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1929 born in Nagygalambfalva, Transsylvania
1950-1954 studies Hungarian Literature at the Bolyai University of Kolozsvár
1955 on the staff of the weekly Dolgozó nő (Working Woman)
1960 - 1990 editor of Napsugár, a children's weekly
1990 retired

1968 Utunk Prize
1971, 1978 Prize of the Romanian Writers Association
1986 Déry Tibor Prize
1989 Prize for the Book of the Year
1990 MSZOSZ Prize
1990 Prize of the Castren Society
1993 Kossuth Prize
1993 Prize for Hungarian Art
1994 Herder Prize
1998 Hungarian Heritage Title
2000 C.E.T. Millenium Prize
2001 Ferenc Kölcsey Millennium Prize
2002 Pro Renovanda Cultura Hungariae Main Prize
2004 Cross with Star Order of the Hungarian Republic
2004 Mecénás Prize

Poems in Black and Red

As a poet of the Trassylvanian Hungarian community, Kányádi was never a lonely singer, but his world is not harmonious, because he feels that the very existence of his community is threatened in the communist dictatorship, and also amongst the growing Romanian majority. The title poem shows how the Secler girls who live and work in the town dress up in their traditional black and red costume and meet in a silent dance on the pavement of the streets of Kolozsvár. The highly rhythmical, fragmented poem is also a parable of the strength of customs, language and the community. "His is a socio-therapeutic poetry of immense importance, preserving national cultural identity in the face of formidable odds. He alternates between traditional rhymed couplet and a stream-of consciousness cast in free verse form, also experimenting with shamanistic rhythm, a recurrent element of folklore over the past millenium." (Ádám Makkai)

Somebody Walks Atop the trees

The volume of collected poems shows the folk-poet Kányádi's voice becoming increasingly darker and ironic, and showing his immense capability to try out new voices and forms from ballad to "barbarian sonnets" and haikus, ranging to the marvelous great composition of Halottak napja Bécsben (All Soul's Day in Vienna), in which he laments the fate of Hungarians scattered throughut the world, while listening to Mozart's Requiem. The title poem states: "my fears my hopes don't dissapear / this is the grace that helps me stay / this caring providential fear / has held my hand along the way" (translated by Peter Zollman)

Grey Sonnets

The grey colour mentioned in the title is just as misleading as intentional. Although the grey pages of the thin volume seem simple – but if opened, the book reveals refined drawings illustrating every poem. The voice speaking sounds restrained – but the field of experiences, of literary, historical and religious references that is covered by the poems is surprisingly large. A main motive in the book is the essential awareness of belonging to a minority, which is typical of Kányádi’s all oeuvre. This involves not only a constant feeling of being threatened but also the moral obligation of endurance: „I do not hate but bare my fate” (The Wood Cutter and the Axe) The original source of all this pain and sense of responsibility is the situation of the Hungarian minority in Transylvania, however, it is expressed in these poems never as direct complaint rather at a more general level, drawing its conclusions from well known literary and historical examples. The literary basis of the volume is the fable, which is the per se genre of indirect speaking or even teaching. Kányádi does not only add his own animal stories to the collection already existing in world literature but he also recalls the reader’s attention to points of views that derive from the mainstream by modifying the usual morals of some tales by Aesop The same method is applied in the poems built on historical references. Namely, Kányády focuses on a widely known, cultural particularity with the claim of stating a general truth, the real importance and subjective significance of which is, however, not overtly outspoken. The Historical Moments (Históriai pillanatokra) lists examples from the Roman Empire, while the Hungarian Historical Moments (Magyar históriai pillanatokra) Hungarian ones. Just like those poems, the hints at the Holocaust in the Postcards from Dachau (Dachaui képeslapokra) or the antique Egyptian scribe, the narrator of Pergamen Rolls (Pergamentekercsekre) point out the appearance of any oppressive power with the same sensitivity. The poet’s voice moves along a great scale from godforsaken despair to revolt. Most frequently he makes bitter but stoic observations, often suppressed by the help of irony, as in the closing lines. „ I am withering away / in the suffocating shadow / of a messed up pyramid”.

Jeremy and the Mechanical Dragon

Sándor Kányádi’s Jeremiás és a Gépsárkány (Jeremy and the Mechanical Dragon) is a representative collection of the author’s poems, fables and true stories. In them he utilizes the vernacular of folk storytelling, including rhymes and themes, coupled with contemporary language. His writings speak equally to adults and children. Th e majority of his fables and poems are humorous as they off er a lesson. Th e protagonist of the poem “Az okos kos” (“Th e Smart Ram”) is the constantly misbehaving ram who, through wily methods, always sneaks back home aft er being sold at the market. Th e judge in the fable “A bíró és az egerek” (“Th e Judge and the Mice”) falls into his own trap aft er all the mice in the village seek shelter in his home following one of his rulings. Th e poem that lends its title to the volume can be considered to be a meeting of the old and new worlds. Th e automobile that does not thank the load-carrying donkey is forced into asking it once again for help aft er the engine dies, with the donkey towing it to a service station. Th e central focus of the fable is universal values, friendship and a readiness to help. In Kányádi’s fables and poems, in addition to the characters’ resourcefulness and creativity, what receives attention is the story’s relevance for today. Th e events, for the most part, do not take place in an imagined, fantasy world, but in real life, and therefore the lesson of “this could happen to you too” rings true with children. Helikon, 2011

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