Author's page

Biography

1958 born in Darázs (Draž, Croatia)
1977 graduates from grammar school in Pécs
1977-82 graduates in Hungarian and English Literature and Linguistics from Attila József University, Szeged
1982–87 literary editor of Magyar Képes Újság in Eszék
1987–91 reader at the periodical Új Symposion in Újvidék
1992-2001 contributes to, then Editor of the cultural column Magyar Szó in Újvidék
2001-present editor of Kilátó
Honorary member of the Young Authors’ Circle (JAK), member of the Hungarian Writers’ Association

His prizes include:
1986 First Prize in the Mihály Majtényi Short Story Writing Contest, 1987 Ervin Sinkó Prize (First Prize in Forum Publishers’ Novel Writing Contest, with Gábor Túri), 1992 Károly Szirmai Prize, 1994 Zsigmond Móricz Scholarship, 1995 Artisjus Scholarship, 1997 First Prize in the Holmi’s Short Story Writing Contest, 1998 Híd Prize, 2000 Herrenhaus-Edenkoben, Literary Scholarship, 2001 First Prize in the 1st Hungarian Drama Writing Contest in the Vajdaság (Voivodina)

They Break So
1995

A book of four cycles. The first, “My Father’s Geography”, is built on the enthusiasm, anguish and guilty conscience of childhood; first person singular monologues tell of experiences sensed as a child (that is, deeply), invoking all different places, scenes and emotions with noticeable clarity. The five stories of the second cycle (“Downpour”) are more immediate in tone; they present the acute depravations and moral dilemmas caused by the Balkan War, seen partly through the objective eyes of the third person narrator, and partly through the recalled dialogues. The narration gradually turns into an inner monologue. The mosaic-like impressions experienced by individual characters in the third cycle, “Light Caustics” are linked together by the “case study” of light. With its relative serenity and playfulness, it counterpoints the tragic tone of “Downpour”. Finally the fourth cycle is an enigmatic play for four characters, with the metaphorical title, “Border-Mud” (which is a pun in Hungarian on “border-line”), referring the “mid-rain” period of the Hungarian minority in the Voivodina, between the autumn of 1944 and 1956.

Murder Because of the Yoghurt. Crime as Fiction
1998

Initially writing poems and what amount almost to sociographic reports on his homeland, Ferenc Kontra presented the meaninglessness and personally corrupting absurdity of the civil war in these important volumes.

Grammar School Students. Hungary, From the Beginning
2002

Ferenc Kontra, familiar with the school novels of Hungarian and world literature, or at times alluding to them, writes a novel of his own youth (although he has dealt with the topic in his stories). In fact, he has written a novel of finding and forming one’s own identity. The teenager-protagonist leaves his home village to study in the city of Pécs, over the border and finds himself in a ‘borderline situation’—across the border and in the minority, a double sense of the word. The I.D. number he receives at college immediately gains a symbolic meaning for him, causing him to feel the loss of his identity. We find the sensitive teenager is saying goodbye both at the beginning and at the end of the novel (another borderline situation that strengthens the feeling of homelessness). He finds freedom and the revolt against authority in rock music and literature, not the first teenager to do so. “Grammar School Students is a document of the era, a novel of education, a Bildungsroman and a confession about the difficulty of writing at the same time.” -István Varga. “Ferenc Kontra belongs to the few writers who handle writing with an innate skill; he can write, he has a sense of proportion, he has an unmistakable style; he has never written a page that is irrelevant: his sentences embrace with a smooth, consoling, reassuring familiarity, yet they always leave some space between them to let the sombre irony of a revaluation (reality as seen from some distance in time) shine through.” -J. József Fekete

The Dogs from the Castle, chapters of a journey
2002

Although not explicitly so, this novel can be seen as a piece of the trilogy beginning with Gimnazisták; one critic finds it “the novel of a novel” behind Gimnazisták.

The Wolves’ Hour
2003

This novel opens: “Whether I will be the hero of my own life’s story or someone else will fill this post, will turn out eventually—it has to become clear from these pages.” This book continues to seek identity, spanning four phases of the protagonist’s life: his childhood, his “immigration” to Australia, the disappointment of his homecoming and the decision, at the time of narration, to leave his homeland. Ferenc Kontra admitted in an interview, “After a time...and the loss of the illusions took place, I think, at the beginning of the 1990s...we got fed up with the fact that all the work had been done by the older generations, and we were supposed to follow in their steps, and then something completely different happened, the world turned 180 degrees, everything turned out to be utterly false, our fathers’ generation failed together with all the ideals they stood for. Another thing: suddenly all the stories from World War II become immensely boring....It turned out that my own life is perhaps more exciting; moreover, it contained more life-threatening incidents than the ones I had listened to. And this war [in the Balkans] took much longer.”

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