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( 1922 - 1991 )

» The 70s and 80s (.)
» Essays (.)
» Solstice (1967)


1922 born in Budapest
1940-45 studies Hungarian and Latin at Pázmány Péter University, Budapest
1944-5 in the civilian resistance during World War II
1946-48 member of the literary group publishing Újhold (New Moon) a journal suppressed by the authorities
1946 awarded the Baumgarten Prize
1948 during the communist takeover, silenced for more than a decade; able to publish only translations
1953-58 teacher of literature in secondary school
from 1958 freelance writer
1979 guest of the International Writing Program of the University of Iowa with her husband, the critic Balázs Lengyel
1986-91 editor of the Újhold-Almanac
1991 dies in Budapest

1946 Baumgarten Prize, 1969 Attila József Prize, 1983 Kossuth Prize

The 70s and 80s

The 70s and 80s The prose poems of The Transformation of a Railway Station relate universal, everyday experiences with a keen interest in the structure of existence, the laws of physics. The personal tone is always to be felt behind the impersonal and seemingly bare surface. In the posthumous 1995 book, however, a so far unknown tone appears: some of the unpublished poems are sharply personal, some are colloquial diary notes, and there are posthumous poems on the torturous tension between the infinite richness of life and the awareness of its finite nature.


Essays Nemes Nagy reinvented the genre of the essay; her style, disciplined and at the same time flavoured with a sense of humour, makes even her most complex thoughts tangible and a joy to read. Her collected essays comprise writings about a poet s experiences, studies on writing and translating poetry, portrays about former and contemporary poets (including an essay-monography on the poetry of Mihály Babits) and analyses of specific poems. There are professional writings about the aspects of poetry, as well as interviews, memoirs and miscellaneous writings that all grant insight into the encyclopaedic realm of her thought and touch on diverse topics including the taste of snowdrops she ate as a child.


Solstice Her third volume is characterised by a new, philosophical sensibility. In the Akhenaton poems Nemes Nagy expresses a modern man s experiences: the culture explored by the excavations of Tell El Amarna and the person of the pharaoh, the first founder of monotheism, give the poet an opportunity to objectify her own state of mind, this time drawing on the experiences of the landslide of 1956. The Horses and the Angels includes two longer narrative poems, one recalling the memory of an old school friend killed in Auschwitz, the other dramatising a strangely existential story haunting the scene of House on the Hill . The translator Hugh Maxton writes, The underlying geology of Nemes Nagy s imaginative terrain can be said to be unstable water threatens to burst upwards, mountain-sides crack, even The Garden of Eden has its volcanoes but this instability is neither a representation of the Hungarian earth nor a metaphor for contemporary Hungarian society. It is better seen as an analogue for the epistemological condition itself; knowledge, whether it is poetic or social, metaphysical or botanical even if it is all four of these necessarily follows on, or precedes, the register of its causes and effects. Knowledge is a between , a transitional state. And in the twentieth century, especially in Central Europe, tragic knowledge.

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