Author's page

Biography

1927 born in Tiszasásvár (then in Czechoslovakia)
1945? drafted and later taken to an American prison camp
1945 returns to his homeland (then in the Soviet Union)
1946 flees to Hungary and enrolls in the grammar school in Makó
1947 studies Hungarian and German Literature at the Eötvös College, Budapest
1948 his first book was banned before publication
1949 expelled for political reasons
1951-55 works as a grammar school teacher
1955 - 89 works at the Európa Publishing House as a Contributing Editor and later Editor-in Chief
1992 founding member of the Széchényi Literary and Arts Academy

His prizes:
1972 Attila József Attila Award
1982 Radnóti Award
1987 Tibor Déry Award
1990 The Art Foundation’s Literary Award
1990 Kortárs Award
1991 Artisjus Literary Award
1992 Milán Füst Award
1993 The Soros Foundation’s Oeuvre Award
1993 Order of Merit of the Hungarian Republic - Officer Cross
1993 József Fitz Award
1995 The Soros Foundation’s Award
1995 Kossuth Award
2001 Ágnes Nemes Nagy Award

Primeval Forest
1948

Primeval Forest (Őserdő) László Lator's very first book was already in the press when the new censor's organisation called Book Office was set up and instantly banned the book for ideological and political reasons, saying that the book was "pessimistic" (which was, by the way, no wonder after the Second World War). Only ten proofs survived that were smuggled out of the press by a friend. The poet was not allowed to publish a book until 1969; the poems were later included in his 1994 volume.

Collected Poems
1997

Collected Poems (Lator László összes versei ) „His poetry is expressive of the anxieties of World War II, the historical and biological horrors of his age, despair, and concern (...) His early poetry, rich in Biblical allusion, evinces the influence of religious expressionism.” (Ádám Makkai) Lator’s poetry is timeless, for he does not account for human time but records the cosmic moments as reflected in earthly images, as vegetation (forests, riverbanks, or only one single tree), the empty plains, stones, or the sky that leads our eye towards the universal. „Poetry for me” says the author „stems from the shock caused by the terrible and amazing flow of being outside and inside us, that constantly mingles the images of life and death, creation and destruction. I have always been propelled by the desire to try and articulate the inexpressible.”

Cockerel head or Philosophy?
2000

An outstanding translator from numerous languages (English, Russian,German, Italian and French), Lator is also an eminent literary critic. While in Archipelago he mostly collected his essays concerning his famous friends and contemporaries; here he is also concerned with the most recent generation of promising poets. The title of the book refers to a poem by Zsuzsa Rakovszky. Lator is successfully proving that poetry, although it uses everyday images like a cockerel head in a soup, is always obsessed by metaphysics and philosophy without the need to set up a whole pronounced system of thought.

The Space, the Objects
2006

The title implies objectivity; the painted portrait of the author on the cover suggests a personal approach. This double constraint, which Lator appreciated so much in the poetry of Ágnes Nemes Nagy - as highlighted in his speech given at his inauguration at the Széchenyi Academy of Art -, is also valid for his own poetry as well as for this book. The carefully edited, thin volume contains Lator’s poems written between 1999 and 2006. The tension between the individual and the abstract does not only vibrate in certain texts but also determines the arch of the whole: the Prologue introduces the reader into the atelier of a particular painter, Dezső Váli, while the Epilogue leads us to that of „The Sculptor”, as imagined in general. Another important duality is the co-existence of past and present on all levels of representation and structure. In the conclusion of „Autumn World”, „Beginning and and are not apart”; and the pieces of the last cycle are „Rewritten Poems”, namely, they are sixty years later finalized versions of poems first drafted in 1946 and 1949. The two other cycles, „Forest” and „Death of the Prince” give voice to the grand ultimate questions of the exclusive opposition yet also of the co-dependency of existence and death. The realm of the poems is constructed of further artistic, literary and mythological allusions as well as of surprisingly personal, biographical motifs. The astonishing authenticity of irresolvable doubts and of the moments of essential certainty is due to the linguistic power and to the very intense and sophisticated poetic craft which radiates from every single poem of this volume, just like from the whole oeuvre of Lator.

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