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Biography

1977 born in Budapest; studied English Literature at Eötvös Loränd University in Budapest

Awards
1999 Sándor Bródy Special Award
2000 New Hungarian Radio Play Award
2002 Zsigmond Móricz Grant
2003 Petőfi Award
2003 Bárka Award
2003 IBBY Award for the Book of the Year for Children
2004 Book of the Year Award
2004 Gundel Award
2005 Attila József Award
2007 Cross of Merit of the Hungarian Republic - gold

Mug of Azure
1999

“He has perfect pitch” said one of our living greats, the Hungarian poet and critic László Lator, about the first volume of this young talent. His praise, however, was mixed with a bit of reproach when he said that Varró’s poems are too light and playful. The talented young poet, though, is also playfully impertinent, and has fended off the charge of lightness in advance, for he has taken the responsibility of writing out of sheer fun, somewhat like the artist of the goliardic poetry, or two of his most famous Hungarian predecessors, Sándor Petőfi and Mihály Csokonai. As an English major and a translator of limericks and nonsense poetry, Varró is well versed in British humour and the tradition of the absurd, and enjoys chattering and playing with rhymes and parodying the classics. He categorically rejects the notion of purely tragic poetry; in this he follows his modern master, Dezső Kosztolányi, who was equally at home with both elevated poetry and light verse, and had always praised lightness as something meaningful and deep. One of Varró’s greatest successes is the parody of contemporary poets written on a simple Hungarian verse for children. “Dániel Varró’s debut was certainly a very important one, influencing the whole of Hungarian poetry. It is hard to imagine, but it is true that this playful and ironic poetry is a quite provocative and innovative experiment. Although critics have long considered ‘important’ poetry to be dark and tragic, Varró’s poetry is funny, parodist and built on childhood experiences and fantasies—and it can be still read as ‘high poetry’ because of its many literary allusions.” -László Bedecs

Animals from the Tube
2003

This children’s book from the small publishing house Csimota (meaning ‘toddler’) ventures to couple modern Hungarian painting with contemporary verse. Together with his collaborators Krisztina Tóth and János Lackfi, Dániel Varró has written short poems on the works of 20th century masters depicting animals (the paintings were selected by the actor and painter, Róbert Alföldy). All of these funny, highly rhythmical and quite memorable short pieces have a question at the end (for example: “Where’s the dog?”), intended to draw children’s attention to the painting’s small details. Varró’s playfulness gives free range to a child’s creative energy.

Beyond the Smudgy Mountain. Andy Muhi and the Empire of Blotches
2003

After his successful debut, the reading public waited eagerly for Varró’s next release. After four years, he came forward with a volume of children’s verse, or rather a verse novel for children, which quickly became a tremendous success among readers both young and old. The book has no direct Hungarian predecessors; the influence of the English tales is palpable—not those of J. K. Rowling, but rather those of Lewis Carroll. But instead of speeding around Wonderland, Varró’s little hero, Andy Muhi, roams Nonsense-Land, together with his comical girlfriend, Janka. They meet the vile Blotch Tsar, the old Fluffy Lady who hates cleaning and many other strange characters. However, the book’s main appeal is not the story but the form; there are many innovative and funny rhymes, songs and limericks on every imaginable topic inserted in the main body of the text, quotations from classic and contemporary poetry, Greek forms, Pushkinesque stanza, and funny authorial detours from the body of the story, all telling some personal detail about the narrator, or commenting on the events in a very modern, very informal way. The book is illustrated by the author’s sister, and the text has been recorded on two CDs by one of the best Hungarian actors, Pál Mácsai. It was also adapted for stage by the famous Puppet Theatre of Budapest in the spring of 2005. Perhaps the popularity of the tale is best shown by the fact that some of its readers have written comments on the Internet asking to include Dániel Varró’s work in the list of compulsory literature at school.

Heart-Dessert
2007

Dániel Varró (or ‘Varródanny’ as he is nicknamed in Hungary”) can be pretty much guaranteed a readership for as long as there exist students who leave secondary school with a love of poetry, because his poetry volumes make splendid farewell gifts. With Heart for Dessert, the latest, he strives to integrate the special qualities of both his earlier collections. The blithe yet carefully thought-through playfulness, the serious lack of seriousness and fizzling originality of his debut volume, Bögre azúr (Beaker Azure, 1999), exerted a refreshing influence on Hungarian lyrical poetry. Refreshingly fizzling, teeny-tingling, and so Dániel Varró became ‘Varródanny’. That was followed by Túl a Maszat-hegyen (Beyond Mount Smudge, 200?), a fairytale novel in verse that, over and beyond the rhyming verse and a story filled with surprising and sometimes excruciating or worse twists in the plot, contrived to tackle a wide range of genres and forms of poetry. Heart for Dessert is a love story in verse or, to be more precise, a cycle of poems imbued with a sense of love. As its subtitle suggests: “a twenty-first century u+i”. To be in love is ironic and pathetic, a sublime and a lousy state. That is what the volume’s love-smitten protagonist avows is a sonnet cycle and rhyming prose, in e-mails and SMS’s. Varró has not merely composed 160 poems that are full of character, albeit perhaps a trifle saccharine in places. The role, the way of speaking of the figure that Varró brings to life is akin to a Victorian music box that plays modern pop songs. The book is perfectly rounded off by illustrations by Nóra Rácz and by Varró’s own picture poems, a hopscotch of metrical feet.

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