. School means more discipline and less love. Dani s sense of justice has expanded, and he learns important new things that he can explain to his younger friend.

Written to Adults
1997

Éva Janikovszky’s adult novels: Felnőtteknek írtam (Written for Adults) 1997, 8 editions up to 2004 Mosolyogni tessék! (Keep Smiling!) 1998, 7 editions up to 2005 Ájlávjú (I Love You) 2000, 4 editions up to 2004 De szép ez az élet! (How Beautiful Life Is) 2001, 5 editions up to 2005 Ráadás (Encore) 2002, 3 editions up to 2005. Although Éva Janikovszky is best-known for her children’s stories, she addressed adults in her last five books. “To write funny juvenile stories, one needs to be in some state of grace. And this is what I have lacked these days,” the author admitted in an interview. Her books written for adult readers are typified by the same wise sense of humour found in her juvenile books. In fact, talking of her juvenile books, she claimed, “I really intended to write a kind of double-bottomed book that I clearly meant to be children’s but hoped would be read and discussed by adults.” As always, in these books Janikovszky chooses an uncommon perspective. First she had entered into the world of the child, rather than the adult point-of-view known to the majority of society; now, she considered the world of the most elderly. Her belief is apparent: whoever looks at the world from another angle will observe more peculiarities, reflect on them more and, whether they are children or old people, will get closer to truth than “grown-ups” living their everyday lives, conforming to the demands of society. In understanding the way children think, Janikovszky was governed by empathy; in understanding the elderly, she was guided by her own experience, which explains the self-irony and at times quite sharp social sarcasm found in these books. On account of her success, Janikovszky’s grown-up books are re-published yearly. In Written to Adults she selected from the notes, glosses and mini-essays that had accumulated during the years, and arranged them chronologically and thematically. The writings in “Recent Past” come from the 1970s, “Provisions for Journeys” from the 1980s, “All Fun and Laughter” from the 1980s—1990s and “Leaving the Field” from the 1990s, all evoking memorable moments. In Keep Smiling! Janikovszky explores the self-criticism, sense of humour and self-esteem necessary for old age: there is smiling and conversation; with some self-irony, the author relates the comic and pleasant surprises “a well-known personality” meets; but perhaps the most beautiful writing in the volume is “I learn from Dóri”, allowing the reader a look into the relationship of a teen-ager and her grandmother, into the mental and emotional world of the young girl, all with love and tact. In the second half of the book we encounter Janikovszky’s most personal writing (“Smileless”): the author, famous for her sense of humour and wisdom, tells of sorrow and loss, after the death of her husband. She describes touching memories of a journey in the United States. She is “showing” her “snapshots”, evoking the story behind them. With much the same amused resignation, “I Love You” portrays the relationship of the septuagenarian and the world, the kind of feed-back an old lady gets (in the form of aspects of verbs, greetings and compliments) and it offers a way to stay “cool” in the eye of the young. The most emphatic piece tells about the communication between the child and his or her ageing mother (“Children Raising Their Mother Alone”). A new theme in “How Beautiful Life Is” and “Encore” is illness, something the author, quite uncharacteristically is not willing to accept in a “decently tragic musical arrangement”; instead, she addresses the topic under the title “My Most Beautiful Memory of the Summer”. The report from hospital is likewise ironic, bearing the title of “A Little Hospital Etiquette—The View from the Bottom.” These books present the chores and the merry moments of everyday life, with personal experiences re-emerging as collective, yet their sarcasm is more cutting, and when flippancy would not seem natural, under the surface of the texts one can hear the deep sadness of an author determined to seek the humorous, the better, the different side of things. The first four books are illustrated by László Réber, Janikovszky’s life-long co-author, the last one, after Réber’s death, by Ferenc Sajdik.

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