Author's page

Ferenc KARINTHY
( 1921 - 1992 )

» Spring Comes to Budapest (1953)
» Reports from Home (1954)
» Literary Stories (1956)
» A Fan of Ferencváros (1959)
» Piece for Four Hands (1967)
» Epepe (1970)
» Thirthy-three (1977)
» Journal (1994)

Biography

1921 born in Budapest
1941-45 studies Hungarian, Italian and English literature and linguistics at Pázmány Péter University, Budapest; obtains PhD in linguistics
1947 on scholarship in France, Switzerland and Italy
1949-50 script editor for Nemzeti Színház
1951-53 contributes to Szabad Nép and Magyar Nemzet
1953-56 script editor for Madách Theatre, Budapest
1957-60 translates Machiavelli and Molière, as well as plays by Greek, English, Italian and German authors
1960-70 section leader for FTC sport club
1965-75 script editor for the theatres in Miskolc, Szeged and Debrecen
1968-69 lectures in the US
1972-76 guest of various writers' associations in the US, Australia, the USSR and Cuba
1992 dies in Budapest

1948 Baumgarten Prize, 1950, 1954, 1974 József Attila Prize, 1955 Kossuth Prize

Spring Comes to Budapest
1953

Karinthy was drawn to the dogmatic idealism of the Communists who took over in 1949, and refuted his early writing. In his first major novel after this interim, Karinthy returned to an earlier theme. His hero, Zoltán Pintér, an apolitical, scholarly youth, becomes a member of the Resistance after he falling in love with a Jewish girl. The novel was published (with slight revisions by the author) more than twenty times between 1955 and 1980; it was adapted to film in 1955 (directed by Félix Máriássy).

Reports from Home
1954

Interested in non-fiction and sociology, Karinthy wrote these reports on the backward state of the Hungarian periphery.

Literary Stories
1956

Karinthy’s fiction is characterized by its realism, which can range in tone from the light-heartedly satirical, with touches of absurdity or grotesque, to the serious. His vivid short stories of the 1960s, for instance, the comic anecdotes of the Karinthy family, show a nostalgia for youth.

A Fan of Ferencváros
1959

A collection of partly autobiographical sports anecdotes.

Piece for Four Hands
1967

After collecting his short stories, Karinthy turned to the theatre, both as a script editor and as a dramatist. He is particularly notable for his witty dialogues.

Epepe
1970

This novel breaks from realism; Karinthy shows the fears of the modern man in a grotesque, psychological parable. Epepe is a modern anti-utopia, the story of a world where communication has broken down. The protagonist, Budai, a linguist, is travelling to a conference held in Helsinki. Unfortunately he arrives somewhere else, in a city where a strange language is spoken, full of sounds like pepepe or ebeb , which the polyglot professor cannot identify with any known language. At first, everything goes smoothly there; he receives local money for his dollar cheque, and is showed into his hotel room. Problems begin when he goes out to eat. Unable to work out the system at the restaurant, he is not served. The receptionist at the hotel does not even understand gestures, and will not return Budai s passport. In the morning he starts exploring the city, which is not strikingly different from other European cities, except that people endlessly hurry by in the streets without pause or relent, and the signs are utterly indecipherable. Following a stream of people, Budai finds the underground and a map. In the hope of finding a railway station he takes the metro, arrives at a market, and is swept by a crowd into an arena of sorts. Some ball game is being played; he sees at least eight balls and several teams, but cannot distinguish who plays against whom. Finally one of the players manages to climb over the wall of the arena without being pulled back, and turns out to be the winner. Budai next finds himself in a nightclub, which is a relief as body language is international. But the time allotted for a customer is no longer than 10 minutes, so he has to hurry. The only gesture Budai can possibly understand is in the hotel the lift-girl s smile. Increasingly desperate, he beats up a cop in the street. Indeed, he is taken to the headquarters, but besides the beating he himself is subject and the fine he must pay, he does not profit from this adventure. Next day, lingering in the streets, he follows another herd of people, this time out of the city. He is swept first to a courtroom, where the proceedings only puzzle him, then to a cathedral, where, as part of the ceremony, the believers are led up to the steeple. From this vantage point Budai has a view at the whole city, but he cannot tell where he is, nor are there geographical landmarks, least of all a river leading somewhere else. Being a linguist, he makes several attempts at wrestling with the language. But on his hotel bill not even the date is to be found. The newspaper he has bought does not indicate the title page. In a bookshop he buys the book of a friendly-looking author (later turns out to be himself), and sits down to work out the letters of the alphabet and the grammatical system; all in vain. The lift-girl, who is ready to name certain objects or certain words he has copied out for her, never pronounces the same thing the same way twice. One day on the stairs of the underground he catches sight of a Hungarian theatre journal (out of print for 30 years). He yells at its reader, disappearing from sight, but the only words they exchange are, You too? That night there is a blackout at the hotel, and the lift-girl comes to his room, where they have sex, and Budai finds that they suddenly understand one another s life stories. By this time Budai has run out of money, and is turned away from the hotel; he cannot see the girl any more. He becomes homeless and starts drinking, and finds he can at least understand the people at the pub. One day there is a march in the streets, and speakers talk to the enthusiastic gathering. Suddenly Budai is in the middle of a revolt. It is like a film. Tanks arrive, yet the women disarm the drivers; there are executions; new tanks arrive with soldiers in a different uniform. Budai escapes to the underground to sleep. By the morning, however, the whole thing is cleaned up, some buildings are covered in scaffolding, and that is all. Budai sits down in a park to eat, and when he throws the paper into the little pond, the water begins to move. It turns out to be a brook, and at last Budai can follow it in the hope of leaving this disorienting city and of finding his way home.

Thirthy-three
1977

This volume consists of a collection of short stories written over three decades, put into a loose novel form.

Journal
1994

His journals were published posthumously in three volumes.

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