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Eszter Szakacs
( 1964 )

» Another Place, Another Time (1999)
» Dreamtalk (2002)
» Saudade (2006)


21 April 1964 born in Pécs
1979-1983 trained as a goldsmith in the High School for Fine Arts of Pécs
1988 graduates as a geography - fine arts major at the Teacher Training Faculty of the Janus Pannonius University of Sciences in Pécs
1988 - works in the Library of the University of Pécs

1993 Attila Gérecz Award
1998 Zsigmond Móricz Literary Grant
1998 Tibor Déry Award
2000 Soros Grant
2002 Radnóti Award
2005 Nizza Pebble Award
2007 István Vas Award

Another Place, Another Time

The title of Eszter Szakács’s third volume already reveals its characteristic duality: the lyrical self positioned in the presence always experiences, articulates and interprets herself in relation to „another place, another time”. „The self speaking in the poems summarizes the existential experience of being alone partly by circumscribing a former and / or desired and / or imagined love never to be reached, partly by the representation of a certain metaphysical uncertainty… The missing, the partial and the temporary still has to (should) be able to allow the self to gain the experience of the non-existing perfectness.” (Tamás Halmai) The nostalgic and self-ironic tone already familiar from previous books of Szakács is an authentic means of reflection for the lyrical self who is desperately balancing on the borderline of the desired transcendency and the mean, everyday reality. „A central metaphor of the book is the mirror … Beholding one’s own face, talking to someone face to face, looking into the mirror, getting lost among walls and surfaces reflecting and multiplying light - all these motifs as well as a repeated play with masks are connected to the concept of the mirror. A self-reflective aspect of this is interpreting the writing process as the creation of an image of the self. ” (Imre Nagy), like in the first poem of the volume: You Take My Face Away. The double awareness mentioned above can be traced in the poet’s relationship to literary tradition too. Szakács does not only follow the iambic versification typical of the prestigous literary magazines, Nyugat and Újhold, producing her individual, loose and musical version of it, but she takes over certain motifs as well. However, her imitation of the classical authors means a deliberate degradation of both content and style. Enough of Desire transforms the lack of God known from the poem on Ekhnaton by Ágnes Nemes Nagy into the lack of love, and the throne into a kitchen table. The Happy, Sad Song, which closes the second cycle and recalls the brilliant, melodious summary of life bearing the same title and written by Dezső Kosztolányi, becomes a travesty. Just as the intense, radiating moments of transcendental experience fade into everyday life, the pure, poetic language is repeatedly twisted and questioned by irony and by the emphasized use of common phrases. The last poem, Where Is It Flowing?, gives and account of identity, poetry and existence experienced as their absence, highlighting thus that the very essence of the individual is its potential never fulfilled: „My soul is revolving and whirling / around the axis that I could never have become.” (Tamás Halmai)


The lyrical self of this book constantly „plays a dialogue in a monodrama”. She is looking for herself but can only address her reflection in the mirror. Reality is constructed of petty elements tolerable only with the help of irony, and the desired essence of the self seems to be found only in the free realms detached from reality: at night, in dream and through imagination (Patchwork). Several features of this poetic language recall the sea: the rhythm of words and images dissolving into each other reminds the reader of waves, and the motif of the sea appears on a thematic level, too. „To be calm like the sea, / To live slowly like the waves.” (I Think of You) The loose iambic meter, which can be regarded as the common language of modern Hungarian poetry, provides an ideal dreamlike medium where extremly different constituents can meet and mingle. Rough everyday elements meet refined spiritual sensations in the natural surralism of this poetry: „Then you wake up, open the shades / As if the sea had opened up your bed.” (Kérkíra)


The word in the title cannot be translated. It signifies a certain state of mind, by which - as we can learn from the blurb - „the Portuguese like to describe their national character. Saudade is a presence not here and not now.” This nostalgic desire, this double consciousness which interprets the most important elements of a moment as only signs referring to something never to be achieved - this attitude characterizes the poetry of Eszter Szakács in general as well as this book in particular. Her poetry exploits a wide range of international sources: different genres - e.g. haiku, alba -, distant places - e.g. Lemnos and Korfu -, and ancient myths - especially the antique Greek tradition -, emphasizing distance in time as well as in space. While the lyrical self often pretends to play roles or to restrict itself to giving objective descriptions (a combination of the two can be found e.g. in the Death Commentaries), the tone of this poetry is always personal. The unique voice already known from the author’s former books and the subject constantly looking for and finding and losing herself again can be recognized in all the characters represented in the poems. „This is a gathering of lost faces / Accepting one single body at dawn.” (Masks)

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