January 25, 2007

Ferenc Juhász (entry from The Columbia Dictionary of Modern European Literature

Pascale Petit refers to Kuhasz in her collection, The Huntress, so I am interested in his background and poetics.

Ferenc Juhász was a Hungarian poet, born in Bia, the son of a poor bricklayer. In 1947 he moved to Budapest, where he studied Hungarian philology for a while, later earning his living as a writer and an editor. Juhász’s first works, Szárnyas csikó (1949; Winged Foal), A Sántha család (1950; The Sántha Family), and Apám (1950; Father), were heavily influenced by such classic Hungarian writers as Sándor Peto”fi and János Arany (see Hungarian literature), yet these volumes give evidence of Juhász’s poetic gifts, especially his daring use of imagery. After a period of naive revolutionary optimism, Juhász became disenchanted with the political status quo. The volume Óda a reptüléshez (1953; Ode to Flight) broke through the rigid canons of socialist realism, and his next work, A tékozló ország (1954; The Prodigal Country), a very long epic poem on the peasant revolt of 1514 led by György Dózsa, ends with a passionate hymn to freedom. From an aesthetic point of view, this work, in spite of its heterogeneous character, is an important landmark: it marks the liberation of the Hungarian poetic imagination from the tutelage of old-fashioned realism, and it is also a bold experiment in verse form, demonstrating Juhász’s “extended syllabic line.”

Juhász’s next collection, A virágok hatalma (1956; The Power of Flowers), contains some of his most mature and moving work, but it poses the threat that his visionary panbiologism - the proliferation of natural and cosmic imagery in his work - will devour the message and destroy the “traditional” structure of the poem. In the long poem “A szarvassá változott királyfi . . .” (1955; The Boy Changed into a Stag”), Juhász adapted folk motifs used by Bé1a Bartók in Cantana Profana, creating in his poem a Bartókean synthesis of sound and image. Some years later, in József Attila sírja (1963; Eng. tr., The Grave of Attila József, 1968), Juhász appeared to have lost the balance between form and content, his theme being overgrown by functionally irrelevant clusters of metaphors. This tendency has continued in A szent tu”zözön regéi (1969; Tales of the Sacred Fire-Flood), which consists of endless variations on the theme of universal catastrophe and the ultimate devastation of nature and mankind, as well as in A halottak királya (1971; The King of Dead), where the poet returns to a more traditional verse form, but remains obsessed with death, corruption, and decay, his images and metaphors gushing forth in a monotonous, exasperating torrent of verse. His poetry has found more than one English translator, including Kenneth McRobbie (1970) and David Wevill (1970).

See: K. McRobbie, Introduction to F. Juhász, The Boy Changed into a Stag: Selected Poems (1970).


- 2 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. rick

    in case you aren’t aware – the 70s journal of translation from U of Dallas i believe, called Delos, featured several poems of FJ, trans D Wevill as noted – several -Esp. ‘Rainbow-Colored Whale’ – were not incl in ’ TBCIA Stag’ which AFAIK is the only English book of his poetry avail.
    This journal was where i discovered his work & I’m sure some interlibrary loan system could get it to you.

    06 Feb 2007, 17:18

  2. Thanks Rick. I really appreciate this. I’ll look it up when I get a chance. It’s great to hear from a fellow admirer of Juhász’s work.

    07 Feb 2007, 11:34


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