Gyula Illyés

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Illyés, Gyula


Born Nov. 2, 1902, in the village of Récegres. Hungarian poet; son of a blacksmith. After the defeat of the Hungarian Soviet Republic of 1919, he lived in Paris (until 1926). He studied at the Sorbonne.

In the realistic poems of his first collections, The Heavy Earth (1928) and The Mowed Rows (1930), and in the narrative poem Three Old Men (1931), Illyés expressed his fidelity to his native people. The accusatory notes in his work were intensified in the narrative poem I Speak of Heroes (1935) and the collection Under the Flying Heavens (1935). Illyés participated in the first Congress of Soviet Writers (1934) and published a book entitled Russia (1935). The lives of poor peasants are portrayed sympathetically in the novel The People of the Puszta. Illyés was also the author of the book Petofi (1936). In his poetry collections Order Amid the Ruins (1937), Uncertain Future (1938), and Looking Fixedly (1947), bitter, fatalistic notes alternate with critical, humanistic tendencies.

After the liberation of Hungary (1945), Illyés’ poetry became more optimistic. He received the Kossuth Prize for his screenplay Two Men (1950), about Petofi and J. Boehm, the Polish revolutionary who participated in the national liberation struggle of the Hungarian people in 1848–49, and the tragedy The Example of Ozora (1952), which dealt with the struggle of the people’s militia against the Austrian armies in 1848. In the 1950’s, Ulyès experienced an ideological crisis, which he overcame by turning to the life of labor and the wisdom of the people (the collection New Poems, 1961).


Osszes verse, vols. 1–3. Budapest, 1947.
In Russian translation:
Rukopozhatiia. Preface by D. Samoilov. Moscow, 1969.
“Obed v zamke.” Inostrannaia literatura, 1971, no. 9.


A magyar irodalom törtenete, vol. 6. Budapest, 1966.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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An important part of this book is about the relationship triangle among Gyula Illyes, the friend of his youth, Flora Kozmutza, and Attila Jozsef.
There is also a glossary of institutions and individuals which is deliberately incomplete; it should have been possible to include fuller notes on such '56 players' as Gyula Illyes or Yurii Andropov, to mention only two people well known outside the context of the revolution.
Most of the names known to anglophone readers (from street, square, and monument names in Budapest if not from their poems) are in the first volume: Balint Balassi, Sandor Petofi, Imre Madach, Endre Ady, Dezso Kosztolanyi, Attila Jozsef, Miklos Radnoti, Gyula Illyes, Sandor Weores, and some others who died too recently to have been monumentalized.
It is a fairly heterogeneous collection, but what is lost in structural unity is won on intimate details, for it contains correspondence between the editor of Valasz and such eminent Hungarian writers as Gyula Illyes, Laszlo Nemeth, J'nos Pilinszky, and Zoltan Szabo.
In the 1920s he begins to write for the Transylvanian Korunk and sends contributions (through Gyula Illyes) to the leading Hungarian literary magazine, Nyugat.
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Milosz's dilemma in a Warsaw reduced to ashes compares interestingly with the attitude of Gyula Illyes, a Hungarian poet several years his senior.
Poets such as Gyula Illyes, Sandor Weores, and Janos Pilinszky, major representatives of Hungarian modernism, are among Transtromer's favorites.
Long after I had finished my novel, I discovered a statement in the writings of the Hungarian author Gyula Illyes, who had himself grown up on a puszta and had written down his childhood impressions.
There are a number of small inaccuracies in the translation of individual poems for which we have no space here, but I am puzzled by the publishers' decision not to include footnotes (or explanatory notes) in the book; a voracious English-speaking reader of translated poetry might know who Pilinszky is, or Gyula Illyes, but even that reader won't know Titus Dugovic (correctly: Dugovich) and what he represented.