1 Attila József 1 He who wants to be a piper Must desend the depths of hell In Hungary the name Attila József is today a synonym for poet of the 20th century, as in the Romantic age the name Sándor Petőfi had been. Attila József April 11 th, 1905 December 3 rd, His restless spirit, his life, rich in political turns, his craving for love that so often led him to despair, and the final outcome, his decision to commit suicide, all these lurk in the depths of his works. PHOTO FROM ATTILA JÓZSEF S UNIVERSITY REGISTRATION BOOK Such a poet, whose personal fate and artistic achievements precondition and illuminate one another to such an extent, is a rarity in Hungarian literature. Both his life as well as his poetry constituted a succession of experiments. His lyrics rank among the finest in world literature, from Petrach to Baudelaire, Majakovsky and Rilke to Whitman. ATTILA JÓZSEF S FOUNTAIN PEN
2 There is no forgiveness, you know, and regret is vain. JÓZSEF ATTILA 1932 KÖRÜL Be what you really want a man. 2 Like so many of his contemporaries, Attila József had a life fraught with contradictions, though József, orphaned early in his life, was perhaps more vulnerable even than they. The condition to which he referred as world absence was and remained for him a personal experience. In vain did he attempt to belong to some kind of community or find in love something to which he could cling. In the end he experienced growth into adulthood as an unrealizable task. NO FORGIVENESS There is no forgiveness, you know, And regret is vain. Be what you really want a man. You won t scorch the earth. ( ) Or cast away all principles And hope for a true love. Like a dog you want to believe Someone who believes in you July-August (Translation by Anton N. Nyerges) They loved you by deceiving. You deceived and cannot love. Press the loaded revolver Close to your empty heart They loved you by deceiving. You deceived and cannot love. W O R L D A B S E N C E ATTILA JÓZSEF S DESK
3 A mosástól kicsit meggörnyedt, én nem tudtam, hogy ifjú asszony, álmában tiszta kötényt hordott, a postás olyankor köszönt néki His childhood and youth 3 Mama ATTILA JÓZSEF, HIS SISTER ETELKA, AND HIS MOTHER, MRS. ÁRON JÓZSEF MOTHER MAMA 1905 She held the mug with both hands One Sunday, and with a quiet smile She sat a little while In the growing dusk. In a small saucepan she brought home her Dinner from the rich folks where she worked. Going to bed, I kept thinking That some folks eat a whole potful. For mountains, they have those piles of laundry. Their cloudscapes are made of steam And for a change of climate There s the attic stairs to climb. I see her pausing with the iron. Her frail body, grown thinner and thinner, Was at last broken by Capital. Think about this, my fellow have-nots. I ve thought one week of Mama only. Upon her hips she bore, ungainly, A clothes-basket; she d climb the stairway Up to the drying attic s airway. Then, for I was an honest fellow, How I would shriek and stamp and bellow! That swollen laundry needs no mother. Take me, and leave it to another. Attila József was born on April 11th, 1905 in the house at 3 Gát Street in Ferencváros, at the time the poor district of Budapest. My mother was a small woman, She died early, like most washerwomen: Their legs tremble from lugging the hamper, Their heads ache from ironing. She was so stooped from all that laundry I did not realize she was still a young woman. In her dreams she wore a clean apron, And the mailman would say hello to her. But still she drudged so quietly, Nor scolded me nor looked upon me, And the hung clothes would glow and billow High up above, with swoop and wallow January 6. Translation by John Bátki Mama, the closing poem of the 1934 volume entitled Bear Dance, occupies as prominent a place in József s poetry as the poem My Mother from the 1931 volume entitled Topple the Capital, Don t Wail! Comparing the two poems, one can readily sense the difference between these two periods of the poet s career. My Mother is, first and foremost, a parable, while Mama is a poem of expiation for the offences committed against the deceased mother. The traumas of his childhood left a strong impression on the adult Attila József. One frequently comes across references in his works to the pains he suffered as he tried to work through them, as well as to his feelings of helplessness. It s too late now to still my bother; What a giant was my mother Over the sky her grey hair flutters, Her bluing tints the heaven s waters October. Translation by Zsuzsanna Ozsváth and Frederick Turner THE RESIDENCE AT GÁT STREET, THE BUILDING IN WHICH ATTILA JÓZSEF WAS BORN His father, Áron József, worked as a soap boiler. His mother, Borbála Pőcze, was a peasant from the town of Szabadszállás. His father disappeared on July 1st, His family thought that he had emigrated to the United States, but in fact he had gone to Romania. His mother, left alone with three children, took work as a day laborer. She went to the homes of the upper classes to wash, iron, and clean. Nevertheless, she still could not support her children. The family was unable to pay even the rent and was continuously compelled to change lodgings. Finally in the spring of 1910 Attila together with his sister Etel ended up as a ward of the state in the peasant home of Ferenc Gombai in the town of Öcsöd. Here the boy endured traumatic experiences that would continue to haunt him for the rest of his life. In June of 1912 the two siblings returned home. In his autobiography Attila writes the following about those years: I lived here until I was seven. I had already begun to work, as poor village children generally do. I watched over swine. When I was seven my mother the late Borbála Pőcze brought me back to Budapest and enrolled me in the second year of a primary school. My mother supported us, me and my two sisters, by washing and doing house-cleaning. She worked in private homes, going from morning till evening, and I, not under any parental supervision, skipped school and played the little rascal. However, in the textbook of readings for the third year classes I found interesting tales about Attila the king and I persuaded myself to begin reading. These stories about the king of the Huns interested me not merely because I too was named Attila, but also because my foster parents in Öcsöd called me Steve. After deliberating with the neighbors they had concluded, within earshot of me, that there is no such name as Attila. That really took me aback. I felt as if they had called my very existence into question. (Curriculum vitae, excerpt, 1937).
4 love him and stand by him 4 MÁRTA GEBE, HIS FIRST LOVE From June of 1920 until his adulthood Attila József became the charge of Ödön Makai, who enrolled the boy in the Makó high school. It was here that began his career as a poet. He was introduced to the by then acclaimed poet from Szeged, Gyula Juhász ( ) was a significant year in his life from another point of view as well: it was then that first began to blossom his love for the daughter of the director of his old collegium, Márta Gebe, for whom he wrote a series of love poems. By the summer of 1919 Attila s mother, dying of cancer, was bedridden. In the autumn she was moved to an urgent care hospital, where she spent her last days. Attila József was in Szabadszállás, where he was spending part of a school break with relatives, when he got the news that his mother had passed away. It was the end of the war When I went to the country that last time. In the city, all the stores were empty No food, not even bread. I lay flat on my belly on top of a boxcar To bring you flour and potatoes in a sack. I, your stubborn son, brought a chicken for you, But you weren t there. (excerpt translated by John Bátki) In the poem entitled Belated Lament he recalls the moment, which as an adult he was to prove unable to work through, when he learned that he was an orphan. JOLÁN JÓZSEF 1917 ÖDÖN MAKAI His sister Jolán places the birth of the poet s juvenilia, among them his first surviving poem, Dear Jocó!, during these holidays of in Szabadszállás. I would like a lot of money: I d eat roasted goose and honey, Cut the figure of a dandy, Buy the fifty dollar candy. (excerpt) Translation by Zsuzsanna Ozsváth and Frederick Turner In the first days of the Soviet Republic of 1919 the lawyer Ödön Makai against the protests of his family married Attila s older sister Jolán, who completed higher elementary school and found employment at the Dermatological Clinic. Makai resigned from his position at the Hungarian Bank and opened a private practice as an attorney. His first independent volume of poems, entitled Beggar of Beauty, appeared in December of The seventeen year old student secured for himself no ordinary start to his career: Gyula Juhász wrote the preface to the volume, commending the author as a poet of the graces of God. In light of the turns his life later took Juhász s words seem almost prophetic: People, Hungarians, lo, the poet who here embarks both for the heights and the depths: Attila József, love him and stand by him!
5 The Years of Preparation 5 In the early days of 1923 Attila József left the grammar school. When his guardian learned of this, he cut off the young man s financial support. It was by this time Attila s firm intention to live solely for poetry. GYULA JUHÁSZ, DR. JÁNOS ESPERSIT, ATTILA JÓZSEF, LAJOS KÁROLYI, ENDRE VERTÁN, FERENC MÓRA, AND ÖDÖN RÉTI STANDING IN FRONT OF THE KORNÉLIA HOLLÓSY THEATER 1923 GYULA JUHÁSZ MIHÁLY BABITS DEZSŐ KOSZTOLÁNYI In May of that year he was among those in Szeged celebrating twenty-five years of literary activity by Gyula Juhász. It was then that he saw for the first time in person Mihály Babits ( ), Dezső Kosztolányi ( ), and Lőrinc Szabó ( ), the major poets of the age. He traveled ever more frequently to Szeged. One of the short lived periodicals published by the youth of Szeged printed his first prose text as well, and in April of 1923 Nyugat (West), the most prestigious literary periodical of the age, published three of his poems Rebellious Christ Between 1922 and 1925 Attila József wrote roughly half of his entire oeuvre. The poem Rebellious Christ was printed in the October 19th issue of the periodical entitled Bluebird, something that prompted public prosecutors to press charges of blasphemy against the poet in early At first he was sentenced to prison for eight months and fined 200,000 crowns, but on March 4th, 1925 the court absolved him. The press made a great deal of the verdict and in the wake of the trial the poet s name became widely known. By May of 1924 he was already planning the publication of a new volume of poems. Indeed, it was his intention to give it the title Rebellious Christ.
6 With a Pure Heart My strength is my twenty years I am fatherless, motherless, Godless and countryless, I have no cradle, no funeral shroud, And no lover to kiss me proud. For the third day I have had No food, not a piece of bread. My strength is my twenty years I will sell these twenty years. And if no one heeds my cry, The devil may choose to buy. My heart s pure, I ll burn and loot, If I must, I ll even shoot. They will catch me and string me up, With the good earth cover me up And death-bringing grass will start Growing from my beautiful, pure heart march Translation by John Bátki 6 I will sell these twenty years. So I lived to be thirty-two! This poem is a surprise too: itty bitty gift that came my way in a corner of this café from me to me. My thirty-two years have flown, never had two hundred a month of my own. That s right, some birthright! I could have been a college teacher, instead of an idle pen-pusher, boho hobo. But at the university in Szeged I was summarily expelled by a mean dean. His reproof came quick and hard, for my poem With a Pure Heart he d defend the homeland against me with drawn sword. And so my spirit s conjured his name and fame: You sir, as long as I am competent, will not teach on this continent, he blustered, flustered. But Professor Horger, if it gives you cheer That this poet is not a grammar teacher, control your joy I shall instruct a whole nation, Not only the high-school population April 11. you ll see BIRTHDAY POEM you ll see Attila József soon became a part of the literary life of Budapest. He often turned up in the Modern coffeehouse (later the Japan Coffeehouse was to become his favorite haunt). It was also at this time that he met, among others, Pál Ignotus ( ), the prominent critic from the periodical West NO SHRIEK OF MINE At the urging of friends and family he enrolled in the university in Szeged. He was, beginning in September of 1924, a Hungarian, French, and philosophy major at the Hungarian Royal Franz Josef University. He often suffered privation, and acquaintances frequently supplied him with food. In October he planned the publication of his second volume of verse with the title The Lover of Lightening, later changed to No Shriek of Mine. It came out just after Christmas. VILLON Beginning with the middle of the 1920s the impersonation of a lyrical I evoking the vagabond or the rebel became more prominent in the poetry of Attila József. With a Pure Heart constitutes the first representative formulation of this figure. Contemporary criticism immediately related the hero of the poem to the figure of the highwayman and the character at the center of the poetry of Villon, the student who, though suffering penury, endures his circumstances with cynical indifference. The poem seems to formulate almost provocatively the extreme response of a man deprived of everything to his extreme situation. Pál Ignotus, in an article written in West, praised the poem as a model example of a new wave coming in the aftermath of the avant-garde, calling attention to its successful intermingling of modern elements and attention to form. In May the poet left the university in Szeged and returned to the capital. In Budapest he became a member of the Hungarian Socialist Workers Party. I SHALL INSTRUCT A WHOLE NATION, NOT ONLY THE HIGH-SCHOOL POPULATION On March 25 th, 1925 the poem With a Pure Heart was published in the journal Szeged, something which led to a new turn in the life of the poet. Another local journal immediately attacked Szeged, and, presumably because of this, linguist Antal Horger, the deacon of the university, became aware of the poem. He was so enraged by the verse that he ordered József to appear before him and, in the presence of two witnesses, advised him to leave the university. Horger s threats constituted an affront that would have life long impact for the poet, something for which he made reprisal in his 1937 poem Birthday Poem. FRANÇOIS VILLON Translation by John Bátki
7 7 Vienna THE BUILDING OF THE COLLEGIUM HUNGARICUM He established personal relationships with Lajos Kassák, György Lukács, Béla Balázs, Lajos Hatvany, Andor Németh, Frigyes Karinthy and Arthur Koestler ATTILA JÓZSEF S UNIVERSITY REGISTRATION BOOK (VIENNA, 1925) LAJOS KASSÁK BÉLA BALÁZS ANDOR NÉMETH He established personal relationships with Lajos Kassák ( ), a prominent representative of the Hungarian avant-garde, and, in early 1926, émigrés who affiliated themselves with various political trends. These included the Marxist philosopher György Lukács ( ), the film-theorist Béla Balázs ( ), the liberally inclined poet and designer of applied arts Anna Lesznai ( ), as well as the writer Lajos Hatvany ( ). Following his return to Hungary, Hatvany helped to promote not just with his writings, but also with financial donations the recognition of talented young artists, Attila József among them. In the émigré circles in Vienna the young poet began to become, consciously, a Marxist. He read the works of Marx, Hegel, and Lenin. In the first days of October 1925 József traveled to Vienna. Here the director of the Collegium Hungaricum took him under his wing, finding students for the young poet. József enrolled in the University of Vienna. He read with great interest the classical works of Marxism and the writings of anarchists. He often sought out those coffeehouses that were frequented by Hungarians. Németh was the first to recognize his significance, and he always stood by him 1925 His friendship with the educated and refined Andor Németh ( ), who, fourteen years his elder, worked as an editing partner with Kassák, was of critical importance to Attila József. Németh was the first to recognize his significance, and he always stood by him. It was his first concern to introduce the poet to the Hadik coffeehouse crowd, a circle of friends surrounding Frigyes Karinthy ( ), one of the most significant satirical authors of the age in Hungary. In 1993 he introduced him to Arthur Koestler ( ), the author of Hungarian birth who was later to become world famous. Even before this he had known German and French. He now perfected this knowledge and, more importantly, through his familiarity with languages, gained access to new German and French poetry.
8 Paris 8 If he got money, he spent it, he ate. If not, he didn t. THE INNER COURTYARD OF THE SORBONNE In September of 1926 he traveled via Vienna to Paris. It was here that he learned of an article by Ignotus entitled Verse and Versification that had appeared in the September 15th issue of West reprinting and praising his poem With a Pure Heart. Later Hatvany, a patron of the arts and artists, also spoke highly of this poem, saying that through it future ages will come to know what became of the unfortunate generation that came after the collapse. ATTILA JÓZSEF S UNIVERSITY REGISTRATION BOOK (PARIS, 1926) During his stay in Paris he continued to lead the bohemian life, with all its deprivations, that he had come to know in Vienna. He frequented the favorite coffeehouses of the Hungarian émigrés, where he met, among others, Imre Cserépfalvi, the man who was later to become his publisher. Cserépfalvi describes how Attila József enjoyed, with a true gourmet s delight, an occasional modest repast in Paris. THE FRENCH PERIODICAL IN WHICH A TEXT BY ATTILA JÓZSEF WAS PUBLISHED He learned French with tremendous keenness. On November 12 th he matriculated into the ranks of students at the Sorbonne University. By this point he sympathized with the anarchist movement and he became a member of the Anarchist-Communist Union. In early 1927 he came into contact with the Hungarian section of the French Communist Party. He became absorbed in the poetry of François Villon. On March 12th he played a role in an evening gathering held by the newly founded periodical Esprit Nouveau. The only issue of this periodical to be printed, an issue in which József figured with a poem in French, was published in the spring of that year. 12th he matriculated into the ranks of students 1926On November at the Sorbonne University 1927 Towards the end of June he spent almost two months on the French Riviera in Cagnes sur Mer, a village not far from Nice. In August of 1927 he returned to Hungary with great plans. He enrolled in the Faculty of Arts at the university in Budapest (in the end he spent two full semesters here) and prepared his third volume of poems for publication with the title I Have Neither Father, nor Mother.
9 FERENC FEJTŐ The Poetry of 9 Attila József Excerpt from the writings of the author, historian, and publicist born in 1909 FERENC FEJTŐ He who wants to be a piper Must descend the depths of hell There he must attempt to master The fiendish craft of piping well. Attila József first used this strangely magical, beguilingly, sweetly poisonous folk stanza at the beginning of the volume entitled Night in the Slums. It then became a sort of inscription for the volume of selected poems entitled Bear Dance. If one were to collect, as eventually someone will, the works of Attila József, he should put it with great reverence before every poem as a painfully beautiful motto. He who wants to be a piper he recited it for me once, rapt in thought, when I wrote about him that, he could not have chosen a better, more accurate, or more fitting motto - Must descend the depths of hell... He turned his head to the side and placed the index finger of his right hand to his mouth: As if I had written it; but what does it mean anyway? We pondered this for awhile in the evening air of the Zugló neighborhood of Budapest. What does this hell refer to, what kind of fate, promise, misfortune, want? The life of the proletariat, hunger, repression, poverty, the heavy, thick emptiness of the nights on the outskirts of the city, what kind of concentrated fire, what uncharted regions, what desolate lands of the soul? A poem is paper money, he said, unexpectedly, and suffering is the gold reserve. We huddled in the darkness, in that brown, lukewarm evening darkness in which the soul feels as if it were lying in bed and stretches itself out. He propped his head on two fingers. I have the reserve, he said gently, bragging, becoming serious. Pure gold. And he was glad of it. Now, I repeated to myself, fretting and letting out a little gasp, it really is as if he had written it! As if he and only he had written the implacable and, nevertheless, despotic law, a rule of art and a rule of life, ( my whim composes according to rule ) - he tempted fate playfully, humming carelessly, piping out that which was forbidden, playing innocently, effortlessly, like a child with the alldestroying elements, until the conversation turned from impish melody to a serious dirge, and stern angels gave him a rap on his paling knuckles CHARLES BAUDELAIRE ENDRE ADY In this four line stanza I see summarized the meaning of his life and poetry. The romantic pathos of the accursed poet, the Baudelaire-esque poet s defiantly refined sense of his calling Be blessed, oh my god, who gives suffering As the only divine remedy for our folly As the highest and purest essence preparing The strong in spirit for ecstasies most holy. (Translation by David Paul) Soyez béni, mon Dieu, qui donnez la souffrance Comme un divin remède à nos impuretés Et comme la meilleure et la plus pure essence Qui prépare les forts aux saintes voluptés! Be blessed, oh my god, who gives suffering As the only divine remedy for our folly As the highest and purest essence preparing The strong in spirit for ecstasies most holy. what do these have in common with this childish little rhyme, as simple as a pastor s ditty? It is in its tragic essence, its doubly tragic essence! Because Baudelaire s or Ady s attitudes towards life were unambiguously tragic and pessimistic. The poet is an accursed prophet, one who himself sets himself ablaze, he is a tragic hero who promenades and swaggers in the buskin of pathos with an air of serious grandeur and satanic arrogance, with the spite of the fallen and condemned angels... This kind of life affirms self-destruction, helps to tread itself underfoot like grapes in a tub, and in vain sings from time to time, I am the lord, because it knows and feels inescapably that it is poetry that is the lord, immortal poetic beauty, and the human body and nervous system is but the gaudy servant... One must accept the worst in life in exchange for the best in verse. One must descend the depths of hell... not with a pipe, but rather with a Wagnerian orchestra. One must lay waste, but loudly and prodigiously. Weep, but in the manner of Jeremiah, and even be silent with emphasis. I decided to be accursed...
10 T O B E L O N G S O M E W H E R E 10 Márta Vágó attempts to find a community MÁRTA VÁGÓ Ultimately it was not distance that brought their love to an end In early 1928 Attila József was introduced to Márta Vágó, daughter to the outstanding economist József Vágó, and a great love began to intertwine them. Through Márta József came into closer contact with bourgeois radical and liberal circles. Márta, who had attended lectures by Karl Jaspers, one of the leading figures of existentialist philosophy at the university in Heidelberg, had a strong influence on Attila József. It was she who drew the poet s attention to the significance of sociology and Bergson s philosophy of intuition. They had already begun planning their wedding when, at the beginning of September, Márta traveled to London for an extended stay, in part to study the profession of social welfare and in part because the girl s parents wanted, by doing this, to test the seriousness of the young couple s intentions. They corresponded frequently with each other through the end of the next year. Ultimately it was not distance that brought their relationship to an end, but rather the fact that Márta came to the realization that Attila József was incapable of assuring the conditions necessary in which to raise a family. The poet attempted to compensate for the failed relationship by explaining it through social and class differences: I loved a well-to-do girl, her class tore her from me, he wrote in the revised version of the poem In the End (1930) ZSIGMOND MÓRICZ Going beyond his earlier anarchist attitudes, Attila József now turned to the ideas of the folk movement centered around village life. It was in this spirit that he wrote, together with the journalist and sociologist Dániel Fábián ( ), the pamphlet entitled Out to the Village, in which the two authors sketched out an agenda advancing the movement of the so-called folk writers. In the fall of 1930 he became a member of the illegal communist party. It was at approximately the same time that he came into contact with psychoanalysis as well, something that also played a decisive role in his fate. The following five years were to be the period of the poet s attempts to find a community. He wanted, like most people of his generation who had begun their careers as writers in the mid and late 1920s, to belong somewhere. Attila József became ever more immersed in various political groups. In the fall of 1928 he came into contact with the Miklós Barta Society, which, following in the footsteps of Dezső Szabó, a poet who took his inspiration from folk culture, and Zsigmond Moricz, a writer who in his critical realist works made the peasant the subject of literature, was the organ of progressive, young intellectuals who oriented themselves towards the country s peasantry. THE PAMPHLET OF THE MIKLÓS BARTHA SOCIETY
11 T O B E L O N G S O M E W H E R E 11 Judit Szántó JUDIT SZÁNTÓ The authorities pressed charges of incitement against him because of his poem Socialists It was through this movement that he met Judit Szántó, with whom, towards the end of 1930, he bound together his life. In March of 1931 the volume of poems entitled Topple the Capital, Don t Wail! was published, only to be confiscated by the authorities, who pressed charges of incitement against him because of his poem Socialists Nearby, graveyard arcades: steel mills, cement works, powerplants. So many echoing family crypts. These factories guard the secret of a mournful resurrection. A cat scratches the planks of a fence and the superstitious watchman sees a will-o -the-wisp, quick flashing lights as beetle-backed dynamos shine cold and bright. A train whistle. Dampness rummages in the gloom in the leaves of a fallen tree and weighs down the street s dust. In the alley, a policeman and a mumbling worker. An occasional comrade carrying handbills scurries by catlike, avoiding streetlamps, listening for noises from behind sniffing around like a dog. Night in the Slums (fragment translated by John Bátki) He was asked to start a periodical sympathetic to the communists, and in June the first and only issue of Truth, which he edited together with Ferenc Fejtő, was published. In October the volume entitled Night in the Slums was published, only to be harshly criticized by the papers that were under communist influence. At the end of 1933 and the beginning of 1934 the party organization in Budapest informed its members that Attila József was no longer a member of the party and that the relationship with him had to be terminated. The defiant Attila József, who had been under psychiatric care since 1931, had not proven acceptable to the narrow minded movement, a movement compelled, because of the difficulties it faced as an illegal organization, to keep strict confidences. end of 1933 the relationship with him had to be terminated
12 T O B E L O N G S O M E W H E R E THE MEETING OF THE WRITERS ECONOMIC ASSOCIATION IN Márta Marton He met art historian Márta Marton After his break with the communist party the poet wandered for a time in a void. In the summer of 1933 his private life was in crisis too. In the middle of June he took part in the socalled writers week held at Lillafüred by the Writers Economic Association. Here he met art historian Márta Marton, and the young woman s beauty sparked in him a new love hence the poem Ode, a great love poem, rare in this period of his career. In a fit of jealousy Judit Szántó attempted to commit suicide. By the beginning of 1934 the poet s relationship with Judit had deteriorated so much that he spent half the year in Hódmezővásárhely. Ode I sit on a glittering rock. Young summer s light breeze floats like the warmth of a dinner for two. I am getting my heart used to silence. It is not very hard to do the past comes swarming back when the head bends down and the hands hang low. I look upon the mountain s mane each leaf reflects the light of your face. The road is empty, empty but I can still see your skirt flutter in the wind. and under fragile branches your hair tumbles forward, your breasts softly sway and, as the brook trickles away, laughter springs again on the round white pebbles that are your teeth. 2 O how I love you who could bring to words both solitude, that furtive plotter in the deepest hollow of the heart, and a whole universe. Who, like a waterfall from its own thunder, part from me and run quietly on, while I, among the summits of my life, in the nearness of the far, resound and scream, thrashing against earth and sky my love for you, sweet stepmother! I love you like a child his mother, like silent caves their depths 3 I love you like a child his mother, like silent caves their depths, love you like rooms love light, the soul loves flames, and the body, rest. I love you as the living love life until they die. I save each of your smiles, gestures, words, the way dropped objects are saved by the earth. The way acid marks metal with its bite, I have etched you into the instincts of my mind: your beautiful, dear form becomes and fills all meaning. Minutes march by with a clatter but you reside in the silence of my ears. Stars flare up and shatter but you stand still in my eyes. Your taste, like silence in a cavern, lingers cool on my tongue, and your delicately veined hand, holding a glass of water, reappears again and again. 4 Oh what is this stuff I am made of that your glance can rend and shape? What soul, what light, what wondrous magic might lets me roam in the fog of nothingness through the rolling hills of your lush body? And like the word entering the opened mind, into your mysteries I descend... Your arteries and veins are rosebushes that ceaselessly quiver. They circulate the endless stream so that upon your face love may bloom, and blessed fruit grow in your womb. Your belly s sensitive soil is embroidered through and through by a multitude of tiny filaments weaving their fine thread into knots raveled and unraveled so that your fluid cells may gather into flocks and your leafy lungs thickets may whisper their own praise! Eternal matter moves serenely down your bowel s dump and even slag gains a richer life in your kidney s hot pump. In you, undulating hills arise, constellations tremble, lakes quiver, factories produce, a myriad living creatures, seaweed, insects whir, cruelty and goodwill stir, suns shine, northern lights glimmer in your substance resides eternity, the unconscious. 5 Like clotted drops of blood, these words flutter at your feet. Existence stutters, only the laws speak clearly. my hard-working organs that give me new birth each day are getting ready to grow silent. Yet until then, they all cry out to you, the only one chosen from the multitude of two thousand million o you soft cradle, firm grave living bed, take me in!... (How high is the dawn sky! In its ores, whole armies glitter. The brilliance hurts my eyes. I am lost, I surrender. Overhead I can hear my heartbeat flutter.) 6 Envoi (The train takes me in your wake, I may even reach you today. Perhaps my burning face will cool, perhaps you will quietly say, Take a bath in the warm water. Here s a towel, get yourself dry. Dinner s cooking, to soothe your hunger. This is your bed, where I lie. ) June. Translation by John Bátki
13 Attila József s illness 13 ATTILA JÓZSEF JÓZSEF ON THE STEPS ON THE BANK OF THE DANUBE (BUDAPEST, AROUND 1935) In his poems passions burst out with demoniacal strength from depths barely discernible. Alienation, the feeling of the unheimlich, gushes forth. The images are disquieting precisely because of their unusual plasticity. Perhaps no one succeeded in capturing the confusion, the anxiety, the abject terror, and the sense of helplessness that lead to insanity in such realistic lines as Attila József did in his poem The Scream. In the poem entitled My Eyes Jump In and Out the feeling of being threatened and the fear of impending catastrophe so commonly felt in the early stages of schizophrenia (when the patient, with the aptitude for introspection that accompanies the disorder, feels that the I is weakening and will not be able to grapple with the ever quickening maelstrom of the psychosis) are expressed in shocking descriptions. The poem depicts the process of going mad in characteristically bizarre images, - When all I am goes crosseyed in my brain, presaging the imminent headlong crash of emptiness, nothingness, schizophrenic bleakness, bringing together in artistic form that which later appeared in the schizophrenic hypochondriac s misguided notions of the dried-up, empty body, the swollen empty intestines. In this state of feeling threatened he tried to turn back and take refuge in his mother. In the poem Belated Lament the conflict evokes the feelings of disappointment and being cheated that stemmed from the illusion of his mother s eternal being. The poem s gentle conclusion only slightly alleviates the roughness of certain lines. The emotions are revealed concretely, in their nakedness. The poet s self is not, in this phase of the psychosis, always sufficiently intact to be able to descend into the depths, take the rough tempers, memories, and experiences and, returning to a higher level, give them artistic form. The destructive influence of the mental disorder on his poetry can be recognized in part in these phenomena. However, even in this difficult phase, this is not necessarily total. In the poem It Hurts so Much there seem to lie, behind an occasional passage, bizarre sequences of thoughts, the precursors of schizophrenic confusion in the thought process, but these are completely concealed beneath the flawless artistic adaptation. Róbert Bak: Attila József s illness (Beautiful Word, 1938, January-February) The verse cycle entitled Consciousness, written at the end of 1933 and the beginning of 1934, is in a sense a summary of the poet s life, a life experienced as a series of dead-ends. This speculative poetry expresses the dissonant state of the world in an intricate manner of which there is example neither in the poet s earlier, nor in his later work. He began to bear the interruption in his analytical treatment with more and more difficulty. In the spring of 1934, while in his refuge in Hódmezővásárhely, he wrote a confession, inspired by psychoanalysis, in the form of a letter to his doctor, Dr. Rapaport. Meanwhile he assembled and edited a collection of his selected poems. Bear Dance found its way into stores in early December. From early 1935 on he went to Edit Gyömrői for analysis, someone who diagnosed him with split personality disorder, just as Róbert Bak, the doctor who treated him in the last phases of his illness, would later do RÓBERT BAK Once I saw happiness, contentment: four hundred pounds of rotund pink fat. CONSCIOUSNESS 1 Dawn unbinds the sky from the earth and at its clear soft word beetles and children spin forth into the world: there is no haze in the air, this bright clarity floats everywhere. Overnight, they have covered the trees: like so many small butterflies, the leaves. 4 Just like a pile of split wood the world lies in a heap; so does each thing push, uphold, keep every other thing in place, so that everything is determined. Only what is not can become a tree only what s yet to come can be a flower. The things that exist fall into pieces. 7 I looked up in the night at the cogwheels of the stars: from sparkling threads of chance the loom of the past wove laws. Then, in my steaming dream I looked at the sky again: somehow the fabric of the law always had a missing stitch, a flaw. 10 An adult is someone bereft of father and mother inside his heart, who knows that life is a free gift something extra thrown in on death s part, and, like a found object, can be returned, anytime therefore, it s to be treasured. He is nobody s god or priest - his own self s least. 2 I saw paintings daubed with red, yellow and blue in my dreams, and I felt it was all in order, not a speck of dust out of place. Now my dreams seem pale shadows haunting my limbs; the iron world order returns. During the day a moon rises within and inside me at night the sun burns. 5 As a child at the freight station I lay in wait, flattened against a tree, like a piece of silence. Gray weeds touched my mouth, raw, strangely sweet. Dead still, I watched the guard s feet, his passing shadow on the boxcars, stubbornly kept falling over my prize, those scattered lumps of coal, dewy and bright. 8 Silence listened, the clock struck one. Why not visit your childhood even among the cinderblock walls one could imagine some bit of freedom, I thought. But when I stood up, the constellations, the big bear, like prison bars, shone up there above my silent cell. 11 Once I saw happiness, contentment: four hundred pounds of rotund pink fat. Over the harsh grass of the farmyard it s curly smile swayed and tottered. It plopped down in a puddle, warm and nice, looked at me, blinked, grunted twice I still see the hesitant way light fumbled in its bristles as it lay. 3 I am thin, at times I eat only bread. Among souls that idly chatter and temporize I search free and free of charge for greater certainty than the fall of dice. Stuffing myself with roast beef would be nice, or cuddling a small child to my heart But even the trickiest cat can t catch at once The mouse outside and the one in the house. 6 The anguish is deep inside me, here, while its explanation lies out there. My wound is the whole world it burns; I feel the fever, my soul, as it churns. You are enslaved by your rebellious heart, and will be free only when you will stop building yourself the kind of apartment where a landlord moves in to collect rent. 9 I have heard iron crying, I have heard rain laughing. I have seen the past split apart. and realize only notions can be forgot; and all I can do is keep loving while bent double under my burdens Why should I forge a swordblade out of you, golden consciousness! 12 I live by the railroad tracks watching the trains go by. The shining windows fly in the swaying downy darkness. This is how in eternal night The lit-up days speed by and I stand in the light of each compartment, Leaning on my elbows, silent Translation by John Bátki
14 I T H U R T S S O M U C H 14 Edit Gyömrői EDIT GYÖMRŐI Young men who can tear each other for a woman do not conceal that it hurts so much Psychoanalytic therapy opened new dimensions to his later poetry, but it was unable to help him. Indeed, the fact that there was kindled in him an unrequited love for his analyst, Edit Gyömrői, hastened his mental collapse. There is poetic documentation of this, among other poems You Made me a Child, which was originally entitled To a Psychoanalyst Woman, and the poem It Hurts so Much. IT HURTS SO MUCH My culture s falling like the clothing from the lovers in the happy hour of making love. Safe and sound people whoever meet her fail and shatter and mumble to her that it hurts so much. Death prowls behind outside, inside into the hole you escape like a small, frightened mouse to the women while you can glow so that you be protected by their arms, laps and knees. Not only their soft, warm laps lure, and your desire, you are thrust there by necessity. Whoever can find a woman will embrace till all become white the seductive lips. The treasure s double so is the trouble one has to love. Who loves yet cannot find a partner No other place can hide your face even if you aim - oh, brave you - a knife at your mother. She understood - no one else could - what these words mean and yet she has just thrown me away. My head s splitting among the living no place for me I cannot endure the troubles and pain. Like a baby who gets crazy and shakes his rattle but no one comes in it is in vain. Should I love her, could I hate her? It doesn t matter. I m not ashamed that I found it out But where is she to come and see death tosses me; why should I suffer these pains alone? The pain s twofold not only the woman labors and humility can assuage it; but to my songs money belongs so my sorrow can only bring disgrace on me. I beg your help! Oh, every whelp there on the street let your eyes burst where this woman goes. Oh, innocents! In labor camps wail under boots and say to her that it hurts so much. You faithful dogs! In the thick fogs get under wheels and bark to her that it hurts so much. Horses and bulls! Quietly pulls who is gelded but shriek out to her it hurts so much. And you dumb fish! Do accomplish the angler s task and gape from the hook it hurts so much. All the living with everything, home, farm, country, let it burn down what the fire can touch. From the cinder let s come to her and yap together when she dozes off it hurts so much so she can hear while living here what she denied at her pleases is her own worth. She has deprived the outside, inside escaping life of the last chance for a rebirth. unrequited love he s as homeless as helpless can an animal be in the forest while doing its needs. because who is scared by his dreams, dazed by the sun in any case will be driven out. Women with babies! Have miscarriages and come to her to sob to her that it hurts so much October-November Translated by László Fórizs
15 The Editor of Beautiful Word Together with Pál Ignotus and Ferenc Fejtő he founded the left-leaning, but extra-denominational, periodical, Beautiful Word (which one could also render in English as Beau Mot). 15 THOMAS MANN AND ATTILA JÓZSEF Welcome to Thomas Mann Just as the child, by sleep already possessed, Drops in his quiet bed, eager to rest, But begs you: don t go yet; tell me a story, For night this way will come less suddenly, And his heart throbs with little anxious beats Nor wholly understands what he entreats, The story s sake or that yourself be near, So we ask you: Sit down with us; make clear What you are used to saying; the known relate, That you are here among us, and our state Is yours, and that we all are here with you, All whose concerns are worthy of man s due. You know this well: the poet never lies, The real is not enough, through it s disguise Tell us the truth which fills the mind with light Because, without each other, all is night. Through Madame Chauchatz s body Hans Castorp sees, So train us to be our own witnesses. Gentle your voice, no discord in that tongue; Then tell us what is noble, what is wrong, Lifting our hearts from mourning to desire, We have buried Kosztolányi; cureless, dire, The cancer on his mouth grew bitterly, But growths more monstrous gnaw humanity. Appalled we ask: More than what went before, What horror has the future yet in store? What ravening thoughts will seize us for their prey? What poison, brewing now, eat us away? And, if your lecture can put off that doom, How long may you still count upon a room? O, do not speak, and we can take heart then. Being men by birthright, we must remain men, And women, women, cherished for that reason. All of us human, though such numbers lessen. Sit down, please. Let your stirring tale be said. We are listening to you, glad, like one in bed. To see today, before that sudden night, A European mid people barbarous, white The compilation and editing of this periodical was a labor of love for the poet, and its inner circle at the same time provided him with a circle of friends, a literary workplace, and a community of ideas. In the fall of 1935 he got together again with Márta Vágó, in whose apartment the editors held their meetings. We know from the memoirs of his friends that the lack of interest shown in It Hurts so Much, a volume of poems that was published in December of 1936, took a heavy toll on the poet. THE FIRST ISSUE OF THE PERIODICAL BEAUTIFUL WORD 1937 Similarly Early January. Translated by Vernon Watkins it constituted a personal failure for the poet when, on January 14 th, 1937, at an evening event organized by Beautiful Word he was not allowed to read an ode he had written greeting fellow writer Thomas Mann because of a prohibition by the police. If someone wants to hear tales about the heroic years of the Hungarian resistance, he should not tire himself reading my notes. I am writing for those interested in the truth. He who does not understand why the faithful capture of the trivial moment is interesting also does not know why poetry is beautiful, or what makes a poet great. I learned from Attila József that, Sit down, please. Let your stirring tale be said. We are listening to you, glad, like one in bed. To see today, before that sudden night, A European mid people barbarous, white. the poet will neither fib nor flatter he writes the truth, not just the matter - yes, I learned this bit of advice from him, something that he was sufficiently confident to address to Thomas Mann, a great writer who he respected with humble devotion, and something that hardly offended Thomas Mann. It was only the Hungarian Royal Police, who immediately banned the reading of the poem, that took offense. (excerpt, ) PÁL IGNOTUS: SWEETBRIER
16 FLÓRA KOZMUTZA 16 Flóra last love On February 20 th, 1937 he met his last love, Flóra Kozmutza, who worked alongside psychologist Lipót Szondi as a specialist in the treatment of children and who later became the wife of poet Gyula Illyés ( ). Flóra faithfully captures the story of this unconsummated love in her book, published in 1987, about the last months of the poet s life. In the Flóra poems the idealized beloved appears as the symbol of a last, barely-hoped-for refuge Attila József had an unusual capacity for imitation. It was not only his own poems that he eagerly rewrote again and again, but also those of his contemporaries. It was probably the fact that he offered Mihály Babits corrected versions of his poems that offended Babits the most profoundly. Though József reconciled with many of his offended contemporaries, Babits among them, Babits nevertheless did not recommend him for the prestigious Baumgarten literary prize. dreams and death SIGMUND FREUD József presumably stylized one of his doctor s books as well, a book in which he may have read a great deal about Freud s ideas concerning the influence of the death wish, which causes severe insomnia, and death itself as the symbolic equivalent of perfect sleep. From 1936 on dreams and death became central motifs of his poetry. GYULA ILLYÉS AND FLÓRA KOZMUTZA
17 Well, 17 In the End I Have Found My Home ATTILA JÓZSEF S SHIRT In the second half of July came the poet s last, tragic nervous breakdown. He was cared for for three and a half months at the Siesta Sanatorium. He was unable to take part in the tour designed to introduce Beautiful Word in Czechoslovakia. In November he traveled, accompanied by his sisters, to Szárszó. When Flóra visisted him, he gave her two farewell poems. These two poems You Came With a Stick and Well, in the End I Have Found My Home are, along with I may suddenly Disappear, Attila József s last poems, poems that capture the last stages of his increasingly impossible personality. At the same time they constitute records of self-destruction, farewell, and acquiescence to that which cannot be changed THE SIESTA SANATORIUM On December 2 nd his friends, including Ignotus, Fejtő, and Hatvany, sought him out. Among them was the psychiatrist Róbert Bak, who had treated him in the sanatorium. They tried everything to cheer him up. The poet again spoke to them of the failure of the volume It Hurts so Much. The evening of the next day, at the station in Balatonszárszó, he threw himself beneath the moving train He threw himself beneath the moving train WELL, IN THE END I HAVE FOUND MY HOME Well, in the end I have found my home, the land where flawless chiseled letters guard my name above the grave where I m buried, if I have buriers. Or an iron ring engraved with noble words: new world, rights, land. Our laws are still the fruit of war; gold rings shine finer on the hand. It was like that, empty, the way I lived: no one has to tell me it was. I was compelled to play the fool and now I die without a cause. Spring is beautiful, summer too, autumn better, winter the best when you leave your hopes for family and hearth to other men at last. It will take me like a collecting-box, this earth. For no one (sadly) wants wartime leftovers of base metal, wretched devalued iron coins. For many years I was alone. Then all about me was a crowd. It s up to you, they said, although I d have loved to follow them round. In that whole whirlwind of my life I have tried to stand my ground. More sinned against than sinning, I leave that thought and laugh aloud November. Translated by Edwin Morgan ATTILA JÓZSEF S FOUNTAIN PEN
18 18 ARTHUR KOESTLER A Dead Poet in Budapest ARTHUR KOESTLER No one wants to be the Don Quixote of soul-saving. One would prefer to remain the Sancho Panza of philanthropy. In a Hungarian village named Balatonszabados, lying on the 47th longitude and the 18th latitude, thirty-three year old poet Attila József threw himself under a train in a fit of insanity. The village idiot was witness to the event. It was he who - with cheerful excitement brought the family the news. The reaction in Hungary is now centered around transforming the poet into a saint. While he lived, this man, after whom they will soon name an entire era of Hungarian literature, was treated like a mangy dog. (...) He was my friend, or rather he belonged to the same group of writers and journalists I did. We were his friends, and we generously helped him end up under that train, and now we all write obituaries for him. There is another reason, in addition to those mentioned, that I bring the case of this Hungarian poet before the German émigré readers, who at first glance may seem to have nothing in common with him. This case was so typical that it could not have been more typical. a misunderstood genius discovered after his death this, one could say, would be a classical model and so all would be in order, as it were. However, in this case Attila József was considered a great poet already at age seventeen, and we all knew he was a genius. Nevertheless we allowed him slowly to go to ruin right before our very eyes. Before they ever would have made him into a saint, i.e. while he was still alive, he was pugnacious, stubborn, and difficult to bear. (...) We were, by and large, kind and patient with him. We even helped a little too, and we handled him with that discrete condescension that is more certain than rat poison to ruin the sensitive. He could have been saved had he been cared for attentively. But such an undertaking demands tremendous and concerted energy, as well as a large investment of time. One can accumulate discouraging experiences over the course of such extravagant enterprises. No one wants to be the Don Quixote of soul-saving. One would prefer to remain the Sancho Panza of philanthropy. I dare to say in part because it may seem excessive indulgence, in part because the reader cannot verify it - that Attila József, about whom the world has never heard a thing and even now will not hear much, who at the 47th parallel threw himself under a train, this Attila József was one of the greatest lyricists of Europe. An idiotic sense of duty compels me to express this conviction, though it is of no use his dead poems will remain mute, and the train will not stop. As I have said, I write about him because his case, in more modest proportions, is constantly repeating itself in our ranks. With our combined strength we destroyed him, we communists and anti-communists, members of factions, benevolent souls, dialecticists, materialists, idealists, intellectuals, all of us who are withdrawn and inferior. We always play the humanist Don Quixote, but we are little more than the stalwart Sancho of the coffeehouse terraces. (...) Our symbolic case study, Attila József, from that distant, exotic country, also It would be banal if our man were merely 1937 (...) Only reluctantly and with great effort do understood dialectics. Indeed, he wrote articles on Hegel. Nevertheless he preferred to make his bed on the train tracks. There were other witnesses to the event apart from the village idiot. An agent and the station head wrote the incident up in the record book. Here is how Attila József died according to their description: For some time he stood, somewhat distant from the station, lost in thought next to the train. When finally it started to move, he kneeled next to the tracks on the railway bed, bent forward, as if he were bending down to a stream, and placed his hand on the track, as if he had wanted to wet it. The wheel cut off his hand and part of the braking mechanism shattered his head. He was insane, perhaps he really thought the tracks were a stream. In any case we must believe that it was with a clean conscience that he lay himself down. (English translation of Pál Schweitzer s 1939 translation) ATTILA JÓZSEF S POCKETWATCH
19 19 His Volumes Beggar of Beauty 1924 EDGAR ALLEN POE These were the most productive years of his career. With respect to the sheer number of poems, he wrote roughly half of his entire oeuvre between 1922 and He discovered for himself not only free verse, expressionism, and surrealism, but also the tone of folk songs. NO SHRIEK OF MINE No shriek of mine, it is the earth that thunders. Beware, beware, Satan has gone insane; cling to the clean dim floors of the translucent springs, melt yourself to the plate glass, hide behind the diamond s glittering, beneath the stones, the beetle s twittering, O sink yourself within the smell of fresh-baked bread, poor wretched one, poor wretch. Ooze with the fresh showers into the rills of earth-- in vain you bathe your own face in your self, it can be cleansed only in that of others. Be the tiny blade upon the grass: greater than the spindle of the whole world s mass. O you machines, birds, tree-branches, constellations! Our barren mother cries out for a child. My friend, you dear, you most beloved friend, whether it comes in horror or in grandeur, it is no shriek of mine, but the earth s thunder. His first volume, Beggar of Beauty (1922), reveals the young poet still living through a period of sentimental upheavals. His handling of form is, considering his age, quite secure, though the influence of the poets of West (Ady, Kosztolányi, and particularly Gyula Juhász) is palpable in his work. At the same time he is clearly well aware of the significance of the opening lines of a poem. His rhythms are forceful: Some great-great fire should be set ablaze / that the people might warm themselves (Winter, 1922). In the following years he came to realize that he was not identical to the figure of the beggar of beauty, and thus began a period of restless self-searching. The free verse of Walt Whitman represented new opportunities for him, as did his growing knowledge of the endeavors of the avant-garde. POÉSIE PURE In his poetry of the late 1920s the ideals of surrealism, as well as those of poésie pure ( pure poetry ), prevail. Pure poetry is a general name referring to a tendency that has its origins in the works of Edgar Allen Poe and his French translator Charles Baudelaire. Stéphane Mallarmé is thought of as one of its most archetypal figures. In the 1920s, when this tendency was articulated in programmatic and polemical form, Paul Valéry and Paul Claudel constituted its principal representatives. Pure poetry is not an expression of sentiment. Neither does it purport to tell a tale that can be told in prose, nor does it mean to change reality or convince the reader of the truth of some idea. The pure poet considers his principal task the condensed concentration of purely poetic elements. In 1928 Attila József began a work on the foundations of a philosophy of art the title of which was to be Inspiration and Nation: The Metaphysics of Art. The poet sought to provide theoretical support for the ideal of pure poetry to which he himself ascribed. The strong philosophical bent of the society that had formed around Márta Vágó clearly played a significant role in his decision to turn to philosophy for his arguments. Inspiration and Nation may have remained unfinished, but József made use of its central contentions and principles in his critical writings on literature. Indeed to some extent he modified and expanded on them. For Attila József the most significant philosophical guide was Benedetto Croce, whose theory of intuition he tried to further develop. It was one of Croce s fundamental contentions that art is a form of intuition that is free of all conceptual comparison, and that it does not reflect reality, but constitutes rather an independent spiritual form that tends towards direct apprehension of the unique so that it can immediately be transformed into expression In February of 1929 the volume entitled I Have Neither Father nor Mother was published, containing the fruits of four years of work. It emphasized first and foremost the poet s impudent, cheerful, and headstrong bearing. Ferenc Fejtő celebrated it as the poet s first truly successful volume, a volume in which one feels haunted by the bizarre charm of a danse macabre. No Shriek of Mine I have Neither Father nor Mother 1924, Spring Translation by Zsuzsanna Ozsváth and Frederick Turner
20 H I S V O L U M E S 20 Already in the 1920s Attila József wrote poems in the spirit of socialism, but his poetic work from the period between 1930 and 1933 should be thought of as a distinct, independent stage in his career. In March of 1931 he had published the slender volume entitled Topple the Capital, Don t Wail! Against this book public prosecutors raised the charge of incitement against the classes, and the police immediately confiscated any copies that were still available. The second volume of Attila József s socialist phase was Night in the Slums (1932). Toward the end of 1934 a collection of József s selected poems was published the originally planned title of which, With a Pure Heart, was changed to Bear Dance. This was to be his first and only volume of poems to achieve striking success during the poet s lifetime. Two of the outstanding works of this period, and two works unparalleled in his oeuvre, are Ode (1933) and Consciousness (1934). The poet himself was aware of their significance. The third important work, which opens the window onto the next period of his life, was the poem entitled Mama (1934). Attila József s poems can be read in more than twenty of the world s languages. Si hszüan Corazón puro Noc predgradja Nie ja volám Vibrane Tirgumim... Aimez-moi Le miroir de l autre Winter Night Am Rande der Stadt Nao sou eu que grito Perched on Nothing s Branch Con cuore puro Läpinäkyvä leijona Bez ljulka i bez grob Ein wilder Apfelbaum will ich werden Blév tahor The last three years of Attila József s life ( ) were marked by two contradictory tendencies. While his life became increasingly difficult, and his fate increasingly bleak, his poetry acquired ever greater depth. Psychoanalysis intensified his already well developed bent for introspection. Freud s ideas exercised a strong influence on his style of thinking, as well as his poetry. Crime and punishment became one of the most significant motifs of his poetry. FRANZ KAFKA He came to feel that he had let slip the opportunity of realizing the potentials of his existence. These questions preoccupied a number of writers, from Dostoevsky to Kafka, since, with the decay of the global moral order, crime and punishment had lost their certainty and become ambiguous. I think I am a hardened sinner Although I feel all right. Only one trifle bothers me: Guilty, yes but of what? (Guilt, 1935 Excerpt translated by John Bátki) In Attila József s later lyrics the experience of being a child is often given voice. The poems from his last volume, It Hurts so Much, give a terrifyingly precise clinician s picture of his state. Writing poetry constitutes an escape for the poet. It is nourishment necessary for survival. The three realms of this period are tragic fate, public life, and love. These three themes represent three attitudes, three attempts on the part of the poet to save himself. One of the fundamental, distinctive features of Attila József s late lyrics is the tendency to condense, the terse mode of expression, exuding finality, that with a single flash illuminates for us our existential condition in its entirety. Volumes that have appeared abroad The Flowers of Evil: A Selection. New Directions Books: New York, Poems of Attila József. Hungarian Cultural Foundation: Buffalo, NY In Quest of the Miracle Stag: The Poetry of Hungary. Atlantis-Centaur, Inc.: Chicago, The Collonade of Teeth: Modern Hungarian Poetry. Bloodaxe Books: Newcastle on Tyne: The Lost Rider: A Bilingual Anthology. Corvina: Budapest, The Iron-Blue Vault: Selected Poems. Bloodaxe Books Ltd.: Newcastle upon Tyne By the Danube: Selected Poems of Attila József. Corvina: Budapest, THE STATUE OF ATTILA JÓZSEF BY LÁSZLÓ MARTON ON THE BANK OF THE DANUBE PETŐFI IRODALMI MÚZEUM 2005 EDITOR: DR. JULIA BARTHA PHOTO EDITOR: GABRIELLA NYERGES PHOTOGRAPHERS: GYULA BUCSKÓ, KÁROLY ESCHER, ENDRE GÁBOR, NÁNDOR HOMONNAI, OLGA MÁTÉ, JÓZSEF PÉCSI, REY ROSIE, ALADÁR SZÉKELY, DÉNES RÓNAI, JÓZSEF TÓTH, JÓZSEF WEIDINGER TRANSLATED BY: THOMAS COOPER LAYOUT: ANDRÁS VIRÁGVÖLGYI MAKEUP, CONSULTATION: ISTVÁN VIRÁGVÖLGYI, ÉVA SZALONTAI TECHNICAL PRODUCTION: BIGPRINT LTD.
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