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( 1896 - 1975 )


1896 (4th August) born in Marcali
1914 studies Law at Budapest University
1914-1916 studies Law at Budapest University and Art History at Budapest University, without completing his studies
1916 contributes to Lajos Kassák’s activist periodical, A Tett (The Action)
1917 first poems published in the activist “Now Poets” anthology
1918 leaves Kassák’s circle with three others, publishes “1918. Szabadulás” (1918, Freedom) founding member of the Hungarian Communist Party Editor of Vörös Újság (Red Journal)
1919-1927 emigrates to Vienna, works for the Party, attends lectures at Vienna University
1922-1924 an interim of „God seeking”; leaves the Party
1927-1930 lives in Berlin
1930 goes to live in Moscow; writes film criticism, contributes to the Hungarian “Sarló és Kalapács” (Scythe and Hammer) in Moscow, Editor of several publications
1938–1949 convicted on trumped-up charges, imprisoned under remand, then without a sentence, is taken to forced labour in several Siberian camps
1949–1955 exiled into a village more to the south
1955 returns to Hungary, publishes part of his books
1960 travels to China
1975 dies in Budapest

His prizes include:
1957 Attila József Prize, 1958 SZOT Prize, 1963 Lajos Kossuth Prize

Lengyel József noteszeiből, 1955–1975

Lengyel József noteszeiből, 1955–1975 This similarly posthumous text comprises a selection of 34 hand-written notebooks, presenting primarily the ideas and the life of the author having just arrived home from labour camps and exile. “These thoughts are often bitter and melancholy unless they are angrily protesting. The one-time idealist Communist (whose ideal had been Imre Sallai) had become a confessed anti-Stalinist and a fanatic of reality by his old age. At the same time, for existential reasons, he was forced into manoeuvring and compromising; he could not always say what he wanted, or at least not to the public. But as his diary reveals, he had very few illusions as to the functioning of the post-Stalinist regimes,” writes George Gömöri in his essay. Looking back, Lengyel compared the Revolution of 1956 to the uprising of Prince Francis Rákóczi II (1711), and at the time of the occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1968, he clearly understands that the great powers cannot allow a small nation to ascertain its own will. Lengyel, whose experiences are akin to those of Solzhenitsyn (he read the Gulag novel in German), stands up for the Russian writer many times and even quits the Hungarian Pen Club when he feels the association sympathizes more with the Soviet authorities than with Solzhenitsyn himself.

The Encharmer

Igéző (The Encharmer) After more than 18 years spent in prisons, Siberian forced-labour camps and exile, the elderly József Lengyel started to relate the history of his ordeal. He is primarily interested in whether one can preserve his own humanity and integrity under such circumstances. He records the world of humiliations without pathos, with the punctuality of a chronicler, but the objective and impassionate voice hides a strong temperament. The descriptions, inner monologues and dialogues are economical and are flavoured with a mild sense of humour. Kicsi, mérges öregúr (A Small, Angry Old Man) presents a highly respected professor of Physics who is arrested on trumped-up charges and is humiliated, but while being questioned and tortured, he gains strength from stealing tobacco for his fellow prisoners. Eventually, of course, he does not return to the cell as he does not wish to name his accomplices . Igéző (The Encharmer) portrays the life of the unsociable stranger , András, who arrives at the place of his exile and slowly makes friends with Miska, the charcoal-burner, while working together, but despite his will and nature, gets into conflict with the forest ranger, as the man kicks and threatens his dog in front of him. It (she) chooses András obviously because he has enchanted her. Later he tries in vain to buy the dog and cannot defend her from the revenge of the old owner. Igéző was adapted for the screen in 1970 by Miklós Szinetár, and the earlier Oldás és kötés (Binding and Unbinding) in 1963 by Miklós Jancsó.


Szembesítés (Confrontation) József Lengyel s novella (which, as a sign of the communist system s cynicism, was released for inner circulation in two hundred copies, but did not reach the general public) follows the same tone as his short stories. Although the novella exposes the Stalinist era, it was only thirteen years after the writer s death, in 1988, that it could be really published. The protagonist Endre Lassú, the writer s persona, whom the reader may be familiar with from a story called Obsitosok szökésekről mesélnek (Veterans Telling Their Yarns), lives in exile in Alexandrov at the time of the story (at the end of the 1940s) and secretly visits an old friend, Banicza, who works at the Hungarian Embassy of Moscow and deals with the repatriating of Hungarian emigrants formerly carried off to Stalinist camps. They had known each other from the illegal Communist movement in Budapest, from where Lassú, just like József Lengyel, emigrated to Vienna, then to Berlin and the Soviet Union. Since their last meeting, they had experienced both major hells of the century; Banicza was taken to the Mauthausen concentration camp, Lassú to the Gulag. The novella presents their dramatic meeting. Lassú, who was humiliated in his own conviction and integrity by the Stalinist dictatorship, considers Stalinism even madder an ideology than Fascism, as it did not aim to wipe out some enemy , but its own comrades, while declaring humanitarian purposes. Due to their different fate, their past and their viewpoint on history, the two men cannot fully

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