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Lajos NAGY
( 1883 - 1954 )


1883 born in Tabánitelek, Apostag; raised by his grandparents on a farm
1889 taken to Budapest
1901 studies to become a teacher of Mathematics and Physics; studies Law from November
1904 family teacher at the Jankovich-Bésáns in Tezerovác-Szuhopolje, Croatia
1906 under the illegally appointed government of 1905, district administrator in Abaújszántó; does not obtain degree in Law
1911 first book of stories published
1915-17 drafted into auxiliary service, eventually exempted with neurosis
1918 among those who welcomed the `bourgeois democratic revolution`
1922-29 on the editorial board of the Nyugat (West), editor of left-wing periodicals
1927, 1929 travels to Vienna
1934 with Gyula Illyés, participates in the Soviet Writers` Congress in Moscow
1935 marries Boris Szegedi; short-term relationship with the Új Szellemi Front (New Spiritual Front)
1939 publishes three issues of Lajos Nagy`s Dissenting Opinion
1941 opens a small bookstore
1944-45 his wife is persecuted and forced to go into hiding
1945 joins the Hungarian Communist Party, contributes to Szabad Nép (Free People)
1947 travels to Switzerland
1950-53 silenced
1954 dies in Budapest

His prizes include:
1932, 1935, 1938 Baumgarten Prize, 1948 Kossuth Prize

Disgraced Desire, short stories

Meggyalázott vágy (Disgraced Desire, short stories, 1907-1920) Lajos Nagy’s early writing was inspired by Naturalism, Symbolism and partially by art nouveau; his narration is characterised from the outset by objectivity, or a subdued rage hidden under the matter-of-fact surface. His dark, satiric humour is present at all times. The two deepest drives in his early stories, as summarized by Árpád Tóth in 1919, are “the painful and humiliated, bodily love-desire” and “the protest against the crumbling and unbearably disgraceful world order”. “The hidden, curious lyricism of these stories affects one,” the poet writes, “as if someone turned a merciless, painful light at the face of a figure; we can sharply see the alarmed, torn features and at the same time, behind the figure, the fantastic, lopsided, big and sad shadow cast into endlessness.”

Jeremiad, short stories

Jeremiáda (Jeremiad, short stories 1921-1930) Aladár Schöpflin, one of the editors of the Nyugat, finds in Lajos Nagy, who expresses his dissenting opinion even in his short stories, a Swiftian sense of infernal humour. His way of thinking cannot be pressed into any program, he writes, and predicts justly, Is he a socialist? I don t think the socialists would be greatly happy about him. In a proletarian dictatorship he would definitely get into trouble with censorship, and almost certainly with more dangerous authorities at that. Nagy s fellow writer, Gyula Illyés stresses the peculiar structure of the stories whose quintessence is to be found in Lecke (The Lecture). Lajos Nagy is not moved by misery or suffering, he is outraged. He will not caress or comfort the suffering, but at best, will lecture them severely. His puritan style, void of detail or scenery, gives way to thought and, at times revolutionary, passion (Harag, Rage Razzia, Raid, Kastély, The Castle, Tanya, A Farm, Január, January), yet the flow and the power of his writings grasps even those who do not share his opinion about society.


Kiskunhalom 1934 The short novel belongs to the first ones in the genre of literary sociography in Hungary, akin to Gyula Illyés s Puszták népe (The People of the Puszta). Lajos Nagy depicts one single day in the life of a village in the Hungarian Plain (Kiskunhalom) with the method of simultaneity and the technique of montage. In his sociographic novel, he presents a cross-section of the village society by means of mixing documentary facts and anecdotes. The frame of reference is time: he follows the everyday activity of his nearly 150 people of Kiskunhalom, from dawn one day to the next dawn, picking merely a few figures; at times with raging satire, at times with a sympathy showing through the matter-of-fact tone, at times in a few sentences, at other times in a whole chapter of a short story. Sections beginning as a description, almost imperceptibly turn to be the inner monologue of a character, so the reader has to be alert whether the statements he or she is listening to are objective or subjective. Behind the image of the dusty little village full of flies and frequent petty lives and opinions, one can sense the merciless immobility of society, the hopeless monotony and bleakness of life. As Gyula Illyés writes in his observant criticism, Kiskunhalom is the journey of the writer s conscience in the dark strata of society... Each one of his lines is a sudden, sharp glimpse, all hit the target. Thus his sentences are tense, despite their transparency; and the objective scrutiny that does not cease for a minute, gives an unprecedented credit to his voice. Wherever I open the book, I meet the same spirit. Reserved, almost stingily matter-of-fact, yet his clear and economical lines glitter with the same temperament driven by his judgment, sarcasm and honest humanity. This is a rounded work of art. In its own, new kind, it is faultless.

Diary in the Cellar

Pincenapló (Diary in the Cellar) 1945 In this diary-novel written during the siege of Budapest, Lajos Nagy records the everyday horror the War. He sums up the consequences of the revolting historical events, the decay of human morals. He demands a new struggle, the liberation of the human soul.

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