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( 1921 - 1981 )

» Trapeze and Bars (1946)
» On the Third Day (1959)
» The Feast of Nadir (1984)


1921 born in Budapest
1938 studies Law, Hungarian Literature and Art History at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, but never completes his studies
1938 first poems published in various literary journals.
1944 soldier and prisoner in Germany
1946-1947 co-editor of Újhold
1947-1948 scholarship in Rome
1957 contributor to the Catholic journal Új Ember
1960-1970 travels through Europe and USA and contributes to several poetry readings
1981 dies in Budapest

His main prizes:
1947 Baumgarten Prize, 1971 Attila József Prize, 1980 Kossuth Prize

Trapeze and Bars

Trapéz és korlát , Trapeze and Bars, 1946 This first volume contains only 18 poems, but established Pilinszky s reputation as a major poet. His personal and passionate voice presents itself as fully mature. Pilinszky is different. Everybody is different, but some are even more so. Pilinszky is more different in that way in Hungarian poetry and within poetry as such; that is, he is different in fact, he is genuinely different, deeply deviant, rare and improbable, a white antelope, an element beyond the periodic table. When he walked down the street, one of those dark Budapest streets of the fifties, in his short coat, too tight around the shoulders, he walked like a persecuted legend. That is just what he was. A persecuted legend, pushed out of literature and completely unknown; perhaps fellow-dwellers in the catacombs whispered his name, passing it from mouth to mouth and ear to ear. (Ágnes Nemes Nagy)

On the Third Day

Harmadnapon , On the Third Day, 1959 After the Communist takeover, Pilinszky was labelled pessimistic and was silenced for more than ten years. This second volume shows thematic and spiritual growth; this is the volume in which his greatest poems appeared. War and Holocaust became for him the symbols of tormented human existence: only the victims have reached the reality of the past tense. Theirs is all the meaning today. (János Pilinszky) As a writer of metaphysical poetry, essays and drama, Pilinszky has deeply influenced post-war Hungarian poetry. His early experiences in World War II prison camps where he spent several months had only strengthened his personal alienation and existential anguish, and resulted in uniquely intense poems. The tension between his heartfelt Catholicism and intellectual agony points towards his relatedness with both mysticism and the absurd. Poetry for me is not a phenomenon beyond language, but rather one on the near side of language, or underneath language, in the same way that life remains underneath the wholeness of the universe. For me a poet is the kind of inhabitant of dungeons for whom the sheer sense of touch is more important than what he discovers by means of touching. (János Pilinszky) In each poem, we find the same diamond centre: a post-apocalyptic silence, where the nail remains in the hand, and the wound cannot speak. All the light of Pilinszky s religious feeling radiates from that crystal. The only possible direction of movement is away from the nailed wound out of the flesh, and that he rejects. (Ted Hughes)

The Feast of Nadir

A mélypont ünnepélye , The Feast of Nadir, 1984 Collected shorter fiction and dramatic work. My favourite thought is that art is engagement immobile, motionless commitment, and real drama is (I read this alter in Weil s exercise books ) drama immobile, motionless drama. The kind of movement, action that reminds one most of the stars changing of places. Movement and motionlessness, that is, at the same time. But why? Because with the power of quality, it must penetrate into what in reality has irreversibly and definitely happened very long ago. It s finished, it s been done, it has come about. Every great work penetrates into where it can do no more. (János Pilinszky)

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