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Author's page

( 1921 - 1961 )

» The Farm Beast (1953)
» Sparrow Row (1954)
» In a Storm (1955)
» Simeon Stylite (1960)
» Paradise Lost (1961)
» The Coward (1961)


1921 born in Debrecen
1939 studies Law, works simultaneously as a clerk, a chemist's assistant and a printer's reader
1942-44 contributes to Debreceni Újság, then beginning in 1945, to Népszava
1946 contributes sociographical studies to Szabad Szó, the journal of the National Peasant Party; belongs to the progressive nationalist writers of Válasz
1947 works for the Radio of the Village , dismissed for political reasons
1949 script editor at the National Film Studio
1953 teacher in Balmazújváros
1954-55 contributes to Csillag, then to Irodalmi Újság
1955-57 script editor for the Madách Theatre
1956 troubled by political hopelessness, silenced
1960 unskilled worker in a factory
1961 dies of a (supposedly suicidal) fall from a window

His prizes include:
1951, 1952, 1954 Attila József Prize, 1955 Kossuth Prize

The Farm Beast

Tanyasi dúvad (The Farm Beast) 1953 A writer torn between predestination and free will, commitment and independence, a longing to reinforce laws and a dread of dependence on anybody or anything, Sarkadi embodies the dilemmas of the age in his critical and sensitive prose. After a year of teaching in a village, he was able to penetrate deep into rural life. The central character of this novel, a talented, energetic person with a lust for power, is emblematic of the age, the conflicts of the new political system.

Sparrow Row

Verébdűlő (Sparrow Row) 1954 His short story Kútban (In the Well, 1953) was adapted to a highly successful film by Zoltán Fábri (Körhinta, Merry-go-Round, 1955). A rural variant on the Romeo-and-Juliet theme, it tells of the conflict between changing family values and tradition, as well as between private farming and an agricultural co-operative. All of the stories display admirably realistic detail, and the whole volume proved popular.

In a Storm

Viharban (In a Storm) 1955 His novelette portraying the crisis of rural intellectuals prepared the way for Sarkadi’s last creative period, after 1956, when he depicted the disillusioned man and his wilful struggle to overcome crisis. Sarkadi’s heroes defy fate but are powerless to keep up their struggles, and lose their moral stance. In the writer’s judgement, however, there is always sympathy towards them. This is the theme of his two short novels, Bolond és szörnyeteg (The Fool and the Monster), and A gyáva (The Coward).

Simeon Stylite

Simeon Stylite (Oszlopos Simeon) 1960 Sarkadi was one of the best playwrights of his generation. His last two dramas take the theme of conscious-instinctive self-destruction. The protagonist of Simeon Stylite is drawn after the 5th century ascetic-hermit from Syria who exiled himself from society and stood on a pillar for decades. The painter, János Kis, is dismissed from his job, his telephone is disconnected, he receives co-tenants as he is unable to pay the bills and finally even his lover, Maria, leaves him. He compares the spiritual emptiness that results from his professional and personal failures to the asceticism of Simeon Stylite and to the world of Goncharov s Oblomov, and describes himself as a fatalist and an ascetic who is independent from the laws of civilisation. He decides to side with the circumstances and helps the irresistible evil he has discovered in the world, the suicidal endeavour of the world against man , so as to understand truth as Simeon did. The power of evil is personified by the grotesquely symbolic cleaning woman, who is ready to ruin Kis and the new co-tenant couple with the resolution of a female Yago and the typical Hungarian voluntary informer. Redemption arrives with the other two women. Zsuzsi, the victim of the cleaning woman s dealings, stabs Kis with a knife, while Maria arrives, to whom Kis can confess, the age of asceticism is over with the stabbing of the knife . Sarkadi portrays his rounded characters perfectly. In this absurd paradigm, the dialogues are witty and surprising, and the ending remains open as to whether Kis will survive the stabbing or not.

Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost (Elveszett Paradicsom) 1961 This drama centres on the small-town doctor Zoltán Sebők, a character already encountered in the novel Bolond és szörnyeteg. Sebők finds his own immorality no worse than the philistine greyness of his environment. He makes his reappearance in his father s home after a fatal mistake; he has performed an illegal abortion on his own lover, who died in the operation. Sebők plans to commit suicide to escape his prison term when he meets people who lead a truly meaningful life, leading him to reconsider his decision. He falls deeply in love with a girl ten years younger than himself, and there is a chance he could be with her after having served his prison term. The nostalgic tone, however, shows the distance that separates him from such a meaningful life; his paradise is already lost and the viewer cannot be certain about Sebők s final solution. The drama was successfully adapted to film in 1962.

The Coward

A gyáva (The Coward) 1961 The novella, which recounts another failure, begins on the 30th birthday of the narrator, Eva, who suddenly decides she will no longer settle for being the trophy-wife of a wealthy sculptor and leaves, if only for the week-end. Her car breaks down in a village where she meets and falls in love with an attractive young man, Pista, who helps her to repair the car. Returning home, Eva finds her husband having a party, and on a sudden impulse, decides to invite Pista. He belongs to another social class, but behaves naturally in the strange environment. The following morning in the village, Eva gets bitten by an adder, but against Pista s warning, grabs the animal, then takes a knife and very rationally cuts the wound to let it bleed. Pista praises her for her courage. However, when Pista starts planning their future and is even ready to decline a job that does not please her, it is Eva who becomes wary. She might very well want to separate from her husband and live a life of her own with Pista; her husband predicts that, be that as it may, she will not be able to give up their comfortable standard of living. On another date with Pista, in order to prove she is not a coward, Eva eats a worm. But unable to face even his understanding, she wanders away from him: nothing has changed in her life.

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