Author's page

Jenő Józsi TERSÁNSZKY
( 1888 - 1969 )

Biography

1889 born in Nagybánya (now Baia Mare, Romania)
1910 his first publication in Nyugat
1914-18 serves in the Hungarian army in the First World War
1944 humanitarian service during the Second World War
1949 receives the Kossuth Prize
1950-55 silenced for political reasons
1956 first appearance of his collected works
1969 dies in Budapest

Awards
1929, 1930, 1931, 1934 Baumgarten Prize
1949 Kossuth Award
1963, 1968 Order of Merit - gold

Farewell, my Dear
1916

“The first war novel which represents true quality” wrote Endre Ady. Tersánszky finished it in the trenches. The central character and narrator of the novel is Nela, a young Polish woman who loves to sit back and daydream, but is soon confronted with the realities of war. She is shocked by an air raid on her sleepy little town, falls in love with an invading Russian officer, but finds it impossible to preserve spiritual love among such circumstances. Tersánszky aims to describe how sensuality defeats sentimentality, and culture only serves as a decoy for raw passion.

The Youth of Martin Kakuk
1921

The first volume of his most popular hero, Marci Kakuk, partly his alter-ego, an irresponsible vagabond. He first appears as only a transient character in the short story “Ruszka Gyuriék karácsonya” (Cristmas at Gyuri Ruszka’s), but later is the narrator of the stories. His true, humorous and realistic voice assured these stories quick and enormous popularity. Kakuk is a peculiar yet familiar character, without a strong sense of moral responsibility, who loves women and drinking. He is somewhat like the heroes of the picaresque novel: after many adventures, good and bad, he refuses to change a bit. Tersánszky continued the novel in serial form, and finally published it in its entirety in 1942.

Legend about the Rabbit-Paprikas
1936

Tersánszky’s heroes are often poor men and women, drunkards who long for redemption and plan to change their ways, but always fail, for only a miracle could help them. This story is an ironic but still heart-warming attempt to show how such “miracles” work. Gazsi is a miserable swineherd, a wretched old man with no ambition, who has always been kicked around; in wintertime he lives in a wooden hut in the yard of the rural constable. One day he is asked to go and fetch a knife left in a tree trunk in the middle of a snowy field. He hasn’t eaten for a whole day and can hardly walk, but as the constable gives God’s blessing to his journey, he proceeds with naïve faith to find the knife in the falling winter night. He succeeds but also discovers some dead rabbits which someone has illegally killed and hidden after the day’s yearly rabbit hunt. He picks them up and carries them back to the constable’s house. By the time he gets there he is almost frozen, but still he helps the constable’s wife to prepare a savoury rabbit stew. But when it is ready, he sent back to his hut without one forkful. Poor Gazsi is desperately curious how such a heavenly dish must taste; he can hardly wait for next year’s hunt, for he is convinced that he will find more hidden rabbits. When the time comes, however, he has a sore leg and high fever, and falls asleep on his makeshift bed, missing the hunt altogether. And this hunt proves to be more interesting than usual. It all begins with a poor young rabbit, Paprikás, who sleeps through the hunt and only awakes when his mother is killed and the constable and his dog begin to collect the kill. Startled and frightened, he springs up and starts to run. The dog immediately gives chase. The little rabbit crosses a field and finds himself in the way of a countess’s onrushing coach. He manages to avoid getting hit, but the feet of the coach’s horses become entangled in the leash of the pursuing dog. The coachman tumbles to the road, the countess swoons and the bolting horses carry her away. Meanwhile villagers have now blocked all of the rabbits escape routes; nevertheless, he scampers into the middle of the village, stirring up a terrible commotion. He finally finds a hiding place—in the hut of the sleeping Gazsi. At the same moment the coach also turns into the constable’s yard, the countess comes to, tames the horses and goes back to fetch the unconscious coachman. When Gazsi awakes in the evening, disappointed that he missed the opportunity to find the rabbits and eat stew, he finds the Paprikás instead. He soon tames him, and the little unfortunate rabbit and the poor old swineherd make friends. When the countess finds out what has happened with the rabbit that caused the accident, she is so touched that she takes Gazsi along with the survivors of Paprikás’s rabbit-family and appoints him to be a regular swineherd of the count. Thus the legend about naivety and goodness ends well—and the writer finds it important to mention that Gazsi rightly takes his place among the real heroes of fiction.

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