Hungarian literature

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Hungarian literature.

Until the 19th cent. Latin was Hungary's literary language. The Funeral Oration (c.1230) is the oldest surviving work in Magyar; some 14th and 15th cent. chronicles also exist. The Reformation prompted various translations of the Bible. The poets Bálint Balassa (late 16th cent.) and Miklós Zrinyi and István Gyöngyössi (17th cent.) were succeeded in the 18th cent. by Vitéz Mihály Csokonai and Ferenc Faludi. In the last quarter of the same century, Hungarian literature was given fresh life with the work of György BessenyeiBessenyei, György
, 1747–1811, Hungarian dramatist and writer. In Vienna he came in contact with French rationalism and was an ardent follower of Voltaire and the Encyclopedists.
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, while Ferenc Kazinczy led a reform of the Hungarian language. The establishment of a national theater and the founding in 1825 of the Hungarian Academy of Science assured the development of a national literature. The leading literary figures in the 19th cent. were the poets Károly KisfaludyKisfaludy, Károly
, 1788–1830, Hungarian dramatist, founder of the Hungarian national drama. Kisfaludy traveled abroad extensively and studied painting before he returned to Hungary and began his literary career.
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 (also a noted dramatist), his brother Sándor, János AranyArany, János
, 1817–82, Hungarian poet. Arany is considered one of the founders of modern Hungarian poetry. He was an actor, notary, editor, and professor of Hungarian literature at the Nagy-Koros college.
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, Mihály VörösmartyVörösmarty, Mihály
, 1800–1855, Hungarian poet. Considered one of the greatest Hungarian poets, he created a new poetic language and combined the characteristics of the national and classical schools in his work.
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, and Sándor PetőfiPetőfi, Sándor
, 1823–49, Hungarian poet and patriot. A failure as an actor, Petőfi became the author of exquisite lyrics. He composed the national poem "Talpra Magyar" (1848), and several epics, including Janos Vitez (1845, tr. 1866).
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, and the novelist Mór JókaiJókai, Mór
, 1825–1904, Hungarian romantic novelist and journalist. Jókai was a fervent nationalist who, after the Hungarian defeat in 1848, became a fugitive from the Austrians. He was later a member (1861–97) of the Hungarian parliament.
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. Endre AdyAdy, Endre
, 1877–1919, Hungarian poet. He abandoned his studies in law for a career in journalism and literature. His first volume of poetry, Versek, appeared in 1899.
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 and Attila JózsefJózsef, Attila
, 1905–37, Hungarian poet. Born in Budapest of a poor family, József had to support himself from the age of seven with menial jobs; he was never able to earn a living from his writing. He was dismissed from the Univ.
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 were the outstanding early 20th cent. poets; the dramatists Ferenc HerczegHerczeg, Ferenc
, 1863–1954, Hungarian writer. Herczeg wrote popular romantic farces as well as historical and social novels, plays, and stories, which were generally ironic and detached in tone.
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 and Ferenc MolnárMolnár, Ferenc
, 1878–1952, Hungarian dramatist and novelist. He studied law in Budapest and Geneva and was for some time a journalist in Budapest. He was a prolific author of plays, novels, stories, sketches, dialogues, and war reports.
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 achieved international fame.

Between the two World Wars, novelists were divided into three groups—the Horthy regime defenders; the Populists, who sought improvement of the peasants' lot; and the Communists. The most eminent Populist was László Németh. After World War II, Hungarian literature fell under Soviet influence, and the Communist party exercised rigid control over writing and publishing. Writers who adhered to the Soviet doctrine of socialist realismsocialist realism,
Soviet artistic and literary doctrine. The role of literature and art in Soviet society was redefined in 1932 when the newly created Union of Soviet Writers proclaimed socialist realism as compulsory literary practice.
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 included the poet György Somlyó and the prose writers Géza Hegedűs and József Darvas. Diverging from this doctrine were the poets László Mécs, who was published only outside Hungary, and Gyorgy Faludy, who was imprisoned for three years before fleeing the country, and the novelist Tibor Déry, who was also imprisoned for his nonconformity. The revolt of Oct., 1956, whose participants included a number of prominent writers, was followed by a gradual easing of censorship; with the collapse of the Communist regime, censorship ended.


See histories by F. Riedl (tr. 1906, repr. 1968), T. Kloniczay and H. H. Remak (1982), and L. Czigány (1984); J. Reményi, Hungarian Writers and Literature (1965); L. Degh, ed., Folktales of Hungary (tr. 1965); M. Vajda, ed., Modern Hungarian Poetry (1977); T. Kloniczay, ed., Old Hungarian Literary Reader (tr. 1985).

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