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( 1938 )

» Stonefall in a Falling Well (1975)
» Antlershrub (1990)
» Raventime (2001)
» Wandering Fires (2009)


1938 October 10. born in Kolozsváron, Romania
1958 studies Law at the university of his hometown
1963 editor for the journal Utunk
1990 Editor-in-Chief for the journal Helikon

1975 Romanian Writers Association s Award
1990 Attila József Award
1992 Endre Ady Award
1995 Tibor Déry Award
1998 Getz Corporation Award
2001 Kossuth Award
2002 Hungarian Literary Award (rejected by Szilágyi)
2003 Márai Award

Stonefall in a Falling Well

Kő hull apadó kútba (Stonefall in a Falling Well) The setting is of the novel is the Transylvanian Jajdon (literarily: the place of woe), and the heroine is the rich and proud Ilka Szendy, who scorns the ways of her homeland and views the long-dead count Rákóczi as an ideal man. After she kills her lover, the poor vineyard worker Dénes Gönczi, she pushes his body into a well, and, like in a ballad, she begins throwing stones into the well to fill it up. The pathological act retains its concreteness as well, therefore the novel not only presents the dreams and visions of a distorted mind, but also shows the outside happenings. The novel, although it is about a personality that slowly falls apart, retains its belief in the possibility of telling a coherent story.


Agancsbozót ... We are asked, we are ordered to temper some Damascus blades. Why not indeed? But the order tells us that we should proceed according to the descriptions found in the Balgala temple. The Balgala method is the following: When the blade is taken out of the fire and cools to the colour of royal purple, it must be pushed through the body of a strong slave, and the sword will possess the power of the slave. Unbelievable, yet beautiful. We don t know how to begin. Well, we should feel free to consult art history for some advice. A man regains his consciousness among the mountains. He is lying in front of a cave and hears the sound of hammer and anvil from inside. Soon he discovers that three blacksmiths have dressed his wounds. He learns that it is impossible to go away from this isolated, God-forsaken cave, where the three mythical smiths prepare ancient swords. His watch is destroyed, time stops for him, and he begins to reconstruct his way that led to this place, the reasons why he fled from civilised society. Slowly he becomes part of this strange company, learns sword-making and hunting, and by the end of this strange story about liberty, visions and reality, life and death become irretrievably mingled.


Hollóidő Raventime The topic of the novel is historical, but its main problem is whether narration is possible at all. It is a long time since anyone in a contemporary Hungarian novel has used such racy language and yet done it with such antique patina of earthiness. The plot unfolds around the end of the sixteenth century, during the time when Hungary was still divided into three, in the fictitious market town of Revek, whose populace is living among dire circumstances. The story is narrated in two parts. The first part bears the subtitle "Horse and Priest for a Chronicle" and tells the story of how the narrator, the scribe Téntás (Inky), cunningly rescues his master, the priest Lukács Terebi, from the Turks. The second part, "Bone Pitchers" is narrated by a young lad from the city, and happens around 1593-94, recalling how the youngsters of Revek are preparing to enter army service against the Turks. The novel ends with the description of a clash in which many Hungarian and German soldiers fall and the decapitated heads of the slain Turks are piled up in two pyramids. This is the time of the ravens; they flock around to peck out the eyes of the corpses. "István Szilágyi is a writer of a very special kind . a dispassionate, born narrator who is steeped in the antique and, at one and the same time, a refined, hyperaware present-day skeptic on the matter of narration and the possibility of narrative." (Ferenc Takács)

Wandering Fires

This new collection of short stories by István Szilágyi (b. 1938) is likely to prove timeless, and from several points of view at that. Still an inhabitant of Transylvania, where he has lived all his life, Szilágyi has established his reputation principally as a novelist—and he works on each of those novels for a decade or more. For him shaping and polishing big works is a slow process. Here he allows us a glimpse into his workshop. Szilágyi did originally make his presence known, like many other writers in Hungarian, with short or novella-length pieces of prose fiction. To some extent it was out of these shorter stories that his full-length masterpieces germinated, not least Ko hull apadó kútba (A Stone Drops in a Dwindling Well, 1977), which quickly established its place as one of the classics of recent Hungarian literature. In that sense Szilágyi’s shorter works have stood the text of time—not least because time plays a central role in them, with the archaic, the prehistorical, the historical and the post-historical (or in other words: present day), all jostling alongside one another in his prose. It is a world that is both cosily familiar and foreign. One feature of Szilágyi’s way of writing, which therefore typifies his shorter works as well, is its ballad structure, a narrative style of elisions, one with the momentum of spoken language, the fragmentary dramatic quality of dialogues, the ebb and flow of a parable, the documentation of psychological realism, the unexpectedness of mystic turning points, the representation of a moral perspective. He often chooses borderline situations. One of the longer tales (‘Kibbitz, the Lonely Soul’), to take one example, samples the interior monologues and the stifling atmosphere of a man on the night before he is hanged. Besides the various time planes, spaces are also extremely important. Transylvanian villages that have kept to themselves for centuries, Transylvanian small towns that have been open to the world for centuries—all spring to life in the pages of Wandering Fires.

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