Author's page

János KODOLÁNYI
( 1899 - 1969 )

» Friar Julian (1938)
» Sinking World (1940)
» I Am (1972)

Biography

1899 born in the village Telki (close to Budapest)
1919 schooling in Pécs and Székesfehérvár
1919–1921 studies philosophy, aesthetics and sociology
1921 marries and moves to Budapest
1922 his short story Sötétség (Darkness) appears in the leading journal Nyugat (West) and becomes very popular among critics and readers alike
1932 Zsigmond Móricz introduces his reading at the social evening of the Nyugat; for a short time he gets close to the communist movement
1932 organizes the Economic Society of Writers (IGE); later becomes first secretary (1944)
1930 in the thirties he travels to Finland many times; writes books about his travels and gets inspiration for his grand historical novels
1939-1940 leading editor of the right-wing extremist journal Nemzetőr (Home Guard) and becomes the celebrated writer of the right; after the war he retracted all his former views
1941 co-president of Janus Pannonius Society; chief editor of the journal Tiszántúl in Debrecen
1949 moves to near the lake Balaton; works on his novels based on the Bible and keeps in touch with his fellow-writers (Lőrinc Szabó, Nándor Várkonyi) by correspondence
1955 returns to the literary circles, becomes meber of the Writer’s Union
1956 during the revolution he is treated in the Sanatorium of Balatonfüred
1957 his oeuvre is beginning to be re-published
1967 gets the cross of the Finnish Lion’s Order
1969 dies in Budapest

Main Prizes
1937 Baumgarten Prize, 1990 posthumous Kossuth prize

Friar Julian
1938

After long struggles as a young and idealist writer (and physically disabled person) Kodolányi soon turned from naturalism towards historical fantasies and in the thirties studied Hungarian Studies in order to re-create the atmosphere of earlier ages. His great historical trilogy: A vas fiai (Children of Iron), Boldog Margit (Blissful Margaret) and Juliánus barát (Friar Julian) all go back to the decisive period in early Hungarian history: the age of the Tartar invasions. In these novels the writer intended to show the way of life of the people of the age, but also tried to evoke the language these people might have used, which make these novels a quite difficult task to translate (Friar Julian, however, was translated into Italian). He finished Juliánus barát in 1938 in Helsinki; the book consists of eight parts and shows the life of the famous Hungarian monk that discovered a part of the Hungarian nation that has remained in the East. The novel starts with the childhood of the hero, and continues with his travels to Székesfehérvár, Bologna University and to the royal court of Esztergom and Buda. Later he starts off his grand trip intending to discover another Hungarian community living far from the country’s borders. At the end of the novel he finally meets a woman who speaks Hungarian and establishes a relationship with the far-off tribe.

Sinking World
1940

“I enjoyed living in Fehérvár. I felt at home in it like in a house-coat. I like the little narrow Baroque streets of the inner city and the village-like outskirts with their peasant houses, bushes and little lakes, and the little rivulet flowing close to the school’s garden and collecting the waters of large meadows, and the long blue back of the mountains of Vértes in the distance. I like the nice-looking school with the poplars whispering in its yard. (…) Here’s this ancient coronation town, the burial place of our great kings; the place where the Golden Edict was proclaimed. (…) The school is really agreeable: there’s a free, friendly atmosphere here, without the dictatorial power of almighty teachers.” This autobiographical novel is good reading, for it not only recalls the atmosphere and traditions of an age, but also presents its people with irony and understanding humour. Especially Kodolányi’s school years are of special importance because during this creative period he turned from a reclusive, ugly-looking lame boy into a determined intellectual and idealist writer always working for a higher goal. The novel later appeared in a revised edition.

I Am
1972

In the fifties Kodolányi wrote another great historical and mythical trilogy: the novel Új ég, új föld (New Earth, New Sky) based on the Gilgames Myth (the age of the Bull or Taurus), the novel Az égő csipkebokor (Burning Bush) based on the story of Moses (the age of the Ram), and the novel Én vagyok (I Am) dealing with the story of Jesus (the age of the Fish). Kodolányi believed in the higher order of things and the spiritual evolution guiding human history (in this intensive spiritual interest he was related to such Hungarians artists of the age such as Nándor Várkonyi, Béla Hamvas and Sándor Weöres, all holding different opinions on the same topics). The Jesus-novel could not be published in that period (only part of it was published as a separate novel in 1957), only appearing as a whole after the death of the author. The story of the novel is based on the New Testament, but it is written from the point of view of the traitor Judas. The title, however, refers to his master’s great evangelical speeches.

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