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1922 born in Budapest
1940-44 reads Law at Budapest University; obtains doctorate
1945-47 secretary of the parliamentary panel of the Smallholders' Party
1948-56 physical labourer; land-protection, later land-improvement expert
1954-56 studies Cultivation at the University of Agriculture, Gödöllő; expelled for his involvement in the Revolution
1956 during the Revolution, works in the Peasants' Federation; after 4th Nov. joins the Resistance
1957-1963 imprisoned for his activity during the Revolution, sentenced to death; in 1958 sentenced to imprisonment as defendant of second degree in State Minister Bibó's trial; released with amnesty
1963-65 technical translator, land-protection foreman
1965 freelance writer and literary translator; not allowed to publish until 1974, translates classical and contemporary English, American and Japanese fiction
1988-present on the staff of the literary periodical Holmi
1989-90 president of the Hungarian Writers' Association
1990-2000 president of the Republic of Hungary

His prizes include:
1983 Attila József prize, 1983, 1984, 1986, 1988 prize of the Publ. House Európa

Men of God

Göncz as a writer was from the beginning acutely conscious of history. This historical parabole, which portrays the leader of Waldensians, goldsmith Miklós, condemned to death in Sopron in the early 15th century, is dedicated "to all heretics of all centuries who sacrificed their lives, and to all their judges who sacrificed the truth of their lives, to their faith." From one of his conversations with his interrogator, Miklós learns that it had not been his faith, but the fact that he dared to question the Church's power, that led to his imprisonment. With his sceptical empathy, the protagonist can understand even the world opposed to him. He dies in the belief that his son, the prefect of the order, had managed to escape; however, in prose with power close to poetry, the most dramatic scenes of the novel present the humiliations and subsequent death of the young friar.


Many of the short stories in this volume present scenes typical of the 20th century: a Russian soldier bursting in on a lonely woman, who offers him food; the villager coming home from the front; the political prisoner meeting his child after he is released; a list of the dead bodies seen in 1944; but civilian life as well, for instance the story of a small boy facing the thought of death for the first time, or an old woman taking care of her senile professor husband; and there is one surreal, grotesque encounter in which Joan of Arc is resurrected centuries after her lifetime, in another age. The writer often balances compassion with sudden silence or fragmentary dialogues.

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