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Hungarian Literature

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

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"HUNGARIAN LITERATURE In 1908 a parting of the ways between the younger and the older generations in Hungarian letters was definitely marked when some of the younger poets published the new songs of the new time in two volumes under the title The Coming Day, and founded the periodical West which, enlarging itself by the adoption of a political programme, was made their organ of progress. The most complete expression of the new revolutionary spirit found itself in lyrical poetry, which attained its full maturity in the poems of Andreas Ady (1877-1919).

Ady's lyrics display a Hungarian language rooted in the remote past and awaken the old tones of the peasant-crusader (curuczok) poetry of the 16th century and of the Protestant Bible, but transfused with a new idiom personal to himself. His language is submerged in the twilight depths of the soul, battles against the narrowness of middle-class morality, and revels in sensual love. His outlook on life attracted him towards the Socialist and Pacifist schools of thought, and he thus became the representative of those SocialDemocratic phrase-mongers who, in the autumn of 1918, led Hungary along the path of destruction. His poems were published in 9 vols.: - New Poems, Blood and Gold, By the Chariot of Elijah, Ye Must Love Me, Elusive Life, Self-love, Who Saw Me, From the Poems of Primeval Secrets, At the Head of the Dead. Ady's novels display a naturalism subjectively experienced, as in Thus May It Also Happen, Pale People, The Cleopatra with Ten Millions, On a New Path. He also published polemical works in favour of his political views. An appreciation of him was written by John Horvath in Ady and the Newest Hungarian Lyrical Poetry. Beside Ady the most important of the writers connected with the periodical West was Michael Babits, whose poems express with great perfection of form and moving effect the self-destructive suffering of civilized man in the 20th century. He wrote Leaves from the Wreath of Iris, and The Valley of Unrest. Desider Kosztolanyi (b. 1885) interpreted the romance and melancholy of Budapest in The Laments of the Poor Child, and Poppy. Among others may be mentioned Arpad Toth (b. 1886), Gabriel Olah, Ernd Szep, Julius Juhasz, Bela Halasz, and Renee Erdos - the last-named a lady whose muse, pagan and erotic at first, was converted later into Catholic and penitent. At the beginning of the World War an enthusiastic welcome was given to the patriotic poems of Geiza Gyoni (d. 1917), which were written at the front and sent home from Siberia. These poems, modern in style, were published under the titles On Polish Fields, and Letters from the Hill of Calvary. To the radical school of thought belonged also Joseph Kiss (b. 1843), who, following the tradition of Arany, wrote pacifist war-songs and several beautiful ballads, his lyrics having an oriental charm. The new poetry had many champions among critics and essayists, notably Aladar SchOpflin and Ludwig von Harvany.

In prose fiction and the drama modernism was less strongly marked, though the new philosophy of life differed from that of the earlier generation. The most important novelist of this period was Siegmund Mericz (b. 1879), who wrote Gold in the Muck, Behind the Devil, The Torch. Margaret Kaffka (1880-1918) gives in her novels, e.g. Maria's Apprenticeship and Colours and Years, sketches of contemporary politics. Francis Molnar (b. 1878) describes in his novel Andor the wasted life of a decadent young man. Mention may also be made of Michael Suranyi's novels, The Peacock from Trianon and The Holy Mountain. On the Hungarian stage modern ideas and traditional convention were in sharp competition. To the latter belong The Nurse and The School-mistress of Alexander Brody (b. 1863), together with his war drama, Lyon Lea, centring round the life of the Galician Jews. Desider Szomory wrote tragedies on themes taken from the history of the House of Habsburg, Maria Theresa and Joseph II., and in Bella, Hermelin and Matuska he dramatized the sexual life of the modern woman. Francis Molnar, the novelist already mentioned, became a popular and successful writer of drawing-room drama, with a great mastery of stage routine and technique. His bestknown plays are The Guards Officer, The Devil, The Wolf, The Carnival, The Swan and Liliom, a picture of apache life. Among his successful rivals in the same genre are Melchior Lengyel, with his The Prophet and Typhoon, and Louis Brih, author of The Tsaritsa. Among the younger of the dramatists is G. Dregely, author of The Well fitting Dress Suit. As representatives of the older generation of conservative poets may be mentioned Joseph Levay (1825-1918), Alexander Endrody (1850-1920), Andrew Kozma (b. 1861), author of Hungarian Sym- phonies. Koloman Mikszath, the greatest Hungarian novelist after Jukai, died in 1910; his The Black City did not appear until 1911, and his Posthumous Works were issued subsequently. Among the effective romance writers of the old school was Francis Herczeg (b. 1863), who wrote numerous novels, and also appeared as a playwright in Blue Fox and The Black Horseman. Noteworthy also was Geiza Gardonyi (b. 1863), who draws his homely themes from the life of the villages and small towns, but who also seeks inspiration in Hungarian heroic legend and in the faith of mediaeval cloisters. Gardonyi is one of the most sympathetic of contemporary Hungarian writers; as in his tales The Longhaired Peril and 'Tis Far Till Then (1913); Stephen Tomorkeny wrote genre word-pictures, such as People in the Service of the Country (1916); as also did the novelist Ccilie Tormay (b. 1876), e.g. The Old House. In light literature Julius Pekar did some good work, and also as a political writer in support of national ideals. Noteworthy also are the popular writers Koloman Catho and Alfred von Drasche-Lazar.

The conservative literary school was supported by a host of competent critics. Eugen Rakosi (b. 1842) opposed the modern literature of decadence with all the force of his burning enthusiasm, as in his For the Hungarian Idea. Zoltan Ambrus (b. 1861) was an esteemed dramatic critic. G. Vojnovich (b. 1877), E. Csaszar (b. 1878) and L. Keky were also critics of conservative tendencies.

After the revolution of Oct. 30 1918, the political current brought to the surface a mass of pacifist, defeatist and cosmopolitan literature. Under the presidency of Ady and Siegmund Moricz, the progressives founded their own Academy which they named after the national romantic poet, Verosmarty. With the end of the World War signs of futurism and expressionism had already appeared. The new writers of the social world-revolution rejected all poetical form. Their ideals were cosmic universalism and the collective solidarity of international mankind. But only one of them possessed any real merit - the iron-worker Louis Kaszak, who had developed from naturalism into the poet of the proletariat in his Book of new Poets. The periodical To-day became the semi-official organ of Communist literature. It must be added that Communism in Hungary, as in Russia, suppressed the free publication of books and appointed the People's Commissariat as sole publisher with the unrestricted right of censorship. The book market was now flooded with works of Communist propaganda. The theatres, turned into State institutions, were forced to perform plays with a Communist moral. No composition of any permanent value was produced by the Commune. After its fall Desider Szabo took the lead of the new literary movement. In his poems he laments in vigorous language the Szeklers of Transylvania, now separated from their mother country, as in his The Village Torn Away (1919). In addition to Szabo, a poet writing under the pseudonym of " Vegvari " protested in the poem Helpi against the dismemberment of Hungary.

Journalism, finally, has developed greatly in Hungary since the 'seventies and, since it employs a number of literary men, deserves mention here. Numerous periodicals are in the habit of publishing feuilletons, short stories and serial novels.


The centre of Hungarian historical research, as of the other sciences, is the Hungarian Academy of Science, of which Albert von Berzeviczy (b. 1853) was president in 1921. Robbed of its revenues under the Bolshevik regime, vigorous efforts were made to reestablish it after the restoration of order.

In historical writing and research great activity has been displayed in Hungary since 1910. Vol. xii. of Arpad Karolyi's Acts of the Hungarian Parliament contains fresh material of great importance for the study of the religious wars of the 16th century in Hungary. Desider Czanki published a further instalment of his Historical Geography of Hungary during the period of the Hunyadi; Lukinich his Transylvania's territorial transformations; and Julius Nagy Codex diplomaticus Andageviensis; Samuel Gergely, Codex Comitum Teleki; Francis Dory, Codex Comitum Zichy. Other works of original research are: - William Fraknoi (b. 1843), Critical Studies relating to the History of, the Triple Alliance, and The place of Hungary in the World War; Arpad Karolyi, The Dobling literary remains of Count Stephen Szechenyi; Eduard von Wertheimer (b. 1848), Count Julius Andrdssy, his life and times and Friedenskongresse and Friedensschli.isse; Viktor Concha (b. 1846), The Friendship of Baron Eotvos and Montalambert; Heinrich Marczali (b. 1856), Ungarische Verfassungsgeschichte; Julius Szekfii (b. 1883), The Hungarian State, and Three Generations, the History of a declining Age; Balint Homan, The financial History of Hungary from 1000-1325; Ladislaus von Szabo, History of the countly family of Szechenyi; Baron Gabriel Szalay, Letters of Ladislaus von Szalay; Stephen Cserey, The Law of Succession to the Hungarian throne; Alexander Domanowszky (b. 1877), The Succession to the throne in the time of the Arpads. Philosophy. - In the domain of philosophy Karl Bohm (d. 1911) was very productive. After his death appeared (1912) the 4th volume of his principal work Man and his World, in which he sought further to develop the subjective idealism of Fichte. Bernhard Alexander (b. 1850) published Essays in the field of Modern Philosophy; Julius Kornis (b. 1885), Causality and the reign of law in Philosophy; Eugen Posch, The Phenomena of our Soul and their Nature; Cecil Bognar, Causality and the reign of Law in Physics; Akusius Pauler (b. 1876) published An Introduction to Philosophy, which reached a 2nd edition as early as 1921.


Among writers on scientific jurisprudence the following deserve special mention: Alexander Plosz (b. 1846), Law of civil procedure; Alexander Raffay, Hungarian Private Law; Joseph Illes (b. 1871), Introduction to the history of Hungarian Law; Gustav Szaszy-Schwarz, New Directions in Private Law; Ernst Wittmann, Methods of peaceful settlement of international disputes and Past and present of the right of the self-determination of nationalities; Geza Magyary (b. 1864), Civil procedure and Procedure in International Arbitration; Paul Angyal (b. 1813), Hungarian criminal procedure; Julius Derto, The principle of objective damages for injury; John Karacsonyi (b. 1858), The territorial historical law of the Hungarian Nation; Stephen Ereky, Studies in historical Jurisprudence and in administration; Felix Somlo (d. 1920), The foundations of Jurisprudence, one of the most important works, which defines in a new way the ideas of law and of the State; Francis Finkey (b. 1870), Manual of Hungarian criminal law procedure; Wolfgang Heller, Principles of Political Economy (1920).

(B. Z.)

Bibliography Information
Chisholm, Hugh, General Editor. Entry for 'Hungarian Literature'. 1911 Encyclopedia Britanica. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​bri/​h/hungarian-literature.html. 1910.
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