Author's page

Biography

1933 born in Debrecen
1956 completed his studies in sociology, psychology and literature
1959-73 Sociologist and social worker
1974 arrested for his volume of essays along with his co-author Iván Szelényi; this established his central role in the Opposition
1970s received various scholarships from foreign universities
1988-89 involved in the Free Democrats' Party
1990-93 President of PEN International
1991 one of the founding members of the "Democratic Charta"

The Caseworker
1969

A novel - a journey into darkness and total human misery. The narrator is a social worker, a certain T., who has to take care of a mentally retarded child, orphaned after his parents' suicide. The action of the book is restricted to one single day, but this gains a symbolic importance - it represents the whole life of the narrator. This is a world of grey and unredeemable tenement houses, of sick and miserable people forgotten by both God and history. The inner monologue of the caseworker starts with an attempt at ironic objectivity, but mere description is slowly replaced by reflexion and fantasy, all pointing towards a deep understanding and unwilling compassion with these people. "The setting of my book is grey and dull; this is the consequence of the chosen situation - I will take full responsibility for writing it. One fifth of our society lives in misery and it seems that it will go on living in such a situation for a very long time." (György Konrád)

The City Builder
1977

An essayistic novel about an unnamed architect who in a long inner monologue presents his views on his privileged position as an intellectual in socialism. The writer's opinion is evident from his ironic approach towards his 'hero': "After the noble and the bourgeois, we are finally here to control history. We have erased the right of wealth and nobility to power: from now on the only right to make decisions will be provided by nomination".

The Loser
1983

A novel written between 1975-78. The fate of its hero reflects the history of Hungary and Eastern Europe in the twentieth century: war, captivity, political work and career, political trial, the government of Imre Nagy, arrest, civil life and then voluntary exile to an asylum. If The City Builder provides the theory, this book provides the practice: it shows the decisions and compromises a leftist intellectual is bound to make.

The Temptation of Autonomy
1989

Essays Konrád presents the readers with the reasons for and circumstances of the role he played in the democratic opposition.

Pendulum
2008

Pendulum, the latest book by György Konrád, can be regarded both as a further instalment in his series of autobiographical novels, and also a novelistic essay that places the spotlight on processes of remembering and writing memoirs. After the quick tour of the highlights of his life and writing career that was provided by the earlier volumes—Going Away and Coming Home (2002) and Up on the Hill at the Solar Eclipse (2003)—Pendulum focuses especially on the period in Hungary’s history, in the late Eighties and early Nineties, when the country underwent its major transition from state socialism to a democratic order. As Konrád himself notes: “The temporal heart of this book’s organising principle is the 1989 change of regime, the non-violent revolution and metamorphosis into, and back to, civic society” (p. 213). Taking that as the perspective, the conscious memory is more prone to switch between the defining events of 1944, with the inescapable trauma they imposed on the large section of Hungary’s population who were officially classified as being of Jewish descent, particularly after the German army occupied the country on March 19th of that year (Konrád himself narrowly escaped being sent to Auschwitz and gassed, like the rest of his family); and those of the 1956 Hungarian revolution, which became a major element in the construction of a Hungarian sense of identity. The “erratic recollections” that Konrád has accustomed his readers to take them from Colorado to West Berlin, from Budapest to “Hilltop” in the neighbourhood of Lake Balaton—a fictional locality that in this volume bears more than a passing resemblance to the south Hungarian city of Pécs. Chronologically, the journey takes one up to the present day, but at the dead-centre of the pendulum’s oscillation lies the Hungarian writer in the 1970s. The work’s most intimate and fundamental stratum, after the taking stock, arranging and evaluation of memories, is the narrator’s account of how he personally has entered old age: “Every morning, in the bath, I run over in my mind the reasons for starting the day, and while briskly towelling myself find reasons not to die. For that purpose a rough terry towel is necessary” (p. 21). The first-person singular narrator of Konrád’s novel knows virtually everything and everyone and yet, at one and the same time, still manages to be amazed at the ways of the world: “I am otherwise thankful to have been placed among people and objects. It is a constant solace that I am surrounded by things, the handsomeness of old people, trees, overcoats, dogs, typewriters” (p. 237) The reader is left to ponder whether knowledge starts unobtrusively with simple, elementary things.

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