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( 1936 - 2007 )

» Judgment (1979)
» The Garden of Eden (1994)
» Collected Poems (2000)


1936 born in Budapest
1959 graduates in Hungarian and Bulgarian Language and Literature from Budapest University
1959-69 reader at Magvető Publishers
1969-90 reader at Európa Publishers
from 1992 assistant editor-in-chief for the periodical C.E.T. (Central European Times)
2007 dies in Budapest

Her prizes include:
1973 Graves Prize, 1977 Milán Füst Award, 1984 Attila József Prize, 1997 Tibor Déry Award, 1998 C.E.T. Literary Prize, 2000 János Arany Prize, 2002 First Prize at Salvatore Quasimodo Competition, 2005 Kossuth Prize


Judgment 1979 Magda Székely always selected her poems with utmost care. Indeed, “she selects before she writes,” as the critic Balázs Lengyel remarked. Her formative experience came amid the horrors of the Second World War and the Holocaust, which she survived as a child. In her poetry, she seeks to frame the ultimate questions of morality and society. Neither the circumstance of writing, nor immediate experience govern her writing so much as inspired thinking. Her poems are built around “some recognition, some x-rayed and well-examined fact of social feeling, some general evidence that she enlivens with passion, combining the heuristic freshness of exploration and the demand of cutting it into metal.” (Balázs Lengyel) By night I keep a silent watch, a vigil at the fields of bones. They stare at me. Visions come true are as unforgiving as stones. (“Slab of Stone”, translated by István Tótfalusi) The poet Ágnes Nemes Nagy underlines the Christian characteristic in Magda Székely’s poetry, adding, “how easy it would be, dear me, how easy, to overact the attitude, to throw one more shovel of humbleness on it, to sprinkle it with one more vial of unction, since every attitude has its own baroque and oleograph version.” Yet Magda Székely overcomes this temptation, as “at the depth of her poetry she bears the wounds of our age, struggling for cure and against cure, connecting her poem into the alternating current of judgment and pity”. Her poetry continues the moral and formal ideals of the periodical Újhold (New Moon) that was published after World War II.

The Garden of Eden

The Garden of Eden 1994 The persecution of the Jews was a taboo subject in the Kádár regime, thus the memoirs of Magda Székely (taken from a conversation with András Mezei) are a precious document of the Hungarian Holocaust literature only possible after the changes of 1989. But it completes the oeuvre as well, as it forms the foundation of these memoirs is based on actual events and personal experiences, the way a six- or eight-year-old girl could have seen the relationships within the family and society, the feeling of being different, anti-Semitism at school, the dual world of the convent, the Schwab family, and finally the homecoming and the loss of her mother. At the same time, the adult mind naturally keeps reflecting on the former child’s sometimes unjust impressions and experiences. Looking back, in spite of the era that defined her whole life, Magda Székely faces her anger honestly for the sake of an objective, unprejudiced understanding.

Collected Poems

Collected Poems 2000 Magda Székely turns her life experiences into human universals by exploiting Biblical and mythological imagery, reducing her vocabulary to bare essentials and presenting her message in a highly condensed form. The two collected volumes of her highly consistent poetry comprise relatively few new poems “[Székely’s poems] portray the small steps of forgiving, the unfolding of a personal fate, the springtime marks of love, the healing hopes of motherhood and the sustaining harmony of poetry. The compositions have become slimmer, there are many more of the abstract elements of speech, slightly shading the poetic image, and the poems find some new, gnomic figure of speech, resembling a staccato cry.” -Csaba Báthori “The key image of the late Magda Székely is light. This light is an otherworldly light of merriness, the opposite of material....Light is the system of co-ordinates of the other-world, by the help of which she draws the image of our own world. Light does not enlighten as much as measures things. I have never read poems more beautifully enlightened.” -István Vörös

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