Author's page


1930 born in Budapest
1944-45 goes into hiding during the Szálasi Nazi dictatorship
1948 graduates from grammar school in Budapest
1948-50 works for the National Centre of the Hungarian Students Association
1950 dismissed; drafted into the army in the autumn
1952 arrested, taken to forced labour camp
1953 rehabilitated
1954-56 editor of Jövő Mérnöke (The Engineer of the Future), magazine at the Technical University, Budapest
1956 the first to print the demands of the university students at the beginning of the Revolution
1957 critic, later (1970) reader at Film, Színház, Muzsika (Film, Theatre, Music)
1961-64 studies Hungarian Literature at the University in Budapest
1975 assistant editor-in-chief at Film, Színház, Muzsika
1989- present freelance writer
1990-93 member of the executive committee of the Hungarian Writers Association
1992-96 president of the László Németh Society

His prizes include:
1985 Attila József Prize, 1986 Book of the Year Prize, 1989 László Németh Memorial Prize, 1992 1956 Memorial Prize, 1994 Getz Corporation American Oeuvre Prize, 1996 Book of the Year Prize (novel), 1996 Order of Merit of the Hungarian Republic, Officer Cross, 1997 Tiszatáj Prize, Imre Nagy Plaquette, 2000 Sándor Márai Prize, Gold Medal given by the President of the Hungarian Republic, 2005 Kossuth Prize

The Files of the Investigation. Report on the Tiszaeszlár Trial

A vizsgálat iratai. Tudósítás a tiszaeszlári perről (The Files of the Investigation. Report on the Tiszaeszlár Trial) 1976 As is apparent from the subtitle, Iván Sándor s sociology, written in the form of the essay, examines the events of the blood libel of Tiszaeszlár of 1882 and the subsequent trial. (The Jewish community of the village on the Tisza bank were charged with the ritual killing of a servant girl, who had disappeared, later to be fished out of the Tisza River.) The title of the book alludes to the deservedly famous documentary novel of the liberalist attorney of the case, Károly Eötvös (A nagy per, The Great Trial), who published the files of the investigation as an appendix to his book. At the outset, Iván Sándor examines Károly Eötvös s figure, his motivations, and chooses his attitude as an example. Not only did he set himself the aim of proving in the trial that the data of the prosecution was made up. He stepped further. I had to take the challenge of finding out what had indeed happened. With the approach Sándor learnt from István Bibó, he looks back in history to the original settlement of the country, then to the changing attitudes towards foreigners over time. He also incorporates fieldwork he did in 1973. Through all of this, he reflects on a rather broad sweep of time, and, at the same time, he examines in detail the circumstances preceding the events of 1882 (these included the decline of the national middle class, the illusions following the Compromise of 1867, the situation of the Jews, the formation of public opinion, etc.); he introduces the accusers, envious of each others wealth, the working of the mechanism of the charge, from the interrogation of children ages four to thirteen, to political incitement; the role of Eötvös, his tactical considerations, the steps he took in his investigation, etc. Sándor collects several documents and opinions from the era (Hungarian and foreign articles, quotations by writers, from Eötvös s book, reports, etc. one of the most interesting of which is a letter by exiled Hungarian revolutionary Lajos Kossuth, sent from abroad after he had emigrated). Finally he compares the verdict (exemption of the innocent from the charges, but without compensation or amende honorable) with that of the Dreyfus Trial in 1894 and its aftermath (in that case the accusers were eventually brought to trial). On the last pages of the book we learn from the children in Tiszaeszlár that the neighbourhood preserved the fabricated story of the blood libel as family history.

Dear Liv

Drága Liv (Dear Liv) 2002 Fond of experimenting with different techniques of fiction and having chosen different solutions for each of his novels, in his latest book the author has set out with a complex aim. Attila Bombitz writes on the layers of the novel, In the fictitious world of the novel, Drága Liv comprises the diary, the memories and documents of the theatre script editor László Zoltán. In the meantime, the monologue s point of view is completed with his reading of other texts. These texts are read by other people as well, whose interpretations we learn about from László Zoltán s own interpretation. In this sense the novel is traditional; it has its arch, plot and narrator, as well as its place and time. And at the same time it has several thematic registers. Drága Liv is a historical novel (its most important chapters focus on the unknown people of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution, as well as the 1848 War of Independence (here the War of Freedom ), while the period of time covered allows for the catastrophe of the Don Bend, the consequences of the Hungarian Nazi (Arrow-Cross) takeover and the development of the communist system of reporters); it is a meta-narrative novel (outside its fictional framework there are several narrators, whose manuscripts, letters and messages written in different variations are in dialogue with one another the title referring to the addressee of these various texts); it is a novel of the self and a polyphonic novel (the first person singular narration, following in the path of the fictitious novel of development and the confessional novel, mirrors its own history, while its arch or possible arch is constantly broken by the other, mirroring the person of the reflections); and it is an Eastern European and a European novel (the variations of historical cataclysms and fate-histories that reach across borders and time cancel out the romantic feeling of Paris, Warsaw, Salzburg or Algeria, the world that cannot be united is peopled by fatelessnesses independent of space and time).

A Walk in the Moonlight

Séta a holdfényben (A Walk in the Moonlight) 2004 Iván Sándor s novels and the essays written in the intermission of the novels belong together. The essay-novel Séta a holdfényben is on the boundary of several genres; it is a reader s diary, a book of memories, a spiritual journey and an analytic study. As he promises in his foreword, Iván Sándor tells a story, one about the one-centred Ego s falling apart, its identity crisis in the 20th century. This is what he examines, to use his favourite expression, in his thoughts of the history of mentality , in whose framework he talks about real and spiritual meetings, reveals relations, led all along by a wish to understand. While he is inspecting the loss of personality, the book is being written in front of our eyes and so it tells about writing itself....He is interested in the theoretical background of the process. How, according to his diagnosis, Hungarian development, which constantly struggles with a time-lag and runs into dead-ends, is now stumbling in the bog of the global post world. How literature seems to lose its stake. From all this it is apparent that, in Iván Sándor s opinion, writers, although in defence, have kept their honoured role; if nothing else, they are the ones to articulate the valid words of farewell. - Győző Ferencz


KALLIGRAM, BRATISLAVA (SLOVAKIA), 2006. 280 PAGES It is hard to determine who (or possibly what) is the true hero of Iván Sándor’s novel. Is it, perhaps, the 14-year-old adolescent boy from Zugló, the Fourteenth District of the Pest side of Hungary’s capital, who, in the ghastly months that ensued after the German army invaded Hungary on March 19th, 1944—and eventually, on October 15th, let Ferenc Szálasi, the leader of Hungary’s home-grown Nazis, the Arrow-Cross Party, seize power from Regent Nicholas Horthy, who since 1919 had been the country’s authoritarian ruler—breaks away from his family to go into hiding and preserve his own life during the siege of Budapest by the liberating Red Army in the bitter fighting that went on from late October 1944 to January 1945? Or maybe Carl Lutz, the Swiss consul in Budapest, who contravened his official instructions to save the lives of untold thousands of Jews by declaring that certain properties were part of the Swiss legation (‘yellow-star houses’) and issuing papers (Schutzpass-es) which declared their bearer was to be regarded as a Swiss citizen and thus ‘protected’? But, over and beyond the human element, Iván Sándor’s meticulously constructed latest novel pays particular attention to space and time. The narrator takes the reader on tours of the streets and squares of Budapest, from Zugló to Óbuda, from the Sixth (Terézváros or “Theresa-town”) District to the city centre. And re-echoing close behind are the footfalls of countless thousand others. Past and present are deliberately ambiguous, never clearly bounded or separated, and so experienced as existing simultaneously, allowing one to be with both the two main protagonists at one and the same time, and both outside time yet also within its flow, as it were. This is the other gripping aspect that is consistently accomplished by the poetics of the novel. The reader, then, experiences different moments of the events of ’44 and the post-millennium present as being juxtaposed in the same localities. Follow-up is arguably the most successful of the distinguished series of over ten novels, to say nothing of many volumes of essays and other works, that the now 78-year-old Iván Sándor has published over the last forty decades, and it is now scheduled to appear quite soon in a German translation. It is also a historical novel that is spiced with explicit autobiographical elements; an existentialist novel that enquires into the hows and whys of historical events and processes; a confession that urges and limns the therapeutic value of facing up to the past. Last, but nor least, it is a novelistic essay that ponders the philosophical feasibility and chances, ultimately, of describing, of expressing or verbally communicating these matters at all.

The Bay of Argolis

Now past eighty years of age, the novelist and essayist Iván Sándor continues full steam ahead and with unflinching attention to write his philosophical novels—novels in which he examines the problems and the possibilities not only of the fin de siècle and the twentieth century, but also of the turn of the millennium and the third millennium. Sándor’s newest novel, as with his earlier works, is a metaphorical and intellectual investigation that focuses on a search for clues. The storyline of The Bay of Argolis is as follows: Paulo, the protagonist, a film director famous across Europe, yearns to capture the essence of Antiquity as it has resounded to this day by dreaming time itself into images; that is, through film. For the story to take shape and then fall into the pieces of the mosaic that it is, he must embark on a journey—first to Greece, so as to immerse himself in a physical space; then into the history of European culture, so as to meet its heroes; and third, to the contentious points of his own life, in order to come face to face with time and, thus, with himself. The Bay of Argolis represents a grand venture to retell and reconceive Sophocles’ tragedy Antigone from the perspective of a character corresponding to the sister and witness in that work, Ismene; thus it is that the complete fabric of Iván Sándor’s novel comes to life. Through well effected action, proportionally and economically inserted essays, sharp switches of tempo produced by the book’s short sentences, jump-cut-like shots, cuts, and silences, Iván Sándor manages to capture the impossible nature of the director’s undertaking. The concepts of “lurking emptiness” and “customary time” take on ever deeper and ever broader meaning in the course of the narrative. “They said there are no clues,” Paulo is told. “There are more and more unsolved cases.” His investigation has thus become all the harder and, at the same time, all the more important.

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