Index – Culture – István Szilágyi has died

We were shocked to learn that Kossuth Prize-winning writer István Szilágyi, the founding editor-in-chief of Helikon, died in Cluj on March 13, 2024, at the age of 86, Helikon Publishing reported.

István Szilágyi was born in Cluj-Napoca on October 10, 1938, and lived and worked there until his death. His father was a master tanner, his mother worked as a maid, a garment worker, and then as a salesperson in a perfume shop. The family moved to Zila in Szilágyság in 1940, and István Szilágyi began his schooling there. In 1952, he returned to Cluj-Napoca, where he attended a high school for railway mechanics. He was driven not only to ease the burden on his family, but also to

to become a train driver after completing vocational school.

However, when he was in his third year, the railway machinery industry was unexpectedly terminated, and he then worked in railway workshops in Nagyvárad and Szatmár. However, his dream – to become a train driver – did not come true, because he was classified as unfit at the medical examination due to his poor eyesight. The young man looking for a profession experienced this as a stroke of fate. After graduating, he “for lack of a better word” enrolled in the law faculty of Babes-Bolyai University.

Literature instead of a legal career

His first writing was published when he was a university student Our way in the magazine. After obtaining his diploma, in 1963, he was offered a position as a prosecutor, but he did not accept it, nor did he later take on a position that required his legal education. Instead of a career in law, he committed himself to literature: he worked as a journalist at Utunk, which had its first scratch (You little blacksmith) he announced. After that, he was offered a job in the report section and an additional opportunity to write works of fiction.

After the system change in 1989, the newspaper changed its name – from Utunk Helicon became -, his position at most changed over the years: first from an internal employee, he became deputy editor-in-chief in 1968, and then the editor-in-chief of the newly named, biweekly paper.

From the 1960s, he became one of the defining personalities of the Forrás generation, and was able to quickly show his talent as a fiction writer. In 1964, his first volumes of short stories were published in the Forrás series (Sorskovács, On this star) in which he depicted manual laborers in authentic situations, breaking away from the schematic representation of workers of the time.

Novel writing and the taste of success

In 1969, he appeared with a novel: Az Anvil, drumstick, bell contrasts the poetic love story of a teacher and a deserter with the inhumanity of the Second World War. His second novel was published in 1975:

a A stone falls into a draining well is one of his most popular and most read works, which is a historical novel, sociology and psychological crime novel at the same time.

In the work, which has been translated into German, Romanian, Slovak, Polish and Russian, its analysts believe that they discover a worthy continuation of the sound of the Golden Ballads.

In this period, István Szilágyi got to know the taste of success: he received his first official recognition, the literary prize of the Romanian KISZ, in 1972, followed three years later by two at the same time: the prize of the Romanian Writers’ Association, and a private one, the Pezsgő prize of the critics invited by Utunk .

In Romania, immediately after the fall of the Ceausescu dictatorship, in the summer of 1990, his monumental, almost 700-page novel with myth-making power, the A thicket of antlers. This work

he wrote it already in the 80s, but at that time there was no hope of its publication due to censorship.

What makes the book exciting and special is that it can be interpreted as a parable, a counter-utopia and a fantastic-mythological novel from a genre point of view. In 1990, he won the novel award of the Romanian Writers’ Association with this work – and the Attila József award received in the same year rewarded his entire life’s work. It was then that he was admitted to the Hungarian Writers’ Association.

His next huge, well-received work was published in 2001. THE Raven time the 16th century, which was divided into three parts a historical novel set in 19th century Hungary, a merciless and tragic story “exploring the secrets of imagination, existence and human life”. It is about the vivid everyday life, loves, war adventures and other horrors of a distant era.

Award winner

In 2020, he appeared again with a novel, the XVIII. century Far beyond the horizon critics interpret the work as a synthesis of his life’s work. In addition to his epic works, he wrote short stories and essays, and for his seventieth birthday, a collection of his short prose was published Planetary fires with address.

The unique voice of István Szilágyi, who was elected a full member of the Hungarian Academy of Arts in 2011, was published by MMA Publishing Katlanváros, Far beyond the horizon and Hangman’s tears the reader can enjoy in the volumes entitled In 2010, he was also elected a member of the Digital Academy.

He received the Kossuth Prize in 2001 for his outstanding work as a writer, for his work enriching the genre of prose with the archaic layers of the Hungarian language, for his exceptionally sensitive works depicting historical processes and examining the general laws of human existence. In addition, he received the Sándor Márai Award in 2003, the János Arany Award in 2008, and the Alföld Award in 2009. In 2011, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award of the Transylvanian Hungarian Literature Foundation. In 2014, he became the Artist of the Nation, and in 2017 he was awarded the Prima prize. In 2020, the Romanian Hungarian Democratic Union awarded him a lifetime achievement award for Transylvania.

A portrait film was also made about István Szilágyi in 2014. In its preview, we get a taste of his creative approach and artistic direction.

(Cover photo: István Szilágyi, Transylvanian Hungarian writer awarded the title of Artist of the Nation, winner of the Kossuth and József Attila Prizes, member of the Literary Department of the Hungarian Academy of Arts, in Budapest on September 28, 2017. Photo: Gyula Czimbal / MTI)

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