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Biography

1880 born in the provincial town of Nagykároly (now Carei, Romania)
1886 father dies; boarding in local convent
1898 gains teaching diploma at the convent; teaches at a school run by the Sisters of Mercy
1899 arrives in Budapest
1899-02 scholarship at the well-known Erzsébet Training College for Women, granted Higher Diploma, qualifies as a secondary school teacher; begins publishing short stories and poems
1905 marries Bruno Fröhlich, a forester; divorced in 1910
1906 son born
1907-15 teaches at girls boarding schools
1910 resumes her maiden name as a writer, joins the Nyugat circle
1911 travels to Paris
1913 travels to Rome
1914 marries Ervin Bauer, a medical student ten years her junior
1914-18 husband called up but assigned hospital work; Kaffka follows him to his hospital postings
1918 dies, with her son, in Spanish flu epidemic

Colours and Years
1912

Poet and new woman , Margit Kaffka wrote prose mostly concerned with the social state of women, described with a psychological acuity. In Colours and Years she portrays the fin-de-siècle society in Hungary. The family of the protagonist, Magda Pórteleky, belongs to the Hungarian gentry, a class in danger of extinction unless it keeps up its position through marriage. Magda s first husband, a lawyer, is a bore, but when he commits suicide to escape from failure and debt, Magda finds herself defenceless. For a year she stays with relatives and endures their humiliating remarks, as she cannot become an independent woman, not even in the capital. When she remarries, her new life is troubled by petty rows about money. Ultimately, it is only after her husband s death that Magda is able to plan a better life for her three daughters.

The Years of Mária
1913

Kaffka pursues her technique of psychological analysis in this novel. A sequel to Colours and Years, The Years of Mária presents a new type of career woman, Mária Laszlovszky, who thinks about the world along different lines than her predecessors. She graduates as a teacher, ready to live an independent, free life, but soon realizes that she cannot stand on her own feet in the small and suffocating world of the countryside town. A dreamy soul with ideals and moral implacability, Mária gradually loses contact with the world and commits suicide.

Ant Heap
1917

Matter-of-fact descriptions fill this most stylistically satisfying of Kaffka s works. The story unfolds in the closed world of a convent school, showing its repressive restrictions and sultry atmosphere. The novel is clearly inspired by Kaffka s own bitter memories of her strict Catholic upbringing in a similar institution, the experiences of which found expression in some of her earlier stories and poems. The novel spans one school year, the time of change in the convent s leadership, when the struggle of the progressives for better education is defied by the conservatives. Yet Erzsi Király, the well-known Kaffka-heroine, successfully fights for emotional freedom just as rebelliously as her predecessors. Aladár Schöpflin wrote of Kaffka: [She is] one of the select few who deserve their leading role in literature today. She is the most talented, brightest Hungarian woman of all time. Let us rejoice in Margit Kaffka, because she has arrived and proves the triumph of Hungarian feminism: one need not be polite or pay her false compliments. She is a strong person, an artist with an assured future: no criticism can hinder her true destiny, the path marked out as her own. -Endre Ady

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