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Sándor TATAY
( 1910 - 1991 )

» Guns and Doves ( 1960 )
» The Simeon Family (1955-64 )
» Age of Wanderings (1977)


1910 born in the village Bakonytamási; student of the Calvinist College of Pápa; studies Literature and Theology; editor of the journal Kelet Népe in Budapest
1945 manager of a tourist guesthouse near Lake Balaton
1991 dies in Budapest

Major prizes:
1957, 1961, 1979 Attila József Prize, 1990 Laurel Wreath of the Hungarian Republic, 1991 Kossuth Prize

Guns and Doves

This novel was (and perhaps still is) the author’s most popular book, read by children and adults alike. The heroes of the romantic story are teenage boys, living in an idyllic small town in 1919, and, despite different goals in life, they are friends and together roam the beautiful meadows and hills close to their home. One day they find an undiscovered cave, and a new period begins in their lives, that of secrets and adventures; soon they realize that the cave is not only a place of play and rest, but can serve as a hiding place for one of their fathers, a persecuted illegal Communist, whom they intend to sneak out of the country. Due to the thrill of the story the book still makes for good reading, in spite of the fact that it is politically quite outdated. Márton Keleti based his film on the novel, with such noted actors as Ferenc Bessenyei and Ági Mészáros.

The Simeon Family

The great family saga of five volumes (The Simeon House, 1955; The Second Daughter, 1956; Bread and Flowers, 1959; The Western Gate, 1962; Doomsday, 1964) presents the history of twentieth-century Hungary as mirrored in the fate of a family of the gentry, beginning in the 1900s and ending in the grim 1950s (the writer, however, in the severe political climate of the times shied away from giving an accurate picture of the Communist revolutions of 1919 and 1948. The story of the three generations starts with that of the grandmother of aristocratic ambitions and ends with the history of her grandsons and daughters. Central characters consist of both Jews and Christians, right- and left wing supporters; detailed descriptions present us with the account of the morals and etiquette of the age. The novel’s strength lies in this colourful presentation, but the plot is sometimes complicated and strained, and at certain moments the reader feels overloaded with information, although the once popular novel itself is still worth reading, for it combines the wit of Kálmán Mikszáth with the romantic novel structure of Mór Jókai.

Age of Wanderings

The first volume of the Tatay’s autobiography, Meglepetéseim könyve (The Book of My Surprises, 1974) started as a romantic novel for young readers, but it soon turned out to be an autobiographical adventure story which, together with the Age of Wanderings, makes a continuous autobiography (later published in one volume as Seven Lean Years). The first book presents the pleasant, peaceful years of the author’s early childhood, spent in a large family of evangelicals in the sunny atmosphere of one of the most beautiful regions in Hungary, that of Lake Balaton. Memories here are presented with a children’s joyous eye, up to the darkness that descended with World War I. The second part, the Age of Wanderings, is a continuation of the story, showing the years of early adulthood, presented with a great deal of humour and self-irony (“I should have been hanged by now” starts the book in a tone characteristic of the author). The description evoking the excitement of being a young student is quite memorable, but as the writer took part in the founding of a newspaper and became acquainted with many young writers who since have all gone on to fame, the most interesting parts of the book are these bitter, funny and dramatic literary anecdotes, which are both edifying and make a good read.

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