Author's page

Sándor TAR
( 1941 - 2005 )

Biography

1941 born in Hajdúsámson, in eastern Hungary
1959 graduates from College of Engineering, Debrecen
1959-1992 technician in a medical instrument factory
1976 writing about Hungarians working in the GDR, he wins First Prize of the Sociography Competition of the journal Mozgó Világ; however, the journal cannot publish his text
1991–1999 on the editorial board of Holmi
2005 dies in Debrecen

His prizes include:
1976 First Prize in the Mozgó Világ Sociography Competition, 1981 The Best First Book Prize, 1985 Déry Award, 1986 Soros Scholarship, 1989 For the Literature of the Future Prize, József Darvas Prize, 1990 Artisjus Literary Prize, 1992 The Art Foundation Literary Prize, 1993 Alföld Prize, 1994 Lajos Nagy Prize, Soros Foundation Scholarship, 1995 Krúdy Prize, 1997 Attila József Prize, 1998 Márai Prize

This Much
1993

Sándor Tar is a significant voice in recent Hungarian fiction. He wrote realist fiction from a documentary angle, yet his narratives offer a more contemporary and more complex window on reality. This is a collection of stories about workers from a factory, who were made redundant after the change of regime following 1989, and with their jobs, their very existence begins to crumble.

Our Street
1995

The book is comprised of thirty-one short stories or portraits of people and events centred on the lives of the inhabitants in a small village in southern Hungary. It is a compilation, with one story reflecting upon and adding to the next, until a gallery of unforgettable characters gradually emerges before our eyes, victims of the changes in rural Hungary after the change in regime. From Uncle Vida, an old man who grows vegetables that nobody will buy any more, and his consumptive son, whom nobody will even shake hands with, to the always proud Mancika, who one day is found lying on the train tracks, waiting for a speeding train, and to the priest Márton Végső, who goes about administering to the needs of the village with a patience which comes from resignation through these and many other players in the game of life, we are drawn into a world which is not only fascinating and deeply human, but one which, thanks to the masterly style of the writer, is also imbued with a magical realism that is very much on par with the best of Garcia Marquez.

Slow Freight
1998

This collection brings together Tar’s recent short stories and some earlier, well-received writings. The title piece, “Slow Freight”, encapsulates all that is special about Tar’s fiction: his familiarity with life’s dark recesses, the portrayal of the physically and mentally deprived, the father-son relationship and a fascination with discourse (somebody recounts a story that has been told before by someone else and the writer himself appears as a fictional character in this chain of narratives). In the story itself, a man who has laboured for much of his life on the railways is left crippled by his work, and his wife walks out on him. He and his little son beg for money by playing the accordion on trains. One day, as the father tries to climb onto a carriage, hooligans kick them off the train. As they clamber up onto a slow-moving train coming to a halt, it is the boy who kicks his father off. In the twenty-six stories the setting varies from urban to rural, the fictional events hover between childhood memories and contemporary situations, and the storytellers are alternately inside and outside their narratives. Tar’s universe is populated by folk who are needy, old, slow-witted or mentally disturbed. The stories, however, are not without humour. This stems not so much from sympathetic joviality as from the absurd recurrence of particular situations.

The Bargain. Wicked Stories; short stories
2004

In this book, Sándor Tar once again reveals the world of misery with full knowledge of reality; the atmosphere of the texts is so evocative that one is bound to believe that what is related in them may be real. His stories penetrate the reader’s conscience. In The Bargain he accesses his own personal tragedy, his past as an informer. The lengthiest story, “Hunt”, gives the account of the recruitment of an informer. The method is personal blackmailing, and the protagonist’s task is to bear witness against a former friend and write reports, however insignificant or useless, about those around him. This ultimately leads to tragedies in his own life; his wife commits suicide and his daughter becomes deaf and dumb. Later, after the change of the regime, he finds his former recruiters to be the mayor and his staff; they now considering his knowledge of the past dangerous. Sándor Tar reaches the logical outcome of the plot through a figure who turns up unexpectedly. “He speaks about [the past] even when he is writing about other matters. In retrospect, his great topic, the world of those living beyond visible society, has gained a richer, more complex meaning. His characters are ruined alcoholics, unemployed, homeless people, crippled in body and soul; wrecks trudging on in bleak pubs, on hospital beds, in one-and-a-half-room block flats, in the remains of broken marriages—all of them people with a single story. They relate their only story, the story of how they became cheated out of existence. They are helpless and weak of will and the same things have happened to them all, in endless variations. They suffered losses, got crippled in an accident, lost their child, divorced, were put out of their homes or sacked from their jobs. They have become fashionable lately, as literature seems to indulge in facing its guilty conscience through them. Yet Sándor Tar does not look at them from the outside. What makes his world so horrible is the fact that he suggests that all of us have our stories, the story of how we became or are becoming miserable. This is what makes these stories wicked.” -Győző Ferencz

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