Author's page

Biography

1959 born in Budapest.
1978-1983 studies in Hungarian, German and Sociology at Loránd Eötvös University.
1983 Editor at Helikon Publishing House.
1987 scholarship of the Europaeisches Übersetzer-Kollegium (Straelen).
1995-1996 scholarship in Berlin.
1998 guest of the DAAD in Berlin.
Márton, who is primarily known as a prose writer, has also written essays and plays. With its
structural reliance on dovetailing and uniting external and internal personal experience, his fi rst
work, a volume of short stories entitled Nagy-budapesti rém-üldözés (Th e Greater Budapest Monster Chase) and published in 1984, was already experimental in nature.However, though Márton’s prose
continued on this path for a while, his Árnyas főutca (Shady Main Street) from 1999 and his later Testvériség (Brotherhood) trilogy broke new ground by reinterpreting the genre of historical fi ction.
Márton’s work is also closely identifi ed with the reintroduction of the baroque literary tradition into contemporary Hungarian prose, as well as the revival of works that have fallen outside the literary canon.
László Márton is also known as a translator primarily of German classics, including the works of Goethe, Novalis and Kleist.

Awards
1985 Art Foundation’s Prize for the Best First Volume
1988 Milán Füst Prize
1989 Prize for the Literature of the Future
1990 MTA-Soros Grant
1991 Tibor Déry Prize
1991 Forintos Prize (shared)
1992 Vilmos Prize
1992 Award of the Kelemen Mikes Kör in the Netherlands (Association for Hungarian Art, Literature and Science in the Netherlands)
1992-93 Júlia Szinnyei Memorial Prize
1993 Soros Foundation’s Dezső Kosztolányi Prize
1993 Ernő Szép Prize
1994 Book of the Year Award
1996 Soros Foundation’s Imre Madách Prize
1997 Attila József Prize
1999 Milán Füst Prize
2001 Belleletrist Society’s Award (fiction)
2003 Literary Present Award (fiction)
2004 The Laurel Wreath of the Hungarian Republic
2005 Miklós Mészöly Prize
2006 Order of Merit of the Hungarian Republic, Knight Cross
2007 Sándor Márai Prize

1995 The Great Budapest Monster-Chase and other stories
1984

1995 The Great Budapest Monster-Chase and other stories The title itself is playful in Hungarian: on the one hand it is about chasing fearful things, on the other about being chased by fear. The book, which is one among László Márton s planned sequence of seven great narratives or problem-stating writings, contains the writer s first collection of stories, written between the age of twenty and twenty-three, supplemented by his new writings. The earliest piece is Aalvilaag (the title is both archaic and modern, and can be translated as both fake world and underworld ), a fantastically rich text of non-linear and often esoteric ideas. The title piece is an absurd mythology presented in an unusual visual form; while the story titled Rosta (Sieve) is about the problem of what can be kept and what thrown away. In it, Budapest, as a sieve, is suddenly punctuated by holes, and things start falling out and fading away. The stories all originate from something banal, but end up in a fantastic atmosphere of the most various ideas, woven in an equally rich language using every layer of speech, but mostly the elevated language of the past centuries, showing the relativity of all linguistic and poetic tradition.

Refuge
1984

1984 Refuge The novel is a maze leading into the very heart of our existence: man is viewed as his own outside world, as the hero of the book suddenly finds himself in his own heart. This place is in itself a maze, full of the unfathomable complexity of the outside world including demons, stars, animals and everyday happenings. The novel uses both the allegories of the baroque, the enthusiasm of the German Romantics, and is a brilliant tour-de-force of artistic proficiency and education, balanced by the author s irony. No wonder Márton was proclaimed the most intellectual writer in Hungary.

Passage Through the Glass
1992

This work by László Márton is ranked among the „great novels” of the decade along with two other definitive achievements of Hungarian fiction in the eighties (Péter Nádas: Book of Memories; Emlékiratok könyve; Péter Esterházy: Introduction to Literature; Bevezetés a szépirodalomba). In fact, all the three works are attempts at covering an exceptionally wide range of historical, philosophical and narratological phenomena with the aid of an experimental form. According to its subtitle, the book is a „travelogue”, and the titles of the sections also refer to this spatial view: From Here; There; Neither Here, Nor There (Innen; Túlnan; Sem itt nincs, sem ott nincs). However, this deliberately uncertain topography gives no clues to the trip, rather creates a labyrinth. The narration combines everyday experiences of the Hungarian Public Reality in the fifties and sixties with motifs taken from the antique Greek-Latin, and Jewish-Christian cultural heritages. This mixture of reality and imagination, of factual and fantastic elements questions the borderlines usually drawn between these traditionally separate realms. As Márton said in an interview: „Passage Through the Glass is about the loss of memory, or the replacement of memory with imagination.” The author’s philosophical sense of humour and playful language usage produces a postmodern text full of advanture. The complexity and the ambiguities of the novel triggers the reader’s intellectual cooperation, as recorded in the collection of essays written about it (Playing with the Glass; Üvegezés, 1994, edited by Péter Balassa).

Fraternity trilogy (Forced Liberation, Heaven s Three Drops of Blood, The Difficulties of Ambassadorship
2001-2003

2001-03 Fraternity A matchless novel, incredibly ingenious in its sweep, yet highly readable said one of its critics. Márton s ambitious trilogy is peerless in Hungarian literature in its technique. It is not what we see that is important, but how we interpret it , says the narrator at one point, emphasising the ambiguity of historical authenticity. The central figure in this trilogy is Baron Sándor Károlyi, an aristocrat who achieved notoriety through his turncoat act of signing the Treaty of Szatmár in 1711, which ended the Hungarian War of Independence led by Prince Ferenc II Rákóczi of Transylvania against the house of Habsburg of Austria. The story, however, takes place much earlier, in 1697-98. The first volume (Kényszerű szabadulás Forced Liberation) is about how Károlyi, the high sheriff of Szatmár County, meets his elder brother, long given up for dead, in Vienna. In the second volume (A mennyország három csepp vére Heaven s Three Drops of Blood) he takes him back home. Then in the third (A követjárás nehézségei The Difficulties of Ambassadorship) he sues him. The paths taken by the many characters who figure in the novel intertwine in a complex round dance.

Minerva’s Hiding Place
2006

JELENKOR, PÉCS, 2006. 272 PAGES Márton, author of a growing string of novels, short stories, plays and, indeed, essays and book reviews, has chosen as the main character of his latest work, which is set in the Austrian city of Linz in the year 1844, a man known as Johann B. Having moved there from Hungary at the turn of the century, he had been prohibited from leaving the city for allegedly having translated Napoleon’s so-called proclamation of Schönbrünn to the people of Vienna just before Christmas 1805. He was also the author of A Látó (The Seer) and A franciaországi változásokra (On the Changes in France)—two of the most famous poems of Hungary’s Enlightenment era, from which Hungarian readers will readily recognise that the man is none other than poet János Batsányi (1763-1845), though the narrator of the story never explicitly names him. The other (this time named) main figure is Ödön Beöthy, a figure from Hungary’s Reform era of the 1830s and ‘40s. In the novel the two characters, belonging as they do to different worlds, never actually meet. Beöthy was an important figure in the political movement that was to lead to Hungary’s 1848 declaration of independence from Austria, while Batsányi has distanced himself from his own past in the vanguard of Hungarian politics and poetry half a century before, isolating himself from progressive thinking, and indeed long believed dead by his fellow countrymen. Minerva’s Hiding Place is thus a historical novel in which the history is not just a backdrop but a genuine frame for the story, constantly being conjured up through philosophical, psychological and political disquisitions of a historical cast. Equally, the book ponders the post-modern literary dilemma of the tellability of tales, with musings on the philosophy of the novel, narratology and poetics. Johann B., whom the head of Austria’s police will not even permit to travel from Linz to Vienna, is obliged to regard Minerva’s owl less and less as an allegorical figure and ever more as the bird of death—so much so that at one moment it passes through his head that “perhaps the whole Enlightenment was a mistake.” “Minerva’s Hiding Place conducts an ironic game with the grand allegories of the Enlightenment. For instance, light may well be the allegorical equivalent of intellectual emancipation and freethinking, but at the heart of the novel’s plot stands an eclipse of the sun.” Tibor Bárány, Élet és Irodalom

What You Saw, What You Heard
2008

László Márton (b. 1959) is widely recognised as one of the most gifted and knowledgeable of writers active in Hungary today. Typically, his works are characterised by a high degree of polish, an intriguing and carefully considered unfolding of the plot, and an entertaining (or at least thought-provoking) intellectuality. The stories collected in his latest volume are set, in part, in the Hungary of today, or the last quarter of a century, yet it seems as though time has stood still around twenty years ago; to put it another way, at one and the same time the world of today strikes one as anachronistic, whereas life in the Seventies and Eighties as bizarrely current. In other cases, the narrator of a given story is almost always peeking out from backstage and constantly playing games, not only with ideas but with the narrative as well, reflecting on the plot or on the meanings of evocative names, entering an interaction with the reader. One section contains writings that—in the spirit of the overall title—have no secrets, riddles or puzzles for the reader, with everything being visible and audible, with the whole point resting on the manner in which the narrator manages to apportion and mete out an at times exaggerated omniscience. But then there are also pieces in which something is definitely not visible or audible, merely suspected. In these cases, the reader is left with more work to strike a balance between humour and horror. Grotesque situations, bizarre twists, absurd perspectives, tragic transpirances. Márton’s stories can be characterised in some cases as bull’s eyes, in others more as impartial fun with language. There are points at which the world that is narrated seems very familiar, with the illusion of its own distinctive realism, the Budapest locations, its historical and cultural allusions, its typical cast of late Kádár-era or modern-day figures, and yet at the same time disturbingly strange. Márton has no need to slip next door to borrow some ingenious trickery or a slier reflection—if only because the protagonist of one of his stories happens to live next door or, more likely, is a narrator who resembles the author to a T (and even more).

You're an Animal!
2010

The collection of short stories Te egy állat vagy! (You’re an Animal!) is not a collection of animal stories in a traditional sense. In it the animals are not imbued with positive or negative human traits, nor are they always the main characters of the stories. Th e dog, crow, lamb or the mouse are connected to the stories of humans in diff erent ways, but it is their constant presence that helps the reader answer the question of what makes someone more or less human. The first story entitled “Kutyuska” (“Doggy”) is a recollection of a tragic event. Th e narrator of the story was not present when a house one street down collapsed, but we are given an account of the reasons for the gas explosion through his description of media reports – a way for the author to comment on the pitfalls of having an intermediary tell a tale and the bizarre possibilities that arise from experiencing a tragedy second-hand. Th e dog in the title, who survives the explosion, becomes the symbol of both unconditional love and the absence of love. Th is Janus-faced quality appears in other parts of the volume as well. For example, in the story “A bárány” (“The Lamb”), the bruised and shorn lambs are ultimately more human than the rich landlord who mocks a soldier at the front. Th e narrative voice frequently changes as well, being simultaneously ironic and self deprecatory, omniscient and clueless. While in most cases the narrator is masculine, in “A kaméleon” (“Th e Chamelon”) it is feminine. László Márton’s stories off er a close and precise look at society and do not balk at revealing its brutality and the consequences of destruction and inhumanity. Th e author achieves this clearsightedness by confusing the attributes of humans and animals, a clever conceit that gives his work its special tension. Jelenkor, 2011

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