Author's page

Zsuzsa TAKÁCS
( 1938 )

» Dumbshow (1970)
» Corridor of Glass (1983)
» An Age of Darkness And Light (1989)
» A Tear of Relations (1992)
» Postscript (1996)
» The Shrouded Clock (2001)
» Hail Thou That Art, Travelling (2004)
» The Guest with the Deceptive Appearance: My Autobiographies (2007)
» Adoring the Body—India (2010)

Biography

1938 born in Budapest
1958-63 studies Spanish and Italian literature at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest
1963-64 works as a reader at Havana University in Cuba
from 1964 teaches Spanish at the University of Economics in Budapest
1989 elected to the Hungarian Writers' Association

Zsuzsa Takács, literary translator and poet, was born in Budapest in 1938. She graduated in Italian and Spanish studies. As well as translations of poetry from these languages, French and English, she has written essays, short prose fictions, and poetry for children. Her first volume of poems, Némajáték (Dumb Show, 1970), has been followed by a further ten volumes of her own work, as well as various collections of her translations. Among the original works, Viszonyok Könyve (Book of Relationships, 1992), A bænök számbavétele (An Accounting of Sins, 1998) and A letakart óra. (The Shrouded Clock, 2001) particularly stand out, while Sötét és fény kora (Age of Dark and Light, 1988) and Utószó (Afterword, 1996), containing new poems as well as selections of her older verse, are noteworthy collections. Zsuzsa Takács was awarded the Attila József Prize in 1988.

Corridor of Glass
1983

1983 Tükörfolyosó (et Corridor of Glass) Poems László Ferenczi wrote of Takács and this volume: “A highly cultured, sensitive woman of chiefly musical inspiration speaks in these poems in an elevated, urbane and moderate tone. The poems are addressed to somebody, we hear in them one side of a dialogue repeatedly interrupted. Powerful emotions, powerful since they are controlled by high culture, surge in these lines.”

A Tear of Relations
1992

1992 Viszonyok könnye (et A Tear of Relations) Poems. The title, Tear of Relations, puns on the phonetic likeness of the Hungarian words for “book” and “tear”, “könyv” and “könny”, which two hundred years ago were still homonyms). “Takács's personality is too strong to be shaped by outside influences. She has succeeded in creating a consistent world out of obsessively recurring themes. Her poems are surrounded by this visionary ambience. Some people meet somewhere. The scene is perpetually, shockingly narrow. A room or a street, always in a city of ruins, suffocating in smog....The moon always shines through a fog, shrieking trams run over fallen leaves, and nature only appears in the form of an alley. These tragic landscapes are the location of permanent apocalypse. Tear of Relations...is a portable vortex rather than a collection of poems, incessantly concerned with the cruellest and bloodiest sensations of body and spirit. It is the most telling volume of the year, which will be put down with hands trembling from an amalgam of ecstasy and shock.” -Gergely Hajdú “This great and very consistent poetry formulates such deep doubt concerning the interpretation of our human relations that this could easily result in chaotic speech. However, the poems themselves are never threatened by the shadow of this essential doubt, and the text itself always remains clear and highly ordered. Zsuzsa Takács has evolved a unique form that is classical and disciplined, while also open to improvisation and experiment.” -Győző Ferencz

Hail Thou That Art, Travelling
2004

Zsuzsa Takács has been noted for the striking strength of the compositional principles with which she constructs her volumes, and the present one—as with The Shrouded Clock—is no exception. The sacred and the profane stand side by side in her poems, with the two not representing contradictions but, instead, complementing one another. Among them are life and death, light and darkness, hope and hopelessness, shiftlessness and finding one’s home, day and night, faith and its absence. Permeated as the poetry is by a slightly reserved, enigmatic, highly refined personality, the co-existence within it of these concepts seems almost natural. The first half of the title of the volume—the “Hail Thou that art highly favoured” of the Catholic liturgy—cannot be played off against the everyday resonance of the second half (“Travelling”). Here the “Hail” is sacred more in the sense of St Francis of Assisi’s nature mysticism, or not even that, while the ‘travelling’ in the sense of a form of psychological exploration is at least as elevated, even existential a concept as any religious term—as if travel per se could be redemption. What is more typical of this poetry is a negative religiosity rather than an explicit faith: this is quietly, gently radical poetry. The persona adopted is generally the first person singular when a poem concerns ordinary things. (Quotidian elements—ungainly muddy shoes, a wrinkled rubber mat, a garden full of poplar-trees and lianas, the yellow headlamp of a tram—are just as much organic parts of poetic diction as more general concepts.) More often than not, though, the first person plural is the persona when the speech imitates the forms of prayer, devotion or supplication. What confessional poetry formerly would put in a personal form tends here to be expressed in a general form. It is not I who is afraid, but we are afraid—all of us. We weep, we plead, we give thanks, we live and we die. The bashful mode of expression here conceals a background of great cultivation. Having translated extensively from European poetry, Zsuzsa Takács has made considerable use of more than a little of this in her own sovereign art. Among her important metaphors are ‘winter’, the ‘dark, forenoon Sun,’ ‘the dark night,’ and ‘the dark night of the soul’—a cycle that with Takács is best approached via St John of the Cross, whose works she has translated into Hungarian. “She therefore preserves the loftiness of common speech… but this is a plural of multiplied solitude, of uniform powerlessness.” -József Tamás Reményi, Népszabadság “The personal...is resolved in the impersonal, ‘in the dark night of the soul.’” -Péter Dérczy, Élet és Irodalom

The Guest with the Deceptive Appearance: My Autobiographies
2007

This first collection of prose fiction from the distinguished poet contains 17 short stories. The subtitle hints that the texts might be read as reminiscences; in fact they are nothing of the kind. The piece Dedication which opens the volume leaves the reader uncertain: The events in this story did not happen to me, but I am only able to relate them in the first person that is how it begins. The narrator is sometimes male, sometimes female, and in one cases even changes gender within the text; the stories themselves are sometimes told in the first person singular, sometimes in the third person. The texts are fragmentary, being assembled on a free association principle, often more lyrical than epic in character. The writing style is kindred to Kafka, Hrabal and Kundera, but to follow that line would be to go down the wrong track. Zsuzsa Takács s stance to mankind and the world is akin, first and foremost, to such creative spirits as János Pilinszky or Albert Camus. Béla Bodor, litera.hu The volume leads one from memories of childhood traumas though the tangled, unprocessable experiences of the compromises of adulthood. Each protagonist is present with his or her monologue; they are not seen together but are merely portraits reflected in each other. József Tamás Reményi, Népszabadság

Adoring the Body—India
2010

An elemental duality both coheres and continually breathes new life into the poetry of Zsuzsa Takács (b. 1938). Contemplative and plaintive, her verse is woven through with terms the likes of “pardonable pity” and “solicitous love.” At the same time, it tears apart its own borders, erupting into momentary images such as these: “Like sprays of water the engraved cups break / apart on the kitchen’s tile floor.” As a noted literary translator, Zsuzsa Takács has long rendered Spanish literature, Baroque, and mystical writers into Hungarian. Perhaps this explains the plasticity and passion that heats her otherwise quiet, decidedly unassuming, unadorned intellectual verse to magmatic levels. “Condemned to movement, we wear away.” Her genre of expertise is the monologue: “You are so foreign that / I recognize myself in your movements.” As suggested by its title, Adoring the Body—India, Takács’s newest volume of poetry comprises two main parts: The first and larger one (“Adoring the Body”) is itself made up of smaller cycles. Within this structure, the individual poems are in dialogue with each other, as it were, one summoning the other. Takács also sets in motion a massive store of erudition, not that she does so ostentatiously. For her this is no pose, but natural. Through a whole array of cultural references she is able to speak more vividly about her own issues. Toward the end of the volume, we can read excerpts from “India,” a work-in-progress that pays tribute to Mother Theresa and elucidates the conflict between faith and suffering. “You neither greet me nor reply to me, / and yet I call upon you all the same.” Here, the body is simultaneously certitude and doubt: “The feeling of wholeness, the tears of death.”

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