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András PÁLYI
( 1942 )

» I Lived / Elsewhere / Through (1996 )
» Summer in Provende (2002)
» Arrival (2003 )


1942 born in Budapest, December 1
1963 first play staged (and quickly banned) in Pécs
1966 degree in Hungarian and Polish Studies at ELTE, Budapest
1966-69 dramaturgical studies at the Theatre and Film Academy, Budapest
1970-present reviewer at the daily, Magyar Hírlap
1974-89 works for the leading theatrical magazine
1978 first collection of short stories published
1989-91 Editor at the literary magazine, Magyar Napló
1991-1995 Director of the Hungarian Cultural Institute in Warsaw

His prizes:
1984 Theatre Critics' Prize, 1991 Prize for the Polish Culture, 1997 Gyula Krúdy Prize, 1999 Pro Literatura Prize, 2001 Milán Füst Prize

I Lived / Elsewhere / Through

Éltem. Másutt. Túl. (I Lived / Elsewhere / Through), 1996 This slim volume of only 245 pages offers much deeper and more difficult reading than any bulky novel; it is an unforgettable, original and important work of art, the style of which can only be described by János Pilinszky s words: a new grade of nakedness (the author calls it a blasphemy of life that by the mere act of writing paradoxically turned into a praise of life). The book was originally a twin novel (1988) completed by the third text from the volume, Kövek és nosztalgia (1989). The three, however, are deeply linked, both thematically and by their motives, as all three speak about the relation of carnality and metaphysics. The first talks about the bodily dimension, the second about the psychological, while the third is past all these. I Lived shows an elderly widow called Veronika, who in her greatest bodily pains has visions about physical love; the second speaks about the religious ecstasy of Saint Teresa of Avila, while in the third one the narrator, a priest (who is already dead at the time of narration), is talking about a love triangle which comes from the beyond. The author said in an interview that he had come to understand that the contradiction between physical love and religion is invalid because religious ecstasy in itself is a sensual experience.

Summer in Provende

Provance-i nyár, 2002 The volume contains selected and new short stories; Pályi s early writings are rooted in the bigot Catholic petty-bourgeois world of his childhood. The heroes are mostly young people who must confront the painful experiences of bodily misery and happiness, and also the threat of death and suicide. Pályi s conviction is that spiritual matters must only be approached by bodily experiences: the sexual act is the principal source of self-knowledge and also of the knowledge of that which lies beyond understanding. Pályi s approach can only be compared with that of Péter Nádas (especially concerning his new, soon to be published monumental novel, Parallel Stories), but perhaps Pályi is much more open towards bodily joy and pure (meta)physical ecstasy than his fellow writer whose experiences usually remain much more complicated and (perhaps) unredeemably dark.


Megérkezés, 2003 Dániel Baróti, the politician of the stale and dictatorial Kádár-regime, is not an exceptional man; he is a typical member of Communist society, whose life is determined by the restrictions and dogmas of the age (so much that his first wife is a dogmatic Communist and he gets to know his second wife on a mayday march) except that he knows a way out of both body and history. His secret weapon is physical love, which always elevates him to metaphysical dimensions. The main object of his love is his wife, Ica, whose secret religion is loving sex; but he has other relations as well, mostly platonic, the most passionate of which is his falling in love with Zsuzsa, a director of a provincial cultural centre. The novel paints a broad picture of the problems and characters of the age, but its main topic is erotic passion, described with a daring intensity. In a text by Pályi there are always at least two people, one is always a woman, the other always a man, and they make a tremendous impact on each other. (András Forgách) There is not the slightest doubt that what András Pályi has been doing is nothing short of tempting God. It is impossible to read him without a feeling of reverential dread. He blasphemes, he challenges and wages war against God. As a spiritual author, not only does he belong with Dostoyevsky, Kafka, Buber, Weil, Blixen, and Pilinszky, but, except for Kurtág, Pályi is the only contemporary Hungarian mystic writer. (Péter Nádas) No chance motifs here (and no innocent ones, either!), there is sin, therefore there is also law which can be violated. He is passionately attached to objects and, even more, to matter, to anything perceivable by the senses. He is one of the most important figures of contemporary Hungarian literature. András Pályi is inimitably good. Recommended way of reading him: with bated breath. (Péter Esterházy)

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