Author's page

Áron TAMÁSI
( 1897 - 1966 )

Biography

1897 born in Farkaslaka in the south-eastern region of Transylvania (now Lupeni, Romania)
1918 military service in World War I
1922 degree from the School of Commerce at the University of Kolozsvár (Cluj)
1923 leaves his homeland for the United States
1925 sends his short stories home and his first book is published
1926 returns to Transylvania and becomes a member of the literary society Helikon; member of the Transylvanian Artistic Guild
1945 settles in Budapest
1966 dies in Budapest

His prizes include:
1929 Baumgarten Prize, 1954 Kossuth Prize

Abel Alone
1932

This is Tamási s most popular and most adventurous novel, which was later expanded into a trilogy, Ábel az országban (Ábel in the Country, 1933) and Ábel Amerikában (Ábel in America, 1934) being added to the first. The story is based on elements from Tamási s own life, the protagonist simultaneously an idealized alter-ego and a timeless mythical hero. At the beginning of the story, we become acquainted with a 15-year-old boy, Ábel, who is quick-witted and already adept at twisting words. It is 1920, immediately after the Szeklers come under Romanian rule. Ábel is lured by his father into a match of wits, the result of which is a job, all alone in a shack as forest ranger in the mountains. Ábel does in fact move there, and the remaining chapters of the novel relate his lonely adventures: watching over the forest, selling wood and beginning a life of his own. During the winter, however, he is exposed to a harder initiation; two bandits happen to cross his path, and Ábel has to muster every bit of ingenuity and courage in order to survive. Before his problems are resolved, Ábel s father also calls on him, only to bring the bad news that Ábel s mother has died. At his mother s grave, Ábel vows to always help the poor and downcast. In part two of the trilogy, Ábel leaves woods for the city, where, after several elusive and humorous adventures, he receives an invitation to his father s wedding and a ticket to sail to America. In part three, he travels to America and is forced to cope in a completely foreign, modern environment. Nevertheless, it is here that he receives the most important message of his life when an old black man with whom he becomes acquainted tells him, We are born to this Earth in order to find a home in it. In accordance with this, Ábel (like Tamási himself) returns to his homeland.

Matthias the Icebreaker
1935

Jégtörő Mátyás (1935, Matthias the Icebreaker) Áron Tamási is the most prominent writer of the Seklers, a Transylvanian regionalist. He had a firm belief in the rights of man and knew the wants of simple folk. The structure of his stories resembles that of myths and folk tales; his playful humour and poetic style have brought him a particularly wide readership. In this early novel, he experimented with mythological structure. The novel is a mystical tale of a lost spirit arriving from the stars whose transmigration through flea, spider, bee, stork, owl, eagle, fox and dog ends with its entering a human being’s body whose birth is the end of the novel. Tamási’s naïve surrealism is akin to spoken tales and fables; he presents the mythical battle of good and evil with a characteristic simplicity and naivety, lending an irresistible playfulness to the matter. Tamási’s style is in a certain respect a Transylvanian forerunner of magical realism. "Ragyog egy csillag" (A Star is Shining, 1938) is the continuation of the story of Jégtörő Mátyás (Matthias the Icebreaker); the spirit is reborn in a village boy, a messianic figure with a calling to lift his people from their troubles; his aim is “to unify the body and the spirit”. The novel has many autobiographical elements, and Tamási asserts his belief in the idealistic possibility of peace and harmony.

The Cradle and the Owl
1953

In addition to his novels, Tamási also wrote memoirs of his childhood. The Cradle and the Owl was written in 1949, but was published only in 1953, and was originally intended to be the first part of an autobiographical trilogy. The author moves within the realms of reality, but does not sacrifice his beautiful, lofty and pure style. Lyric passages are reminiscent of his homeland, Széklerland, and his people. The author was among those who were able to enter the ranks of the urban intelligencia; in his case, this was due in part to a childhood injury which made him unable to make his way as a traditional peasant. Practically all of Tamási s writings is reminiscent of his childhood stories and his surroundings.

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