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Zsófia BALLA
( 1949 )

» Second Person (1980)
» Living Space (1991)
» The Third Story (2002)


1949 born in Kolozsvár, Transylvania (Cluj, Romania)
1956-68 majors in violin
1972 graduates from the local music academy
1975 member of the Romanian Writer's Union
1972-85 joins the staff of the local Hungarian radio station as a musical and literary editor
1978-82 teaches music in the town of Dés
1980-90 refused a passport for political reasons
1985-1990 member of the editorial staff of the newspaper Előre
1990-94 works for the periodicals Családi Tükör and Hét
1992 editor of the literary magazine Jelenkor
1993 settles in Budapest
2001 fellowship at Herrenhaus Edenkoben
2002 fellowship at the Villa Waldberta

Her prizes include:
1983, 1991 Prize of the Romanian Writer's Union
1992 Prize of the periodical Magyar Napló
1992 Tibor Déry Prize
1995 Soros Oeuvre Prize
1996 Attila József Prize
2001 Hungarian Literature Prize
2002 Quasimodo- Prize
2003 Palladium-Prize
2008 Prize of the Republic of Hungary
2010 Artisjus Literary Grand Pix
2012 Látó Quality Prize - poem

Second Person

Her first two books introduced an ironic but sensitive voice which she ends with the sentence: "From here I must step onto icy concrete, barefoot". From here a new history of pain begins, speaking without hesitation to historical and personal traumas. (For example, she addresses grief and the loss of a baby.) Her surreal imagery is always surprising, but always logical. “Her poetry is characterized by an abundance of variety; she employs the formal devices of rhythm and rhyme as well as free verse form, and her style varies from simple song to longer oratorical pieces." -Ádám Makai

Living Space

The power of Balla's poems is found in the contrast and tension between stasis and rapid movement. Her collected poems show how she manages to control the uncontrollable: language, emotions and rhythm. She is a very self-conscious poet, but always resists the temptation of empty formalism. Faith and doubt constantly struggle in her poems, giving her work an absorbing tension.

The Third Story

This is a complete and complex book, written after seven years of silence. Passion remains, but there are fewer surrealistic images; instead, poems of classical elegance emerge. The poet is often speaking about God, but almost never to God, as if the world itself were only a wager between God and Satan. The two long poems, “Csöndfoltok” (Patches of Silence), verses written after the death of the great poet György Petri, and “Angyalnak lenni” (To be an angel) make observations about heaven and earth. The angels fly barefoot, in tiny, filthy shirts, they circle over the scintillating city, all day and night long in a saturated heaven. They receive no permission to land." “His poetry is expressive of the anxieties of World War II, the historical and biological horrors of his age, despair, and concern (...) His early poetry, rich in Biblical allusion, evinces the influence of religious expressionism.” -Ádám Makkai, translator

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