Geschichte der ungarischen Literatur (Eine historisch-poetologische Darstellung) – Review by Anna Tüskés

október 14th, 2014 § 0 comments


Ge­schich­te der un­ga­ris­c­hen Li­te­ra­tur (Eine historisch-poetologische Dars­tel­lung) [The His­to­ry of Hun­ga­ri­an Li­te­ra­tu­re (A historical-poetological pre­s­en­ta­ti­on)], hrsg. v. Ernő Kul­csár Sza­bó, Berlin–Boston, Wal­ter De Gruy­ter, 2013.

This lar­ge and well-produced vo­lu­me, the work of ten emi­nent Hun­ga­ri­an scho­lars, is one of the most in­ter­est­ing and in­for­ma­tive hist­ori­es of Hun­ga­ri­an li­te­ra­tu­re ever pub­lis­hed. The book is ava­i­lab­le only in Ger­man at pre­sent. One must go back to the His­to­ry of Hun­ga­ri­an Li­te­ra­tu­re by a team of aut­hors hea­ded by the edi­tor Ti­bor Kla­ni­czay to en­coun­ter a scho­larly guide in the field of Hun­ga­ri­an li­ter­ary stu­di­es pub­lis­hed in Eng­lish (1982), Ger­man (1977) and French (1980). One also ack­now­led­ges A His­to­ry Of Hun­ga­ri­an Li­te­ra­tu­re: from the Ear­li­est Times to the Pre­sent by Ló­ránt Czi­gány (1984), which has been inf­lu­en­ti­al amongst the Eng­lish public.

The new work pays ca­re­ful at­tent­ion to the his­to­ri­cal, so­ci­al and in­tel­lec­tu­al en­vi­ron­ment, gi­ving many per­so­nal and bib­lio­gra­phi­cal de­ta­ils, and, whi­le tak­ing ex­ten­sive note of the ma­jor and smal­ler aut­hors, it also tra­ces the chi­ef li­ter­ary forms. The edi­tor, Ernő Kul­csár Sza­bó is a Hun­ga­ri­an li­ter­ary his­to­ri­an, cri­tic, uni­ver­sity pro­fes­sor, and mem­ber of the Hun­ga­ri­an Aca­demy of Sci­en­ces. He is a pro­mi­nent re­se­ar­cher of the his­to­ry of cri­tic­ism and cul­t­u­ral stu­di­es. Bet­ween 1996 and 2005 he was pro­fes­sor and Head of De­part­ment at the Hum­boldt Uni­ver­sity of Ber­lin. Sin­ce 2006, he has been Head of the Re­se­arch Ins­ti­tu­te of Hun­ga­ri­an Li­te­ra­tu­re and Cul­tu­re at the Eöt­vös Lo­ránd Uni­ver­sity, Bu­da­pest. He is the aut­hor of se­ve­ral books and ar­tic­les on cri­tic­ism, inc­lu­ding Hun­ga­ri­an Li­te­ra­tu­re 1945–1991, and the edi­tor of many pub­li­ca­tions. His la­test ava­i­lab­le book for fo­rei­gn re­aders is Kul­tur­tech­nik Phi­lo­lo­gie: zur The­orie des Um­gangs mit Tex­ten (Cul­tu­re Tech­ni­que Phi­lo­logy: the The­ory of De­a­ling with Texts), Hei­del­berg: Win­ter Uni­ver­sitäts­ver­lag, 2011. For the cur­rent pub­li­ca­ti­on he col­la­bo­ra­ted with nine Hun­ga­ri­an col­le­agues of dif­fe­rent uni­ver­sit­i­es, with whom he had also wor­ked to­get­her pre­vi­o­usly. The con­cept of li­te­ra­tu­re and mo­der­nity de­li­nea­ted in the cur­rent vo­lu­me is si­mil­ar to his aca­de­mic views known from ear­li­er works.

This vo­lu­me de­lights us by its encyc­lo­pae­dic inc­lu­si­ve­ness, its clear and log­i­cal for­mat, and its hig­hest stan­dards of edi­ting. It is di­vi­ded into ten chap­ters. Each of the­se chap­ters is furt­her di­vi­ded into sec­tions and sub­sec­tions. Each of the chap­ters is int­ro­du­ced by ge­ne­ral his­to­ri­cal pa­ra­gra­phs. A succ­ess­ful at­tempt was made by the aut­hors to ca­lib­ra­te the ge­ne­ral form, are­as to be co­ve­red, and space al­lot­ted. The­re is no cons­ide­rab­le dif­fe­ren­ce of emp­ha­sis and sty­le, the chap­ters are si­mil­ar in app­ro­ach. The ten aut­hors came to­get­her and ag­reed on the uni­fying con­cept emp­loyed to as­si­mi­la­te the­ir we­alth of de­ta­il. The Pre­face sta­tes that „The emp­ha­sis of the pre­s­en­ta­ti­on is on mo­der­nity in its broa­der un­der­stand­ing”. The pre­sent vo­lu­me of­fers a very in­no­va­tive app­ro­ach to pre­sent­ing Hun­ga­ri­an Li­te­ra­tu­re in com­pa­ri­son with the afor­ement­ion­ed one. It gi­ves not only a sys­te­ma­tic over­view of Hun­ga­ri­an Li­te­ra­tu­re of over 800 ye­ars but also draws a clear out­line of li­ter­ary events, as well as cul­t­u­ral and ideo­log­i­cal pro­ces­ses. Li­ter­ary his­to­ry is not trea­ted in is­ola­ti­on, from time to time gro­ups of texts are inc­lu­ded that do not be­long in the “li­ter­ary” cor­pus: early ju­ri­di­cal, his­to­ri­cal and ot­her prag­ma­tic texts are in­cor­pora­ted in the con­cept of li­te­ra­tu­re of the­ir time for the con­tex­tu­a­li­za­ti­on of the his­to­ri­cal paradigms.

Old and Midd­le Hun­ga­ri­an Li­te­ra­tu­re are pre­sen­ted by Pé­ter Öt­vös (pro­fes­sor of the De­part­ment of Old Hun­ga­ri­an Li­te­ra­tu­re at the Uni­ver­sity of Sze­ged). The first chap­ter gi­ves an ex­cel­lent ac­count of early po­etry and pro­se, inc­lu­ding Hungarian-Latin li­te­ra­tu­re. The aut­hor gi­ves many il­lustra­tive ext­racts both in ori­gi­nal lan­gu­age and trans­la­ted to Ger­man. Li­te­ra­tu­re is put into its his­to­ri­cal con­text, aided by a comp­le­te ac­count of the life of the aut­hors. The im­por­tance of early Hun­ga­ri­an and La­tin writing is shown also th­ro­ugh the­ir in­ter­ac­tions with Euro­pe­an li­te­ra­tu­re, for examp­le the trans­la­tions and the pe­reg­ri­na­ti­on to fo­rei­gn uni­ver­sit­i­es. Many re­fe­ren­ces are made to non-Hungarian works, for examp­le Ke­le­men Mi­kes trans­la­ted the short sto­ry coll­ec­ti­on Jo­u­né­es amus­an­tes by Mme de Go­mez to Hun­ga­ri­an with the tit­le Mu­lat­sá­gos na­pok (Amus­ing Days), or Fe­renc Fa­lu­di trans­la­ted works by Wil­li­am Dar­rell (The Gentle­man In­struc­ted in the Con­duct of a Vir­tu­o­us and Hap­py Life), Bal­ta­sar Gra­ti­an (El ora­cu­lo ma­nu­al) and An­to­nio de Es­la­va (No­ches de in­vi­er­no) to Hun­ga­ri­an. In con­nec­ti­on to the lat­ter Olga Pen­ke has re­cently pro­ved that the 8th chap­ter of Téli éj­sza­kák (Win­ter Nights) by Fa­lu­di also has French sour­ces: the Lett­res d’un Si­cili­en by Gi­o­van­ni Pa­o­lo Mar­a­na (1700) and the Bib­li­othè­que des gens de cour by Gayot de Pi­ta­val (1723). The whole sec­ti­on ma­kes a va­lu­ab­le int­ro­duc­ti­on to me­di­e­val, hu­ma­nist and Ba­ro­que li­te­ra­tu­re and its comp­lex problems.

Ist­ván Fried (pro­fes­sor eme­ri­tus of the De­parte­ment of Com­pa­ra­tive Li­ter­ary His­to­ry at the Eöt­vös Lo­ránd Uni­ver­sity, Bu­da­pest), writes abo­ut the po­e­tic lan­gu­age in Clas­sic­ism and Ro­co­co with ease, de­vo­ting close at­tent­ion to the dif­fe­ren­ti­ati­on of the li­ter­ary sys­tem, the po­le­mics abo­ut the li­ter­ary lan­gu­age and the lan­gu­age re­form. He pro­pos­es the dis­cus­si­on of the new li­ter­ary era, which beg­ins with the rei­gn of Ma­ria The­re­sa and ends around 1825. He expla­ins that the eth­no­cent­ric and language-based app­ro­ach is not app­rop­ria­te gi­ven the spi­rit of the pre­va­lent con­cept in the era; na­ti­o­nal re­vi­val. Chap­ters fol­low abo­ut the re­struc­tu­ring of na­ti­o­nal ins­ti­tu­tions, cul­t­u­ral mo­der­ni­za­ti­on, po­le­mics abo­ut the li­ter­ary lan­gu­age and lan­gu­age re­form. He also shows that li­ter­ary cre­a­ti­on mo­ves to­wards pro­fes­si­o­na­li­sa­ti­on, and the press or­gans be­co­me dif­fe­ren­tiated bas­ed on the lan­gu­age and the tar­ge­ted pub­lic. All the gre­at na­mes are the­re: György Bes­se­nyei, Dá­vid Ba­ró­ti Sza­bó, Mik­lós Ré­vai, Dá­vid Cz­vitt­in­ger, Pé­ter Bod, Mi­hály Cso­ko­nai Vi­téz, Fe­renc Ka­zin­czy, And­rás Du­go­nics, count Fe­renc Szé­ché­nyi, and a num­ber of les­ser aut­hors and edi­tors who are litt­le read or else en­ti­rely for­got­ten to­day – Elek Ho­rá­nyi, Pál Wal­lasz­ky, Sán­dor Bá­róczi, Má­tyás Rát, Gás­pár Pa­jor. The ac­count is well-written and fasci­nat­ing; it cons­ti­tu­tes an ori­gi­nal synthesis.

Chap­ter III, by Pál S. Var­ga (de­puty di­rec­tor of the Ins­ti­tu­te for Hun­ga­ri­an Li­ter­ary and Cul­t­u­ral Stu­di­es at the Uni­ver­sity of Deb­re­cen), is called “Art-Centered De­ve­lop­ment of the Li­ter­ary: Clas­si­cal Hun­ga­ri­an Li­te­ra­tu­re 1825–1890”. In fact the first sec­ti­on “Clas­sic­ism and Ro­man­tic­ism” pro­fes­sor S. Var­ga pre­sents the oeuvre of Fe­renc Köl­csey, in­sisting that his po­etry crea­tes a ly­ri­cal man­ner th­ro­ugh the de­for­mati­on of ar­cha­ic dis­co­ur­ses. He also shows Kölcsey’s the­ory abo­ut na­ti­o­nal li­te­ra­tu­re in the spi­rit of the sin­gu­la­rity of ge­ne­ral sub­jects. The se­cond sec­ti­on is cent­red on the de­ve­lop­ment of Ro­man­tic li­te­ra­tu­re, in which he descri­bes among ot­her things the pe­cu­li­a­ri­ti­es of Hun­ga­ri­an Ro­man­tic­ism, the im­por­tance of coll­ec­tive iden­tity pa­ra­digms, and the struc­tu­ral trans­for­ma­ti­on of the li­ter­ary pub­lic sphe­re. The fi­nal sec­ti­on dis­cus­ses the late Ro­man­tic li­te­ra­tu­re emp­has­i­zing the oeuvre of Já­nos Arany, Já­nos Vaj­da, Mór Jó­kai, Zsig­mond Ke­mény and Imre Madách.

György Ei­se­mann (pro­fes­sor at the De­part­ment of 18th-19th Cent­ury Hun­ga­ri­an Li­te­ra­tu­re at the Eöt­vös Lo­ránd Uni­ver­sity, Bu­da­pest) ta­kes the pe­ri­od bet­ween 1882–1895, the turn to mo­der­nity. The first sec­ti­on pre­sents the struc­tu­ral changes of the li­ter­ary pub­lic and the chan­ge of ar­tis­tic per­cept­ion. The third sec­ti­on shows how anec­do­tes, his­to­ry, mul­ti­cul­t­u­ral­ism, de­tec­tive sto­ry and re­por­tage are pre­sent in works by Kál­mán Mik­száth. The­re are va­lu­ab­le sec­tions abo­ut the ele­ment of fan­tas­tic, the sub­jec­ti­vity, and the inf­lu­en­ces of na­tu­ral­ism. Con­nec­tions bet­ween works of Hun­ga­ri­an and ot­her Euro­pe­an li­te­ra­tu­res are fully pre­sen­ted also in this chap­ter: for examp­le how sym­bo­l­ism of Scho­pen­hau­er, Jean Paul, Ren­an and Tol­stoy inf­lu­en­ced Hun­ga­ri­an po­etry af­ter Já­nos Arany, ma­inly in the oeuvres of Gyu­la Re­vicz­ky and Jenő Komjáthy.

Chap­ter V, by Cson­gor Lő­rincz (pro­fes­sor at the De­part­ment of Sla­vic Stu­di­es at Hum­boldt Uni­ver­sity, Ber­lin), is called “Aest­he­ti­ci­za­ti­on of Lan­gu­age: Clas­sic Mo­dern Bet­ween the Ar­tis­tic Me­taphy­sics and Re­po­sit­ion­ing of the Sub­ject (1895–1932)”. The first sec­ti­on gi­ves an over­view of so­ci­ety, cul­tu­re and po­li­tics at the turn of the cent­ury th­ro­ugh the pat­terns and pa­ra­digms of li­ter­ary com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on. The se­cond sec­ti­on descri­bes the trends of po­etry, na­mely the two main strands of clas­si­cal mo­dern po­etry: the ego­cent­ric on one hand (End­re Ady), and the aest­he­ti­ci­sed on the ot­her hand (Mi­hály Ba­bits). The aut­hor shows the won­der­ful comp­le­xity of inf­lu­en­ces that en­te­red into the de­ve­lop­ment of Hun­ga­ri­an no­vels of the pe­ri­od, for examp­le Az Is­ten háta mö­gött (Be­hind God’s Back) by Zsig­mond Mó­ricz (1911) is the va­ri­a­ti­on of the to­pic of Ma­dame Bo­vary by Flau­bert; or the Szind­bád ha­za­megy (Szind­bád Goes Home) by Sán­dor Má­rai is the in­ter­tex­tu­al con­ti­nu­a­ti­on of Krúdy’s texts.

Zol­tán Kékesi’s study (the yo­un­gest of the ten aut­hors, fel­low of two uni­ver­sit­i­es: De­part­ment of The­ory of Vi­su­al Arts at the Hun­ga­ri­an Uni­ver­sity of Fine Arts, De­part­ment of Com­pa­ra­tive Li­te­ra­tu­re and Cul­t­u­ral Stu­di­es at the Eöt­vös Lo­ránd Uni­ver­sity, both in Bu­da­pest) is Chap­ter VI in which he pro­pos­es to dis­cuss the “Ma­te­ri­a­li­sa­ti­on of Lan­gu­age: The His­to­ri­cal Avant-garde Mo­ve­ments 1915–1929/1938”. An int­ro­duc­to­ry sec­ti­on out­li­nes the im­por­tance of the five avant-garde re­views all fo­un­ded by La­jos Kas­sák and his com­pa­n­ions with five dif­fe­rent strate­gi­es. He expla­ins the inter-media ex­pe­ri­ments of the 1920s and the im­por­tance of me­dia in po­etry and per­cept­ion around 1926/1927. Sub­se­qu­ent chap­ters pre­sent dra­ma and the­at­re af­ter 1920, and ways out of the avant-garde.

We have now re­a­ched chap­ter VII on the li­te­ra­tu­re of late mo­der­nity with the tit­le “Me­dia­ti­sa­ti­on of the Li­ter­ary” by Ernő Kul­csár Sza­bó (bet­ween 1996–2005, pro­fes­sor and head of the de­part­ment at Hum­boldt Uni­ver­sity, Ber­lin; cur­rently di­rec­tor of the Ins­ti­tu­te of Hun­ga­ri­an Li­te­ra­tu­re and Cul­tu­re at the Eöt­vös Lo­ránd Uni­ver­sity, Bu­da­pest). This chap­ter shows cur­rents and in­ter­fe­ren­ces in the pe­ri­od bet­ween 1931/32–1960/1970. En­ti­re in­de­pen­dent sub­sec­tions are de­di­ca­ted to four aut­hors: Lő­rinc Sza­bó, At­ti­la Jó­zsef, Sán­dor Má­rai and Lász­ló Né­meth. Kul­csár Sza­bó tends to emp­ha­si­se the me­dia­ti­sa­ti­on and the unanth­ro­po­lo­gi­sa­ti­on of lan­gu­age, the bio­lo­gi­sa­ti­on and me­cha­ni­sa­ti­on of the text. He de­di­ca­tes at­tent­ion to the study of futuro-expressionist tech­ni­ques, and surrealist-dadaist inf­lu­en­ces in the po­etry of the era.

Chap­ter VIII on the li­ter­ary turn in Hun­ga­ri­an Post­mo­der­nity is di­vi­ded bet­ween two aut­hors: Pé­ter Szi­rák (pro­fes­sor and di­rec­tor of the Cent­re of Com­mu­ni­ca­ti­on and Me­dia Stu­di­es, Uni­ver­sity of Deb­re­cen) has writ­ten abo­ut the pro­se, whi­le Zol­tán Kulcsár-Szabó (the se­cond yo­un­gest of the aut­hors, as­so­ci­a­te pro­fes­sor of the Ins­ti­tu­te for Hun­ga­ri­an Li­te­ra­tu­re and Cul­t­u­ral Stu­di­es at the Eöt­vös Lo­ránd Uni­ver­sity, Bu­da­pest) pre­sents the po­etry from 1960/1970. Many pro­se writers are cons­idered here for the first time in any fo­rei­gn lan­gu­age ma­nu­al of the his­to­ry of Hun­ga­ri­an li­te­ra­tu­re: Ádám Bo­dor, Lász­ló Dar­va­si, Lász­ló Ga­ra­czi, Krisz­ti­án Gre­csó, La­jos Gren­del, Já­nos Háy, Lász­ló Krasz­na­hor­kai, End­re Ku­kor­elly, Zsolt Láng, Pé­ter Len­gyel, Lász­ló Már­ton, Pé­ter Ná­das, Ist­ván Szi­lá­gyi, Sán­dor Tar, Pál Zá­va­da. Kulcsár-Szabó calls at­tent­ion to the lin­gu­is­tic cri­tic­ism, the new sen­si­bi­lity and the me­dia­ti­sa­ti­on in poetry.

The last chap­ter, tit­led “Ways of Mo­der­nity: Dra­ma and The­at­re” by Gab­ri­el­la Kiss (lec­tu­rer of the De­part­ment of The­at­re Stu­di­es at the Ká­ro­li Gás­pár Re­for­med Uni­ver­sity, Bu­da­pest) pre­sents the the­at­re of the 19th and 20th cent­uri­es very fully. Kiss de­parts from Bánk bán (Pa­la­tine Bánk) by Jó­zsef Ka­to­na in 1815 and ar­ri­ves to what is the end of the post-bourgeois the­at­re of il­lu­si­on, il­lustra­ted by the pi­e­ces of Pé­ter Es­ter­há­zy. She inc­lu­des se­ve­ral writers, di­rec­tors and plays. She also un­der­li­nes the im­por­tance of the the­at­re ex­pe­ri­ments around 1920, ment­ion­ing for examp­le Az óri­ás­cse­cse­mő (The Gi­ant Baby) by Ti­bor Déry, an out­stand­ing pi­e­ce of the Hun­ga­ri­an avant-garde in 1926.

Howe­ver, the­re is still imp­ro­ve­ment in some mi­nor mat­ters. The pro­por­ti­on of pre­sen­ted pe­ri­ods to space is stri­kingly dif­fe­rent: whi­le the first two chap­ters pro­ces­sing the ma­te­ri­al of six hund­red ye­ars have abo­ut 130 pa­ges, a space dis­pro­por­ti­on­ate to his im­por­tance some may think, the fol­lo­wing eight chap­ters con­cer­ning the pe­ri­od of the 19th and 20th cent­uri­es have 500 pa­ges. The ma­nu­al se­ems rat­her weak in the early pe­ri­ods of Hun­ga­ri­an li­te­ra­tu­re. One can note the ap­pa­rent ab­sen­ce of a lar­ge num­ber of mi­nor na­mes (for examp­le Ba­ron Pé­ter Apor, Ba­ron Lász­ló Ama­de). The struc­tu­re of the chap­ters is si­mil­ar to each ot­her: in the text one can find short re­fe­ren­ces to the spe­ci­a­li­sed li­te­ra­tu­re, the cri­ti­cal edi­tions, and an­t­ho­lo­gi­es which are lis­ted with full data in the bib­lio­gra­phy at the end of each chap­ter. The­re are no fo­ot­no­tes ex­cept chap­ter VI, which se­ems rat­her une­ven. I have fo­und only a few typist’s er­rors in the text (p. 65. Kür­fürst ins­tead of Kur­fürst, p. 305. Mas-zák ins­tead of Ma-szák).

Per­haps the most att­rac­tive fea­tu­re of the book, and a very im­por­tant one, is the ca­re­fully cho­s­en gro­up of fifty ima­ges rep­re­sent­ing ma­inly ma­jor li­ter­ary fi­gu­res (e.g. Bá­lint Ba­las­si, Pé­ter Páz­mány, Mi­hály Cso­ko­nai Vi­téz, Dá­ni­el Ber­zse­nyi), but also do­cu­ments (e.g. Ha­lot­ti be­széd (Fu­n­eral Ser­mon), tit­le page of Zrínyi’s Ad­ri­ai ten­ger­nek Sy­re­ná­ja (The Sy­ren of the Ad­ri­a­tic Sea), tit­le page and il­lustra­ti­on of the al­ma­nac Au­ro­ra) or sig­ni­fi­cant events (e.g. Kazinczy’s first en­coun­ter with Ká­roly Kis­fa­lu­dy). In some cas­es the tit­le of the ima­ges could have been more acc­ura­te, for examp­le in the case of the port­ra­it of Ke­le­men Mi­kes. The half-length oil paint­ing kept in the Mus­e­um of Fine Arts of Cluj-Napoca is su­rely the copy of a port­ra­it pain­ted bet­ween 1707–1711. Howe­ver, this pic­tu­re is not of the 18th cent­ury but se­ems to be a mid-19th cent­ury copy. And­rás Ko­vács ob­ser­ved that the can­vas is not pri­med by hand, so it does not come from a pe­ri­od ear­li­er than 1840–1850 (see Trans­mis­si­on of Li­te­ra­tu­re and In­ter­cul­t­u­ral Dis­co­ur­se in Exi­le, ed. by Gá­bor Tüs­kés, Bern, Pe­ter Lang AG, 2012, p. 404–408).

Beyond the con­ti­nu­o­us high­ligh­ting of the con­nec­tions bet­ween Hun­ga­ri­an and ot­her Euro­pe­an li­te­ra­tu­res, one of the many vir­tues of the vo­lu­me is the range of re­fe­ren­ces back and forth wit­hin Hun­ga­ri­an li­te­ra­tu­re. Some examp­les of this: how the short sto­ry A ga­val­lé­rok (The Gen­try) by Kál­mán Mik­száth (1897) inf­lu­en­ced the no­vel Hahn-Hahn gróf­nő pil­lan­tá­sa (The Glance of Coun­tess Hahn-Hahn) by Pé­ter Es­ter­há­zy (1991), or how the his­to­ri­cal no­vel Zord idő (Stormy Times) by Zsig­mond Ke­mény (1862) af­fec­ted the no­vel A könny­mu­tat­vá­nyo­sok le­gen­dá­ja (The Le­gend of the Tear Jugglers) by Lász­ló Dar­va­si (1999) in post­mo­der­nism. The vo­lu­me, with its cons­ide­rab­le bib­lio­gra­phy, ch­ro­no­logy and in­di­ces, will be of gre­at ser­vi­ce to stu­dents, tea­chers, scho­lars and the ge­ne­ral reader.


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