Author's page

Biography

Writer and poet, András Petőcz was born in Budapest in 1959. After university he worked as an editor at the magazines Jelenlét, Új Írás, Magyar Műhely and Budapesti Jelenlét. He also edited several volumes of avant-garde literature and organised a variety of events showcasing experimental literature. Petőcz has published around two dozen books, including poems for adults and children, essays, fiction and reviews. The most notable of these include a volume of selected and new poems entitled A tenger dicsérete (Praise of the Sea, 1994), a volume of essays, prose pieces and reviews entitled Idegenként Európában (As a Stranger in Europe, 1997), the poetry collections Medúza (2000) and A napsütötte sávban (In a Row of Sunlight, 2001), a string of feuilletons entitled Egykor volt házibarátaink. Fejezetek egy családregénybo (Once We Had House Friends: Chapters from a Family Saga, 2002), and the novel A születésnap (The Birthday, 2006).

His prizes include:
1985/86 Zsigmond Móricz Grant, 1987 Soros Grant, 1990 Graves Prize, 1996 Attila József Prize, 2001 Artisjus Literary Prize, 2003 Salvatore Quasimodo Prize, 2006 UNESCO-Aschberg prize for artists, 2008 Sándor Márai Prize

In a Row of Sunlight
2001

"I know no European poet as close in spirit to revolutionary Americans like Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg." (Greg Miller) – A book of poetry by András Petőcz has been published by Corvina (Budapest), in the translation of Nathaniel Barratt. András Petőcz (1959) was editor of several literary and art periodicals from the 80s, and also edited several volumes of avant-garde literature. He received the Kassák Literary Prize in 1987, the Robert Graves Prize for best Hungarian poem of the year 1990, and the József Attila Prize in 1996. Petőcz has published about 25 books: novels and poems. From the introduction to the book by American poet Greg Miller: "András Petőcz longs in his bones for the great love affair that will be Europe. I know no one as passionately European as my friend András, and I know no European poet as close in spirit to revolutionary Americans like Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg. Reading these poems, you feel free and alive. Poets from the Old World and the Americas find one another in the United States, where we discover a 'melting pot' of identity that is not, after all, uniquely or even particularly American. Citizens of the remains of old empires (including the Soviet, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian) and former occupied nations interact in New York, Chicago, and a small town in Iowa. Unreconstructed heterosexual men encounter post-feminist women and fluid sexualities and genders; sarcasm strips away hypocrisy's contradictions, revealing at the same time frustration and longing." (text from www.hlo.hu) to read more: www.litera.hu

The Birthday
2006

Four years ago András Petőcz assembled a series of his feuilleton pieces that had originally appeared in the weekly literary newspaper Élet és Irodalom into a volume that was published under the title Egykor volt házibarátaink. Fejezetek egy családregényből (Once We Had House Friends: Chapters from a Family Saga, 2002). That has now been reworked and shaped into a novel. The "family stories" are still there. In earlier works the narrator was "young Tony"; now he has now become, simply, Tony. (Tony's elder sister remains Irma.) The droll, cutting, interesting and strange stories are all told by the young boy as before his eyes all of the people he sees in the family photo album come to life. The events happen within a time frame of about thirty years, but the narrator and central character remains a child throughout. Odd and jolly figures pop up in the family circle, such as Auntie Bettie, who once had her bottom poked by a china dog as she sat down in an armchair, Auntie Sarah, who was in the habit of bringing spicy apple flódni flatcakes with her everywhere she went, or Eating-Joint Johnny, who really did have to quit work in an eatery. The novel ends with a birthday spread which features on the menu all the dishes that Tony and the others had been fond of. ";The author, who is himself on the threshold of dreams, redeems historical and family tragedies with angelic good humour, and what might make an adult grumpy and ill is rendered tolerable by the imagination of childhood memories and the genuineness of the hope in them." -Károly D. Balla, Magyar Hírlap

Strangers
2007

This second novel by Petőcz bears the subtitle Thirty Minutes before the War, which serves to define its timing while leaving the matter of its setting completely open; in this respect the work itself offers no clues. The location might be somewhere on the eastern fringes of Europe, in a dictatorship, as reference is made towards the end of the novel to the Beslan school hostage crisis of September 2004. The main character is an 8-year-old girl who relates what has happened to her. She and her mother were forced to flee to a small town in the borderland; her mother died in an atrocity; later the girl falls into the hands of terrorists who have occupied a school during a ceremony to mark the opening of a new school year. The world of the novel builds on the interrelations of communications: the little girl learns early on about lying as a survival tool, taught by her mother. The same goes for acquiring the most fluency possible in the language of the state: people generally speak in local dialects, but the girl's mother knows that if one is proficient in the official language, then people cannot easily identify one's native tongue. As the story unfolds the girl finds herself in an ever more hopeless situation, with many dreadful things happening to her. At the end, she sets off down a 12-kilometre long, rat-infested tunnel in order to escape the school's captors. We are not told whether she manages - whether she finally achieves liberation. The novel's tone is dry, cool, dispassionate, inspired by the French (the epigraph is taken from Camus' The Outsider) - Pelőcz's language is soberly undemonstrative. This sets up a productive tension in that all is being related by a young girl in the first person singular - an approach that greatly enhances the book's narrative power.

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