Author's page

Biography

1973 born in Ózd
2000 editor of the Internet portal www.dokk.hu
2001 contributes to Rádió C (Hungary's Roma Radio Station)
Jónás studied at the István Széchenyi Mechanical College, Győr, at The Gate of Learning Buddhist Institute, Budapest and Hungarian philology at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest. He has edited children's books and Roma literary anthologies. He is an editor for Amaro Drom. He lives in Budapest with his wife and two children.

His prizes include:
1999 Artisjus-János Arany Prize, 2001 Soros Foundation Literary Scholarship, 2002 Herder Scholarship, 2006 Artisjus Prize

Gypsy Times
1997

Tamás Jónás’s highly regarded first book of fiction comprises two short pieces, one a short story (“The Spring”), the other an autobiographical novella that provides the book’s title (we learn that the persons in “The Spring” are distant relatives as well). With its atmospheric elements and idioms, the short story both prepares and counterpoints the autobiographical piece. It presents the emotions, the impulses and beliefs of a Gypsy community (the Bible, for instance, determines the resolution of arguments according to the way the pages turn after opening), and there is even a grotesque slapstick scene (a jealous Gypsy wife climbs in a window to spy on her husband, only to surprise the owners in the middle of having sex; she climbs back out indignantly). But as in Tamás’s later fiction, there are sudden bursts of violence. The autobiographical Gypsy Times is a personal and down-hearted, at times soul-stirring piece of writing, often displaying a wry humour. In loosely associated, short texts, the author introduces the members of his smaller family; he evokes his defencelessness as a small child, the institute he was sent to, the two idioms he uses (the natural one, and the “nice” one which makes his mother jealous), the shame of poverty, the uncertainty that makes him ill and from which he can escape only by going ever deeper in the recall and expression of his memories.

Boarding/Residence
1999

The title of Tamás Jónás’s third book misleads: the book is not about a boarding school but about the experiences and thoughts accumulated in the everyday life of a family moving from lodging to lodging. The book comprises two types of texts, the actual (usually untitled) poems and the standoffish, playfully ironical commentary in place of the titles. The author, however playful he is, may need this kind of distance because, as we read in one of these reflections (above the last poem), “the poet is irretrievably pessimistic, what a career he should have had in romanticism! but these days he can’t be more than a serious complainer”—as if to indicate that both self-exposing and self-distancing are roles. His poems can be compared to the great confessional poets of Hungarian and world literature, from Attila József to John Berryman and Sylvia Plath (in one of his commentaries he reflects on their influence on his lines). He also evokes Villon (“Villon with a glass raised to be emptied”), whose free and rebellious life-philosophy, expressed in the ballad of the vagabond, resembles that expressed in some of his poems (e.g. “It Is Worth Stealing”). The associative-philosophical texts are often ignited by shocking bodily affairs—over-refinement of family idyll is far from the poet. He is more of the connoisseur of family hell, as the memory-mosaics make obvious (a similar trait can be seen in his prose). Tamás Jónás’s craftsmanship is reliable, his poems have a natural current, whether in the form of the song or in free verse (as his commentaries are written in good prose sentences); his images are powerful. In his best poems, playfulness (humour), passion, pain, honesty (not free from cruelty) and thought create a characteristic unity. “He is much more gauntly desperate than his forerunners, and composes with stronger impulses, less artistic distance than his contemporaries. One might say that this is all the more important for him.” -János Lackfi

I’m Sorry I Was Your Servant. Short Stories
2002

Among the book’s texts with different genres and atmosphere, recurring characters and motives, there are socio-stories, thrillers, anecdotes, satisfyingly whole (dense and well-structured) short stories (like “The Find”, “Lady-Killing at the Former Mill at Daróc”, “The Miraculous Pipe”), as well as tales and autobiographical writings. “These stories own a world that should be written and re-written many times and in many ways; they accept both the tone of folk tales and sociography, both fantasy and ballad, this is what the prose of Jónás convinces us of. The fact that at the moment he cannot find the only single voice is no problem, there might not be such a voice, and it is indeed this mixture, this diversity that is suitable: laughter and thrills, bitterness and smiling.” - György Kálmán C. “Tamás Jónás is at his best when he composes dryly, in no particular manner, precisely and factually—when he puts fictionalizing aside. When his conflicting (both selfish and clear-hearted, as Tamás Jónás admits about himself) but undoubtedly charming personality (“Whoever I meet gets to love me”) is present, that’s the real moment.” -László Sajó

To My Fathers, To My Sons
2005

Out of the book’s diverse texts, written with associative technique and recurring motives, critics have singled out the short stories “The Satan”, “Faithfullness-Tremolo” and “Senza Tempo”. “Free, loose composition and a technique of repetition are characteristic features of this prose, at least of the longer pieces. The short ones, on the other hand, are tense, to the point, soldierly measured (one may say, well-tied) and economizing with the least possible words (that is, not built on repetition). It is obvious then, that Tamás Jónás has become a sober-minded and conscious writer, and he plans in advance what he will do and why.” -Csaba Károlyi. “‘Senza tempo’, ‘Faithfullness-Tremolo’ and ‘Love’ are writings capable of penetrating into the depths of the reader with their current and painful smell of earth. The common element of these three texts is the calvary of the excluded protagonist who is unable to pull down this wall. The tension of a missed catharsis urges newer interpretations; half-discovered secrets give way to newer and newer mysteries.” -Anna Benedek “Many of the stories of the book are counterpointed by the duality of naked reality and fabulousness....The simultaneous narrative technique that bounds past and present, and the dialogues, of great naturalness, of different characters, renders this work memorable, and on top of that, it completely awakens the reader’s sense of interpretation, as with careful cuts, the author presents the characters from different points of view, and in different ways.” -Ferenc Darvasi

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