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Balazs SIMON
( 1966 - 2001 )

» Makdír (1997)
» The Field (1998)
» Cork Book (2002)
» The Death Gondola (2003)
» The Other Sentence (2008)


1966 born in Budapest
1992 graduates in Hungarian, Latin and Greek Philology from Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest
1993 freelance writer
2001 dies in Budapest

His prizes include:
1995 Sándor Bródy Prize, 1997 Soros Foundation Scholarship


In Balázs Simon s first volumes, antiquity and mythological allusions (or as he later put it mockingly in an interview, the mythologemas excavated with the method of classical philology ) played a crucial role in shaping the world of his poems. In Makdír, however, he resolved to make a radical change, as he experienced death in two ways: he underwent surgery for a brain tumour, and he lost his mother. The disciplined texts that give glimpses of life before and after death are connected to objects, places of memory and dreams. The two cycles of the book comprise his own suffering and a kaddish for his mother. One records that station of life as death approaches, the other is a funeral oration for a life that has ended, for a mother, as he himself articulated. Kaddish and the makdír of the title are words taken from the Jewish culture. Looking back, the poet explains that he needed a culture that has a living religion. I m convinced that for us this is Christianity or Judaism. ... in Minerva I was yearning as the hopeless lover of antiquity....and could resolve this cultural yearning by coming close to the Jewish faith and of course to a belief in God. Obviously this had its effects on my poetry.

The Field

In A terep, Balázs Simon s poetry, even under the influence of Celan and Rilke, speaks in a voice that contains a unique character, provided by the peculiar, full monotony of the bleak linguistic material that is filtered through the discipline of the classical form. It is the harmony of a way of speaking that is more puritanical in its means, more down-to-earth in its ornaments and much more personal than it used to be, which is built up from tiny feelings, fragments of observations, everyday experiences that look particular yet, due to the exacting strictness of the organisation, are always enlivened by the wish to find the final version, the imperishable form. Balázs Simon s poetry is the poetry of slowed-down time; its standard subject is an illusionless, self-reflexive waiting; one has to wait, he seems to suggest, until everything is transubstantiated into memory; it is worth analysing emotions and images. -Tibor Keresztury

Cork Book

Perhaps Simon s passing influences our reading of this posthumously published diary-novel. Whether it does or not, it is the novel in the definition of the genre that should be accented, as all the protagonist s dreams, memories, readings and his further staging of characters he knows of (heroes from novels, and literary and historical figures), together with the arbitrary rewriting of their history, are woven together to achieve a text, rather than the text being driven by the outside events of the author s life. The periodic style, the richly woven texture of allusions, requires a kind of fugue-like reading . The narration recalls the storytelling from the Arabian Nights, and the central character admits that his aim is to make death wait , because to a certain extent, all telling of tales and storytelling are an attempt at exacting an impossible delay, a night gesture that trusts in the dawn, the day . I consider the book a masterpiece, because of its brilliantly executed linguistic shape, because of the richness of its philosophy, because of the dramatic strength of the scenes and because of its defiant handling of technique not to mention the playfulness and merriness that are so dear to me. -Péter Hajdu

The Death Gondola

Written alongside the novel, this book of poems was also published posthumously. From the borderland of fate-forming objects, a new and shareable spiritual field comes to life, and in the present existence of this border-like state, some Orphic anguish, some radiation is released, writes Simon s fellow poet, László G. István. With long sentences that, even when broken up, present a flood of thoughts and images and demand great attention, these poems about death do not talk about the threat of the body, but that of the soul and the conscious mind. With its particles placed unexpectedly, its adverbs thrown back, its prefixes broken away, the fractured nature of the syntax...expresses the physical pain of speech, of the mind too tired to think, of the mouth that shapes sounds. (Győző Ferencz) László G. István calls this one-sentence poem-breathing that can be learnt from Balázs Simon, yet is unlearnable , the breath of a craving for life , the endless arch of inhaling , which in this book stretches through even more retardations, Latin inversions, more of Balázs Simon s typical two or three-threaded way of speaking and poem-syntax. Among the most beautiful and evocative poems here are: A szürke / 2 (The Grey One /2), A halálgondola (The Death Gondola), A kaddist még (The Kaddish Then), A halálkészlet (The Death Set), Egyedül, testvér, a puszta világban (Alone, my brother in the bleak world), and the untitled poem beginning A berkenye (The Rowan Tree...).

The Other Sentence

JELENKOR, PÉCS, 2008. 221 PAGES Balázs Simon passed away in 2001, at the tragically young age of 35, after a protracted struggle with a brain tumour, fully aware, in his final years, that he was going to die prematurely. The poet, his mind of undiminished incisiveness, remained creative to the very end despite the agonies that he suffered. The slim but significant oeuvre that he was able to complete is further enhanced and rounded out by the present volume of short prose pieces. It says a lot that this is now the third of his volumes to appear posthumously, after the essay novel Parafakönyv (Cork-Covered Book) and Halálgondola (Gondola of Death), a volume of his poetry. The presentiment of an existence after death truly defined Simon’s whole life-work, and moreover in retrospect. It would be wrong to suppose that we are dealing with some sort of chronicle of an illness, case-notes in rhyme, although there are some very exceptional testimonies of that category in modern Hungarian literature, from Frigyes Karinthy’s Journey Round My Skull to a number of István Eörsi’s works. Death figures in Balázs Simon’s literary output as an aesthetic and metaphysical issue. His exceptional erudition and unquenchable philosophical curiosity are best captured in the long-breathed sentences in which The Other Sentence abounds, augmented as they are to the full with a rich texture of sub- and superordinated clauses. Simon’s prose is poetic, typified by an extraordinary styling of language, looser syntax, a high degree of condensation and metaphoricalness. That in fact makes it so hard to say exactly what his texts are about. To précis just a few: the narrator’s last swim with his mother in the bend of the River Danube, upstream from Budapest; the monomania and death of a young man under the influence of LSD; lighting on a possible subject for a short story in Budapest’s City Park. The prose is, in his own words, “an uncontrollable play of forgetting and imagination” (p. 201). Each of the four elements of that phrase is of uncommon, indeed supreme importance, along with a fifth—that of recall. Forgetting, imagining and recalling—the playful intertwining of all three processes has as its end result an uncheckable outcome. It is impossible to pick out what is fiction and what is fact, or to draw on Simon’s own wise words: “fiction’s liberation of, and its teasing with, the paradigm that (now) everything can, all of a sudden, mean anything” (p. 71).

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