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1910 born in Budapest
1928 graduates from the Fasori Evangelical Secondary School
1928-1930 student at the University in Vienna
1930-1931 student at the University of Berlin
1931-1932 studies in Paris
1932-1933 student in Graz
1933-1934 army service
1939-1941 emigrates to France, then to Morocco and finally settles in New York
1942-1946 secretary of the Hungarians of New York (Movement of Free Hungarians)
1943, 1945 serves in the American Army
1946 returns to Hungary; member of the Kisfaludy Literary Society
1946-1950 literary editor at the political journal Népszava (Voice of the People)
1950-1953 political prisoner in the forced labour camp of Recsk; set free shortly before the Revolution
1956 emigrates again after the defeat of the Hungarian Revolution
1957-1961 editor-in-chief of the literary journal Irodalmi Újság in London
1959-1964 Secretary of the P.E.N.
1967-1989 lives in Toronto
1968 guest professor at Columbia University, New York
1971 guest professor in Montclair, New Jersey
1972 guest professor in Philadelphia
1972 professor and honorary doctor of philosopher at the University of Toronto
1975 guest professor of Bishop University, Quebec
1983 honorary doctor in philosophy
1986-1989 editor of the journal Szivárvány (Rainbow) of Chicago
1989 returns to Hungary
1989 settles down in Hungary again
2006 dies in Budapest

1991 Medal with Rubies of the Hungarian Republic
1993 Oeuvre Award of the Soros Foundation
1993 Imre Nagy Memorial Plaquette
1993 Freeman of Budapest
1994 Kossuth Prize
1997 Life Member of MÚOSZ (Magyar Újságírók Országos Szövetsége; National Association of Hungarian Journalists)
1998 Pulitzer Memorial Award
2000 Golden Pen
2001 Don Quijote Award
2002 Obersovszky Memorial Plaquette
2002 Cross with Star Order of the Hungarian Republic
2006 Grand Cross Order of the Hungarian Republic

My Happy Days in Hell

Perhaps Faludy’s most powerful work, his autobiography about the Hungarian Gulag preceded that of Solzhenitsyn; it is the thrilling and exciting story of the characteristic life of a twentieth-century Eastern European intellectual, presented with bitter irony and detailed objectivity. The most moving parts of the novelized biography are those taking place in the internment camp close to Budapest and in the infamous labour camp of Recsk, the aim of which was the annihilation of the political prisoners that proposed a threat for the new Communist regime. But arriving at these calamities, the reader gets to know an earlier period of Hungary’s history and a great poet’s life. In 1939 Faludy, together with his wife and some friends, left the country and the looming fascist threat and emigrated to France, and then to Morocco. After many adventures they at last managed to go to the US and settle in New York, where Faludy became a newspaper editor and lecturer; later he fought as a soldier in the US Army. After the war he returned to Hungary, a surprise to many there. He became a member of the Social Democratic Party and worked for its daily paper. After the Communist Party united with the Social Democrats he was arrested along with many other intellectuals, and was soon taken to the hellish camp of Recsk, where his moral stature, resilience and will enabled him to survive the ordeals which killed many others. The book, which originally appeared in English, was soon translated into many languages, but only appeared in Hungary in 1987, first as a samizdat and finally, in 1989, as a book of great and instant success. At his death, Faludy was the most popular living poet in the country, a legendary figure loved by many and respected by everyone. His erotic poems, his poems about prison, and his adaptations of Villon’s ballads are still bestsellers in Hungary.

200 Sonnets

Why do you sit in your room? Do you write? Meditate? Do you study or just rest? Who knows? For I have never spied on you. But sometimes, late at night, you call me and we go out to walk because the sky is full of stars. (The Fifteenth Sonnet, translated by Eric Johnson) This volume contains 200 sonnets, 100 of which are still unpublished in Hungary. The first sonnet dates from 1979 and was written in Toronto “on the cliffs of our solitude”, when it seemed that most people had forgotten how to write and read love poems. The characteristic of the sonnets—as that of the poet’s whole oeuvre—are his intellectual and sensual passion, together with a great deal of bitter (self-)irony. The volume is selected from poems written between the mid-Sixties and the year of political transition in Hungary, 1989. The order is not chronological, but follows the inner logic of poetic thought. There are eternal ideals at the core of each sonnet, the victory of the mind and the soul over time and matter, presented in the tone which is characteristic of great classical poetry.

Notes from the Rainforest

The volume originally appeared in English with the cooperation of Faludy’s friend, Eric Johnson, who made many comments and emendations on the text during the process of translation. In the introduction written for the Canadian edition, the poet expressed doubt as to whether Canadians would really be interested in his experiences, but the book was a success, especially later, among Hungarian readers, although it paints a bleak vision of both the past and future of mankind.

Drummer in the Night

“Between 1947 and 1988 my books were banned in Hungary. My volumes of poetry and prose had only appeared in English, until 1980 in New York, when Sándor Püski decided to publish my Collected Poems on 600 pages,” writes Faludy in the introduction. One of the most popular poems in the volume (comparable perhaps only with Sándor Márai’s famous “Funeral Sermon”) is “Ode to The Hungarian Language”, which is a fantastic linguistic tour de force showing the poet’s commitment towards his mother tongue. “And now”, continues the poet who in the Nineties returned to settle down in Hungary for the second time, “when I select some 200 poems, approximately one third of the whole, I feel a slight uneasiness. I’d like to publish here everything that is loved or at least accepted by my readers, but also everything that I like, risking that the public won’t accept it very well. In spite of this, there won’t be anything in the volume that will offend people of any faith or belief, except Nazis and Communists. But I took care to reduce the number of these poems as well, because there are a lot of more important things in the world than them.” An example of an anti-communist poem is “Ode for Stalin’s 70th Birthday”: Your heroes you have hanged upon the gallows or pistoled in their prisons in disgrace; you’ve spit upon the brave, whom courage hallows, and stamped with muddy jack-boots on their face. (Translated by Watson Kirkconnell).

The Confessions of the Century

“Just as Vörösmarty, I too believe that I must write poems like no one else does, because I must serve my country. Vörösmarty, in his last poems, managed to write down final truths, and I’ve tried to do the same, but in vain, all my life. I was born in 1910 and I have lived through the last century, and I thought I would write down my experiences. The volume contains 52 poems, 50 of which I wrote in sequence during fifty days. Some of them are not very good....It sometimes happens that a poem crosses my mind and I sit down to write it down and I finish it in five minutes. On other occasions I work from 3 pm to 10 pm. on three lines and I simply cannot get any further. After three days or two weeks I’m still stuck, and at 4 a.m., when I lie in my bed, I write it down and it’s ready... And the finished poem is never identical to the one in my head and the one I really want to write. Writing poetry is hard because the critical sense of the poet is keener than the prose writer’s. We can read the poem in a few minutes and quickly decide whether it’s good or bad.” (George Faludy)

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