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Gizella HERVAY
( 1934 - 1982 )

» The Book of Kobak (1973)
» Bird cut in Two (1978)
» Trenchcoat on the Nail of Eastern Europe (1983)


1934 born in Makó
1941 her parents divorce; she is taken to Budapest to live with her grandmother
1946 joins her mother in Transylvania
1952-53 studies to be an actress in Kolozsvár, Transylvania
1953 begins her studies, majoring in Hungarian Literature in Kolozsvár
1957-61 lives in Bucharest and works as a teacher and journalist
1961 marries the poet Domokos Szilágyi (they divorce in 1963); their son is born
1973 receives the prize of the Hungarian section of the Romanian Writers’ Union
1976 moves to Hungary and works for the Móra Publishing House
1977 her son dies in the devastating earthquake in Bucharest
1982 commits suicide in Budapest

The Book of Kobak

One of the most uncontrived children’s books in Hungarian literature, the tales included were inspired by the poet’s own son, Kobak (meaning “pate” or “numbskull”, but in an affectionate way), who we follow from a very small boy until the age of ten. The stories are special mother-and-son tales, the father being either absent or away. Kobak is the hero of the stories, independent in his thoughts and acts, always supported by his loving Mom, who listens to his stories and helps him understand the world. Kobak is particularly interested in cars and other vehicles, so the stories are especially fit for little boys. “Hervay manages to create a world which is neither didactic nor composed of romantic ‘airy nothings’ where children usually fly and live in a miraculous universe”, writes Hervay’s monographer, the poet Imre József Balázs, who classifies her stories in eight categories: tales about drawings, tales about language, tales about Kobak’s fantasies, tales about objects coming alive, tales about an upside-down world (where children may behave as adults), tales about the poetic soul of children, allegories, and tales about the relationship of Kobak to other children.

Bird cut in Two

Hervay, who survived World War II and lived as an “orphan and vagabond” in the world, was so touched by human suffering that one of her critics, Júlia Szilágyi, was led to call her “the poet of life and death”. After she lost two of her most beloved—her former husband and her son—she wrote a volume of poems commemorating them (Domokos Szilágyi and Attila Szilágyi), perhaps already preparing to join them in their grave (all three are buried now in a common grave in the famous Házsongárd cemetery, in Kolozsvár). Memory falls in debris covers and buries us in our eye-sockets there are magnified eyes writes the poet in the motto, who arrives to the bitter understanding that her fate is similar to that of the biblical Mary. O my dear loved ones let me take your burden: death!

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