Author's page

( 1920 - 2006 )


1920 born in Balatonboglár
1940-43 studies at Péter Pázmány University, Budapest
1941-44 put into a forced labour gang
1945-46 finishes university studies in Budapest
1946-48 studies in Philosophy, Literature and Folklore at the Sorbonne
1948-49 script editor for the National Theatre
1949-50 head of the readers department at Hunnia Film Factory
1950-51 reader at the Franklin Society s Publishing House
1951-53 editor of the poetry column at Irodalmi Újság
1954-55 head of department at the Hungarian Radio, Vice-President of the Hungarian PEN Club and of the Hungarian-French Society
1955-56 head of the Literary Department at the Hungarian Radio
1966-87 editor in chief of the multilingual Arion, member of the Mallarmé Academy, Paris
1992 founding member of Széchenyi Literary and Art Academy

His prizes include:
1950, 1951, 1954, 1966 Attila József Prize, 1984 Officier dans l Ordre des Arts et Lettres, Paris, 1987 Tibor Déry Award, Forintos (Translator s) Prize, 1992 Lajos Kassák Prize (Soros Foundation), 1994 Ady Memorial Prize (PEN), Gyula Illyés Prize, 1996 Gabriela Mistral Memorial Prize, 1997 Kossuth Prize, 2000 The Jelenkor Publishing House s Book Prize, 2001 Milán Füst Prize

At the Ramp

Rámpa (At the Ramp) 1984 In this autobiographical novel, through the stream of consciousness method Somlyó relates how he survived deportation. The time span of the novel is a single day, the 28th of November, 1944, which is incidentally the birthday of the author. The narrator, armed with a fake passport, waits at the railway station at Józsefváros, having made a miraculously narrow escape: the Swedish register contains a name similar to his own, and although neither the number of the passport nor any of the other relevant detail corresponds, Raoul Wallenberg (the heroic Swede who saved hundreds of Jews in Budapest) accepts the document, and the gendarme forgets to intervene. The central character thus remains on this section of the ramp, remains alive. The novel serves as a document of the era and a sensitive chronicle of a bleak situation and humane attitude.

From Philoktet to Arion. Selected Studies 1-2.

Philoktétésztől Ariónig (From Philoktet to Arion. Selected Studies 1-2.) 2000 As usual in essays written by poets, the governing principle in György Somlyó’s studies is that the analyses derive from the work and characteristic traits of the author who writes them. This distinguished expert of French literature allows the reader into his workshop as a translator. Among his portraits drawn of writers and poets, there are his eminent predecessors (among others, the poet’s father, Zoltán Somlyó, and other great figures of the Nyugat), his own contemporaries and friends (particularly noteworthy is his study of Sándor Weöres’s Psyche), as well as French authors he had become familiar with by translating them. According to Somlyó, personal relationships and objective judgment of the work are not contradictory factors. His studies emphasize the role of aesthetics and thought in an over-politicised world; he believes it is possible for canons in literature to exist in parallel. “The two-volume collection of studies, thanks to the excellent editing...selects form and arranges sixty years of writing so that we get a clear survey of the main topics and historical development of Somlyó’s oeuvre as an essayist and writer of studies, of his preferences in Hungarian and world literature and of his theoretic-aesthetic, critical and translator’s convictions as well.” -Gyöngyi Mikola

Selected Poems of György Somlyó

Somlyó György válogatott versei (Selected Poems of György Somlyó) 2001 To quote the words of a younger fellow poet, László Bárdos, “Somlyó is the apostle of modernity, of Rimbaud’s theory, ‘to be modern, throughout.’” His oeuvre is almost completely characterised by the artistry of form he ‘inherited’ from the poets of the Nyugat, but which he, in fact, made convenient for his needs through a set of translations (e.g., the Paul Valéry translations). He especially delights in the sonnet and the antique Greek forms from which he departs only for the sake of a few prose poem volumes (A mesék könyve, The Book of Tales). Among the Hungarian poets, he found his masters in Lőrinc Szabó, Milán Füst and Lajos Kassák, and, in the more distant past, János Arany. After World War II, he came close to the poets of the Újhold (New Moon), then, following brief enthusiasm for the Stalinist system and the subsequent crisis, by the end of the 1950s he found his mature voice, a poetry of constant inner contemplation and playful variety. Somlyó belongs to the modern stream of Hungarian and world literature. Somlyó also published a book of poems written in French (Parisiens). “We hardly have another contemporary poet whose books are so full of allusion, motivic reference, mentioning of names as are his: from the Chinese to the Greek-Latin classics, from the Middle Ages to the present, and not at all simply from the poetry of the great western languages, however frequent they might be, but from the Greek Kavafy to the Russians.” - Béla G. Németh

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