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( 1921 - 2001 )

» Saul (1968)
» Exact Stories on the Road (1970)
» A Movie (1976)
» Once There Was a Central Europe (1989)


1921 born in Szekszárd, January 19
1942 finished his studies at the Faculty of Law of Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest
1943-44 soldier; as a deserter he travelled through Northern Germany
1947-51 worker; later newspaper editor in Szekszárd
1949 marries the psychologist and writer Alaine Polcz
1951-52 script editor for the Puppet Theatre in Budapest
1952 freelance writer
1956 together with other writers he protests against the Czechoslovakian intervention
1989 Editor of the journal, Magyar Napló
1990 member of the directorial board of the Hungarian Writers Union
1992 founding member of the Széchenyi Academy of Arts
1993 spokesman for the Democratic Charta and de League Against Compulsory Military Service
1996 Honorary Citizen of Budapest
2001 dies in Budapest

1982 Aszú Award
1986 Tibor Déry Award
1988 For Hungarian Art Award
1988 István Örley Award
1988, 1989, 1991 Book of the Year Award
1990 Kossuth Award
1990 Kortárs Award
1990 József Fitz Award
1992 Open Society Foundation s Award
1992 Soros Foundation s Oeuvre Award
1994 Soros Foundation s Award
1994 Writers Book Store s Marble Award
1995 Soros Foundation s Award
1996 Order of Merit of the Hungarian Republic - Commander Cross with Star
2000 Jelenkor Publishing House s Award
2002 Ágnes Nemes Nagy Award


1968 Saul 1968 Saulus Based on the Biblical story, the novel is composed of mosaic-like parts showing the psychological transformation of Saul that leads to his conversion. The novel is set in Jerusalem. Four years have passed since the crucifixion of the treacherous rabbi . Saul, who at that time was not present in Jerusalem, is a persecutor of those who have broken the rabbinical laws, working closely with the rabbinical authorities and most notably the rabbi, Abjatár. Saul s life is defined by a heightened intensity of sensibility and perceptions; he is a man at a crossroad, who is still unaware of the changes of the future, a man beset by a philosophically passionate yearning for understanding. An upholder of the law, Saul is not a dry and passionless incarnation of the law like the rabbi Abjatár, a man apparently devoid of any sort of passion, ruled by the paradox logic of the dogma he represents. When Saul meets one of the Christian fugitives, Istefanos, he is not aware of the other s identity, yet in a curious way the talk turns to the topic of search and hunting and Saul recalls the story of a beggar who lost his vision while looking for a sheep in the desert. He realizes that the relationship of the hunter and the hunted is a complex affair, the hunted may love the hunter and the hunter may only be capable of hunting because of this love. Later, when Istefanos is captured and stoned to death, Saul suddenly decides to swap his sandals with those that Istefanos left behind and starts on the Damascus road in the sandals of the stoned man. Though his task is the capturing of Istefanos accomplices, he slowly begins to identify with those whom he persecutes. By the end of the journey, he is blinded by a powerful light for three days, and when he regains his vision, he is a changed man and sees the world through the eyes of those he formerly prosecuted. The events of the story are not related in a chronological order; the text is rather a whirlpool of descriptions and events, where all action is suspended in the frequent time-shifts, and the only cohesive force is that of a turbulent spiritual intensity where every last image seems to carry some hidden meaning, yet Saul s desperate urge for comprehension cannot be fulfilled, as the blinding power of the light is a spiritual force which transcends the boundaries of understanding. Mészöly s novel is not a simple paraphrase of the biblical story. The author deliberately rewrites the life of Saint Paul - more precisely, the life of Saul, since the period following his conversion is not represented. His method is the following: It would be beautiful if in the process of writing we could shed light for ourselves from word to word, from sentence to sentence, as if with a torch, thus catching whatever in the act of becoming whatever it is due to our very revelation. In accordance with the spirit of this method, the novel is not a historical or philosophical parable or a didactic representation of Saul s conversion, but a first person singular report on the journey of a soul open for change through impressions, spiritual events and self-reflection towards the final transformation.

Exact Stories on the Road

1970 Pontos történetek útközben 1970 Exact Stories on the Road The objective and undecorated („exact”) descriptions of journeys are based on the oral reports and written notes of the author’s wife telling about visits paid to relatives and friends living in Transylvania and Transdanubia. (It is worth comparing these mercilessly detailed and focused stories with the texts narrating the same events written by Alaine Polcz and published much later.) „This is the ninth volume in the series of the collected works of Miklós Mészöly, and the first one published after his death. [...] Earlier I did not rank this book among my personal favourites, but having reread it I am surprised what a masterpiece it is. The description of characters, situations and environment is extraordinarily skilled, the systematic representation of fates, attitudes and of the deep hidden cultural, religional, linguistic and spiritual layers is an astonishing result of devoted work. Now I understand why Miklós Tamás Gáspár wrote - calling this novel a collection of short stories »the greatest Transylvanian short stories were not written by someone from Transylvania but by Miklós Mészöly...« [...] The Exact Stories on the Road give an exceptionally precise and true insight into the complex issue that might be called Transylvanian mentality.” (Csaba Károlyi)

A Movie

The novelette is a turning point in Mészöly s art. Taking an old couple as its topic, the novel observes their slow movements with extreme precision through the cold eye of the camera. In an interview, the author considers this narrative presentation a further stripping to nakedness... to such an extreme point in the consideration of human events, to such posing of questions that it would call everything, the component of all things into doubt . (translated by Albert Tezla) The ethics of nakedness: the novel is considered one of the writer s best pieces. Mészöly avoided writing personally or personally writing about personal issues, and put the emphasis on the questions and the possibility of narration. In spite of its title, the novelette is not a film script but a description aiming rather at comprehension than representation. According to Péter Balassa, representation interpreted as simultanious crime and rehabilitation and the apparently cruel description of the passion-story add to the book being not only a masterpiece but a powerful parable of ethics.

Once There Was a Central Europe

1989 Volt egyszer egy Közép-Európa 1989 Once There Was a Central Europe The essence of the book is the knowledge (the experience as well as the emphatic invention) of the history of this area. The histories inscribed into each other (Beáta Thomka) project different times and spaces into one another. It could be imagined as it was - starts the first story in the book, Map of Alisca . This determines the attitude of the whole collection of essays and short stories: one has to recreate the past and the present of the area with the help of the imagination. (Although We shall not speak of the present, because who knows what is happening right now? ). In other words, the book is a documentarist attempt to give an objective, authentic representation of the history from the Tatarian invasion through the lives of medieval fishermen to personal experiences after World War II. The title of the opening story already highlights the distance in time: Alisca was the antique Roman name of Szekszárd, Mészöly s native town. What we want to know about is not past and present, but the history of existence and human relations made simultanious. We do not want to admire the heritage of the past as something exlusive but as something drawn into our today, without respect, if necessary, dispossessed of its own time. As if we were to terminate historicism; and this is not a gesture of rejection but rather an attempt at a deeper understanding. We would like to transform history into an insulting presence in order to let it gain a historic authenticity due to our subjective attention. (Seminar on the Danube)

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