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Endre Andor GELLÉRI
( 1906 - 1945 )


1906 born in Budapest
1921 drops out of grammar school
1923-26 studies in the iron and metal industry; engine fitter, safe mender, dyer, civil servant, factory draughtsman etc., often unemployed
1924 first story published in the literary, Az Est (The Evening)
1928 spends four weeks in Germany on scholarship from Az Est; supported by writers like Zsigmond Móricz and Milán Füst, appreciated by major critics; short story published by Nyugat (West)
1940-45 drafted for forced labour several times
1944 serves in a labour battalion in Engerau, Austria
1945 taken to Mauthausen, then to the Gunskirchen Concentration Camp
1945 dies of typhoid fever between 10 and 20 May in the American hospital in Hörschingen

His prizes include:
1931 First Prize in Kálmán Mikszáth Novel Writing Contest; 1932 Baumgarten Award; 1934 Baumgarten Annual Prize; 1935 First Prize in the Nyugat's Short Story Writing Contest

The Thirsty Apprentices

In the fourteen writings of Gelléri’s first book of short stories, we find many kinds of city workers caught in love-hate relationships with the materials they work with. In the story called “At the Transporters”, a few workers have to carry a huge, concrete-based safe up to the second floor, bracing themselves, swearing; and by the time they finish and get their modest wages, they can only fall asleep. The three boys in “Thirsty Apprentices” go for a trip, but in the heat they run out of water. At last they catch sight of a building, but lack the money between them to buy drinks. In their bitter despair, they drag a stout woman to the ground, but at the sight of her voluptuous body, they throw themselves on her, and start kissing her. This young vitality is characteristic of Gelléri’s first stories. Critics immediately acknowledged Gelléri; Kosztolányi reviewed Gelléri’s first volume in Nyugat (West): “What richness and variety, what beautiful promise of possibilities, and what strong treatment of artistic devices. This young man is a poet and an artist. If someone calls him a naturalist, he can laugh in his face. For him, reality is just a spring-board. He creates from his imagination. To form the figure of a carrier, he needs more imagination than would be enough for devising a dream about the moon. Above his fairy-like realism, there is a lightness and lustre.”


In his next volumes, Gelléri came closer to describing reality and depicting society, although he was never attracted by political movements. He was only interested in people, and his writing lacks any obvious ideology. The story “House at the Settlement”, in which a vagrant builds a make-shift shelter on some private property and is ultimately turned out, brings all readers to sympathize with him, for by that time he has a spouse, pregnant by him, and at the end of the story they turn back from the end of the vacant lot like Adam and Eve from the gates of Paradise—a sadly modern story even in present-day Hungary. István Vas finds Gelléri a worker comparable to Krúdy, and compares his imagination to that of Milán Füst. Another writer, László Kardos, notices “the triple bastions” of the spontaneous flow of Gelléri’s stories: “his stylistic discipline, his heroes spontaneously out-pouring and pregnant with souls, and the storyline which starts from within as his own experience”.

Lightning And an Evening Fire

Gelléri s last book is governed by the horror of war; the stories become eerie, grotesque visions. In the story Lightning and an Evening Fire , apprentices dine in a shoemaker s workshop with the master and his wife when in front of them lightning strikes the boiling fish-soup. The sight of the exploding cauldron is a surrealistic vision, and the short description is ended with one sentence: And next morning the war broke out, giving an apocalyptic accent to the natural phenomenon. Milán Füst calls Gelléri a poet, as he finds him too passionate, personal and restless for a realistic writer. He is not an observer but a dreamer. Dreams about reality; that would perhaps best describe the process going on inside him. He reviews Gelléri s last book, and claims Lightning and an Evening Fire , Jamaica Rum , Georgi, the Barber and The Youth Donkey are in some respect even more beautiful than what came before. The playful spirit is even more present in them: how cross-eyed, what a trouble-maker, what a lover of surfaces he is, yet their tragic being thus becomes all the more attractive: one keeps smiling all through a story and realizes at the end how sad he has become. It is full of playfulness, yet full of tragedy. As playful surfaces as they are, at the bottom they are full of sadness. All in all, these stories support even more my original impression that he belongs to our best writers. And not only among those alive. And not only in comparison, but because he is unique.

The Story of One Man's Self-Esteem

Home, temporarily, from forced labour, Gelléri spent his free time writing this autobiographical novel that remained unfinished and to be published posthumously. Instead of a novel proper, it is more the capricious chain of excellent scenes so typical of him. Gelléri prefers to relate the stories of his loves and it is because of a love story that he is forced to face the question of his Jewishness and the restricted, humiliating world of Christian society.

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