Author's page

( 1935 )


1935 born in Gömörpéterfalva (now Perovce, Slovakia)
1952 his first poems appear in print
1951-1954 schooling in Komárom (Komárno)
1960 receives a pedagogical diploma at the University of Pozsony (Bratislava)
1960-1965 editor of the journal Hét (Week) in Pozsony
1965-1971 editor of the Irodalmi Szemle (Literary Review)
1971-1976 senior lecturer of the Pedagogical Faculty of Nyitra; teaches early Hungarian literature
1976-1991 editor-in-chief of the translation section of the Madách Publishing House
1992-1996 editor-in-chief of the Irodalmi Szemle (Literary Review)
1991 senior lecturer on the Hungarian faculty of the Comenius University of Pozsony
1998-1999 president of the Hungarian Writers Society of Slovakia
2002 editor-in-chief in the Publishing House Madách-Posonium

1980, 1981, 1985 Imre Madách Prize, 1988 Artist of Credit, 1993 Attila József Prize, 1993 Prize of the Slovakian Writers' Union, 1994 Endre Ady Prize of the Soros Foundation, 1996 Order of Merit of the Hungarian Republic, Knight's Cross, 1996 Book of the Year Prize, 1996 Prize of the János Arany Foundation, 1996 Tibor Déry Prize, 1999 Kelemen Mikes Prize, 2004 Kossuth Prize, 2005 Book of the Year

Double Void

In an interview prepared on the occasion of receiving Kossuth Prize (the most prestigious state prize in Hungary), Tőzsér talks about the birth of his second book and how its reception changed the development of his own oeuvre. He recalls that one of the most cultured poets of the time, Tibor Bábi, discovered that the title of this volume refers to Ágnes Nemes Nagy s book Double World. Consequently, Tőzsér was labelled a pessimist and solipsist because such a negativistic title denies even the existence of the world itself and retreats into a closed inner space from which the poet cannot come out. The word pessimist was politically quite dangerous at the time, but Tőzsér didn t mind and even used Bábi s term in the title of his ninth volume of poems, Mittelszolipszizmus.

Stories of Mr. Mittel

I say, this is Mr Mittel, announced the American poet from his cage. Resembles an internal organ, pancreas sensibility without orientation Look, here is the tension of perpendiculars between up and down, said the platinum blonde schoolmistress from Budapest. Between. Stone. Trackprints of tanks. I agree with the ladies and gentlemen, said the Hungarian poet from Slovakia. ( The Entrance to Mr Mittel s Memories , translated by István Tótfalusi) Noted Tőzsér: Since I ve closed my Mittel cycle I consider myself a believer in Borges. The great writer of Argentina thought that because every topic has been used up since the beginnings of literature, contemporary writers can only be re-formulators. In my volumes Levictus and Finnegan s Death I ve also been re-writing themes from world literature. This book of selected poems is a summing up of the poet s artistic period between 1972 and 1994; the protagonist of the book is Mr Mittel, a kind of undeterminable alter-ego resembling among others Don Quixote, who is living in a mental sanatorium. Philosophy as the first mover of the poem is a general conviction of Árpád Tőzsér....In the poems of Mittelszolipszizmus especially: philosophy is the detonating fuse which thaws out the poem with the intensity of mental recognition in the foundry, not of revolution, but mental breakdown. -Mátyás Domokos The solipsism of the alter-ego is Mr Mittel, who has to retreat from his knowledge of the world back to sensual experiences and must rely only on memory, conclusion and the organizing power of assumption, because history was wound up in a coil around him. Where he lives, every absurdity is possible. Reality poses as unreal and appearance seems reality, and there is no way to tell which is which. -Lajos Márton Varga

Finnegan’s Death

Or rather: the death of poetry? Tőzsér s most famous volume speaks to the crisis of poetry, but meanwhile demonstrates the exact opposite by the sheer power of the poems. Poetry , says Tőzsér in an interview, is, of course, not missing from our age (while language exists, poetry also will), but it lacks any kind of depth. Poetry always resembles the age, and now it is shallow, flat and ephemeral. It resembles the silver age coming after the golden age in ancient Rome, or the rococo following the baroque. Postmodernism, according to Tőzsér, is like stoicism and mannerism, because in the age of quickly changing images and the rapid flow of information, poets have lost their role as soothsayer (as earlier Sándor Weöres also stated in his Sinking Saturn), and they can not and will not let their emotions flow freely, and tears can appear in their eyes only as a parody. Tőzsér, though, is not content with today s poetry, which shows only the paraphernalia but does not dare to present the spectacle itself; he does not agree with the negation of sentiments he considers himself not a postmodernist, but a late modernist, and in a series of role-playing poems evokes great figures of Hungarian and world literature. In the title poem of this book he refers, of course, to James Joyce s Finnegan s Wake, but there are other references to the greatest artists of world literature. In the text of this poem there are excerpts and quotations from works by James Joyce, Fernando Pessoa, Gottfried Benn, György Petri, William Shakespeare, Théophile Gautier, Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Valéry. The poem is built on the description of a photograph of the narrator s family; the dream-like description of the torn picture shows four people, each of which will soon be dead. Finnegan is a bricklayer, an uncle of his, and a part of the family s dark secrets; he hangs himself in the tower of a half-finished church and his body is left to hang for days on end he is a bell tolling for itself, thus becoming, as Tőzsér notes in an interview, an allegory for poetry. The bell, the poem, always tolls for itself, of course, because it builds on its own linguistic contingencies....But it is happiest if others hear its sound. Others: another man, God, boundless infinity, anyone or anything. And it never can happen that no one hears it because there is at least one person who listens to its voice in the wasted universe: the poet himself, the writer, who pulls the bell-pull. And this is true even when sometimes the poet himself is in the position of the bell.

Studies for Poet’s Portraits

The cycle which gives the book its name (it received the Book of the Year Prize during the summer of 2005) is a series of poems written on the texts of such contemporary poets as István Baka, György Petri, István Kemény, Krisztina Tóth and Imre Oravecz these are not parodies, but brilliant style practices showing the characteristics of the originals. The rest of the book contains poems written on poets and texts from Hungarian and world literature (from authors such as Imre Madách, Sándor Petőfi, Lőrinc Szabó, Ernő Szép, Attila József and Sándor Weöres). And the figure of Mr Mittel also appears. Tőzsér s verse always aspires to universality just as his often quoted: Think globally, act locally. He is surely one of the most important poets of our age. There is a great deal of humour in Árpád Tőzsér....He has achieved a light, elegant poetic idiom that seems like freedom itself. -Péter Esterházy

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