Last update:

Author's page


8 December1938 born in Budapest.
1962 graduates at Eötvös Loránd University as a Hungarian and German major.
1962-71 language instructor at a college.
1971- freelance writer and translator.
1994 - member of the István Széchenyi Academy of Arts.
1998 - fouding member of the Digital Academy of Literature.

1966 The International PEN Club’s Award
1972 Graves Award
1974 Kassák Award
1975 Milán Füst Award
1978 Attila József Award
1984 Forintos Award
1986 Tibor Déry Award
1986 Lajos Áprily Award
1989 Ernő Szép Award
1990 Sándor Weöres Award
1993 Book of the Year Award
1993 Soros Foundations Oeuvre Award
1994 Getz Literary Award
1996 Laurel Wreath of the Hungarian Republic
1997 Marble Order
1998 Kossuth Award
1998 Regard Award
1998 New Hungarian Radioplay Award
2000 Pro Urbe Budapest
2001 Tiszatáj Magazine’s Award
2001 Soros Foundation’s Literary Award
2002 Soros Foundations Oeuvre Award
2007 Prima Primissima Award

Fragment for Hamlet

Tandori revolutionized the idiom and concept of modern Hungarian poetry with his first volume. Influenced by Wittgenstein and the philosophy of language criticism, which he often refers to, Tandori stripped language to its barest elements, and in this linguistic asceticism, he focuses on existence and the most crucial emotions. Tandori s poetry is found at the cross-section of two traditions (both Hungarian and international), of modern or objective, and concrete or experimental poetry. In the books to come, this fragmentariness turns to an acceptance of a never-ending poetic quest for the creation of the whole.

Cleansing of a Found Object

The famous „yellow volume”, published in 1973, is considered to be one of the first Hungarian postmodern works. The poet (author of fiction, essays, crime stories, also a conceptual and minimal artist) has already manifested his revolutionary use of the Hungarian poetic language in his first book, Fragment for Hamlet. Cleansing of a Found Object - the title and motto of which both refer to the poem Consciousness (Eszmélet) by Attila József - include Tandori’s poems written between 1969-70. There are examples for „conceptual poetry”, koans, calligrams, chess poems, dense textures of allusions, a loosened syntax, or poems made of suffixes, metrical feet, signs and fragments. Tandori’s postmodern handling of language questions the very meaning of the literary text by focusing the attention to its poetic formation, in other words, to the strange and non-resumable nature of literature as an arheological finding, as a dead object. The naked and dismantled grammar represents a sort of zero level. All this is supported by the original title, „A. Rimbaud Is Shooting in the Desert”(A. Rimbaud a sivatagban forgat), which was changed by the censors at publishing, because - as the reader can learn from the Afterward of the third publication - „it could have destroyed our poor socialist system”. Some allusions of the book suggest that Tandori makes Wittgenstein’s maxim -„Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.” - the essential core of his volume and of his further oeuvre, too. As one of his contemporary interpreters points out: „A resolution of this contradiction might be that, if speaking about essential issues has proved to be impossible, we can still (in fact, we are almost obliged to) write down and speak of everything. Could there be a better strategy against the unspeakable than speaking about everything we can?” (Lóránt K. Kabai: Beszélni nehéz in Spanyolnátha)

Stories of Evidence

The extensive personality of Tandori s later volumes is in fact a means of the impersonal. The diary-like, philosophical Stories of Evidence discuss (among other things) poems, artists, sparrows, horses, music (especially rock n roll), lonely midnight walks and suicide, but Tandori finds the same element of the evident in puns, jokes, anecdotes, since language itself is always a game, a joke . The chief evidence for this is death. The poet is interested in the borderlines of language, where something can be equal with its opposite, as in the truism on the jacket: If you are happy to be alive, your life can t be too happy.

The Nothing-Hand

In the book Or Almost, Tandori returns to the closed form of the song. For a blind bird, the nothing-hand , which does not point here, nor over there is the human hand. The book shows us the process of unbroken signification...because for Tandori, whatever happens, wherever, on whatever level, it becomes a sign immediately...and life itself, with its every single phenomenon, works as a chain of signs ready to be interpreted, and it is only the final meaning that cannot be deciphered. Whatever is left is the promise and the threat of death, its unceasing presence, and whether it is birds, artists, people or art, at this level it is already beyond words. -István Margócsy

Download contents in PDF!