Author's page

Szilárd PODMANICZKY
( 1963 )

Biography

Writer, poet, screenwriter, and journalist.
1963 born in Cegléd.
1982-83 attends the Technical University of Budapest.
1987 degree in Mathematics and Physics at Gyula Juhász Teacher Training College in Szeged.
A resident of Szeged for many years, he currently lives in Balatonboglár.
He regularly publishes in daily and weekly papers and journals. Besides writing, he also draws and takes photographs. He publishes his own work. He is one of the most innovative writer of various sketch genres in contemporary Hungarian literature (commentary, aphorism, satirical sketch, short short story).
His short stories have been published in English, German, Slovak, Slovenian, and Bulgarian.

Selected awards:
2001: Déry Prize
2007: Pro-Literatura Prize
2008: Attila József Prize

"... hydraulic bride ..."
2000

By reading Szilárd Podmaniczky's collected poems, one gets a sense of the entire oeuvre and its progression. The two characteristic pillars of his art of writing are the loosening and stirring up language and freely, yet consciously shaping story elements. The lyricist and the prose writer, respectively, one might say, but these distinctions blur rather than clarify things in Podmanicky's case (and several authors of his generation). Let's take the example of his poem Two ends: "After my afternoon death-battle / I went down to buy something for dinner / took bread and cheese from the shelf / and queued for cheap salami at the counter / above all my tousled hair must have / given away my earlier battle with death / or the deli-man couldn't have thought / of slipping two useless salami-ends / into the bag" (trans. Peter Zollman). Rather than punctuation marks, it is the density and shape of the anecdote that structures the poetic sentence. Absurd straightforwardness combined with the ambiguous title make the incomprehensible situation completely real. This is a death that cuts to the bone. The closing recalls Madách's classic line in The Tragedy of Man: "But for the end! - If I could but forget it!" (trans. George Szirtes) Anyone who has ever been sold the stump of a bologna loaf will know that this poem is tragic not only on account of the death throes. Death has a philosophical explanation, whereas products of the Hungarian meat industry do not. The poems of "... hydraulic bride ..." illustrate the arc along which Podmaniczky's neo-avantgarde experimental poetry ricochets off the wall of sociographic realism and morphs into into journalistic writing suffused by linguistic play. Short forms and deep sentences.

Rubber Bells
2005

Podmaniczky is a master of short forms. Small, fragmentary details cohere into a vernacular representation of a thoroughly contemporary world, thanks to his consistent worldview and shaping of prose. It is the closeup rather than the grand total that fascinates him. Frailty, the everyday, the all too human are enlarged by an empathetic irony. Instead of massive novels that attempt to answer everything, Podmanicky's mixed volumes are consciously and carefully arranged from his short pieces. They do not want to provide answers; rather, they show the myriad question and answers that are present (or sometimes absent) around us. If some books smash right through your table, these volumes endow the table with significance. It becomes a table once again. As does the whole world that is being sketched by the author. The serenity of fishing, a solitary walk in a patch of woods, the infinite freedom of looking around – this is the rich minimalism of everyday life. Yet, all this lurking and loafing, hesitating and procrastinating are not ideologically inflected. Its world is a far cry from Oblomov's, who becomes poor in his richness in his grand novel. It is just the other way around with the heroes of Rubber Bells: their uniqueness makes them rich and their uniqueness results from their being average. As the baker of the Open Kitchen Bakery ends his monologue: "after all, if you think about it and look into yourself, you're not cut out for a sales career, are you, and neither for life perhaps." The question is if it is worth risking to think about it. After reading Rubber Bells, the answer is a resounding yes.

Hutchinson's Coils
2007

The dimly sharp small-scale realism and more-real-than-reality absurd of the author modulate into symbolism and parable in his new short novel, Hutchinson's Coils. The opening recalls the first scene of Kafka’s The Trial -- except with completely different negatives and positives. His maid wakes Valentin, the writer, with news that a tall lean man brought him a letter. A friend translates the letter, which turns out to invite him to Windmühle (windmill) as the guest of a foundation. All they know about Windmühle is that it must be in a German-speaking region, and they have an address: Bergstrasse 18. This may be a reference to Sigmund Freud’s address in Vienna. The writer leaves and eventually gets off the train in a strange, stiflingly gemütlich small town. This is an exceptionally effective setup for a novel: everything is unfamiliar. And Hungary will seem just as strange, when he returns at the end of the novel. For unlike Joseph K., Valentin survives. He exists. As someone whose life is a death, he feels no better than K.: "Valentin sat on the riverbank he used to love so much. He saw concrete, earth, and water; the town has receded. Cars rumbled behind his back, a father was explaining to a child what's what. Perhaps there in Windmühle, thought Valentin, I should have ended my life. But I have never had the strength it takes. He dug a pebble out of the concrete and threw it towards the water. It seemed to sink without a ripple." It is thanks to images like this that Podmaniczky's prose does make a ripple.

A Fine Hungarian Dictionary
2009

What could the minimum unit of measurement for telling a story be? The most recent book by Szilárd Podmaniczky (b. 1963) shows that it is possible to condense a complex story into as little as three of four lines. There are something like 5,000 entries in his dictionary, and along with every word comes a story, a still picture and an annotation. On top of that, with the aid of a conventional dictionary structure, this splendidly produced work succeeds in displaying our lives from A to Z. Fundamental objects, necessities, notions and situations in our lives are given lively descriptions. It is advisable to read this just slipping back and forth. Open the book at random. In some cases it is worth thinking about what comes to mind in respect to a given word. Take the entry on “cricket”, for instance: “The Sun went down; the Moon had not yet risen to its position. That sort of thing was of no matter to the cricket; it launched into its night-time stridulation. The wife tossed and turned all night, she could not get to sleep. The next day she put in ear plugs at bedtime, but only a few minutes went by before she leapt up in alarm. Her husband was fondling her breasts.” The husband and wife are characters whom we come across frequently; at other times it may be just a man and woman, possibly a child. They are generalised figures, but they are still instantly given faces. We see them for only a fleeting second, as when we glimpse into the window of a railway compartment that whips past us; we are still curious about what happens to them. A Fine Hungarian Dictionary comprises 5,000 micro-stories assembled into a colourful mosaic of fates. In point of fact, one big story. The initial of each letter is adorned with the graphics of Igor Lazin.

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