Hungarian literature

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Hungarian literature

Hungarian literature: Until the 19th cent. Latin was Hungary's literary language. The Funeral Oration (c.1230) is the oldest surviving work in Magyar; some 14th and 15th cent. chronicles also exist. The Reformation prompted various translations of the Bible. The poets Bálint Balassa (late 16th cent.) and Miklós Zrinyi and István Gyöngyössi (17th cent.) were succeeded in the 18th cent. by Vitéz Mihály Csokonai and Ferenc Faludi. In the last quarter of the same century, Hungarian literature was given fresh life with the work of György Bessenyei, while Ferenc Kazinczy led a reform of the Hungarian language. The establishment of a national theater and the founding in 1825 of the Hungarian Academy of Science assured the development of a national literature. The leading literary figures in the 19th cent. were the poets Károly Kisfaludy (also a noted dramatist), his brother Sándor, János Arany, Mihály Vörösmarty, and Sándor Petőfi, and the novelist Mór Jókai. Endre Ady and Attila József were the outstanding early 20th cent. poets; the dramatists Ferenc Herczeg and Ferenc Molnár achieved international fame.

Between the two World Wars, novelists were divided into three groups—the Horthy regime defenders; the Populists, who sought improvement of the peasants' lot; and the Communists. The most eminent Populist was László Németh. After World War II, Hungarian literature fell under Soviet influence, and the Communist party exercised rigid control over writing and publishing. Writers who adhered to the Soviet doctrine of socialist realism included the poet György Somlyó and the prose writers Géza Hegedűs and József Darvas. Diverging from this doctrine were the poets László Mécs, who was published only outside Hungary, and Gyorgy Faludy, who was imprisoned for three years before fleeing the country, and the novelist Tibor Déry, who was also imprisoned for his nonconformity. The revolt of Oct., 1956, whose participants included a number of prominent writers, was followed by a gradual easing of censorship; with the collapse of the Communist regime, censorship ended.

See histories by F. Riedl (tr. 1906, repr. 1968), T. Kloniczay and H. H. Remak (1982), and L. Czigány (1984); J. Reményi, Hungarian Writers and Literature (1965); L. Degh, ed., Folktales of Hungary (tr. 1965); M. Vajda, ed., Modern Hungarian Poetry (1977); T. Kloniczay, ed., Old Hungarian Literary Reader (tr. 1985).

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