Hungary Literature till 19th Century

At the beginning of literature, as well as of Hungarian history, is the figure of Saint King Stephen (975-1038), author of the De morum institutione ad Emericum ducem, commonly known as the “Admonitions to the son”, which constitutes the political testament of the founder of the kingdom. The Benedictine Saint Gerard is linked to Stephen as tutor of his son, an eminent figure in the work of conversion of Hungary to Christianity, author of numerous works of religious propaganda of which we have only received, unfinished, the Deliberatio supra Hymnum trium puerorum (1046). Numerous hagiographic and religious works and various chronicles also belong to this first period of Hungarian literary history, including the Gesta Hungarorum, written around 1140 by an unidentified magister P., the Miserabile carmen super destructione regni Hungariae for tartaros facta (1244) of the magister Rogerius (1233-66) and the Planctus destructionis Hungariae for tartaros, written by an unknown Hungarian monk in 1242. The series of historiographical works ends with the Chronicle of St. Kezai (1284). The first piece of Hungarian prose, a funeral speech, dates back to the early years of the thirteenth century, and at the end of the same century the first example of opera, a Planctus Mariae Virginis: but still throughout the fourteenth century the predominance of Latin continued. In historiography, the Chronicon pictum vindobonense is mentioned, drawn up in 1358 by canon M. Kálti and which has come down to us in an illuminated manuscript (one of the most beautiful illustrated books that Hungary has) dating back to 1370. The genre of historical biography also appears at the same time with the work De Ludovico Rege (ca. 1390) of the court chaplain J. Apród known as Küküllei. In the hagiography sector there are the legends of two saints of the thirteenth century, Santa Margherita, royal princess, and her prioress, blessed Elena: the first example of the hardest and most realistic medieval asceticism, the second of the most suffered mysticism. The first book entirely written in Hungarian, a legend of St. Francis translated from different sources, also dates back to the last decades of the fourteenth century (ca. 1380). The fourteenth century closes with the reign of Sigismund of Luxembourg who invites Pietro Paolo Vergerio the Elder to Hungary whose activity marks the beginning of the Renaissance in Hungary, which culminates in the fifteenth century at the humanistic court of Mattia Corvino, one of the most important centers of culture. next to the Medici court of Florence. In the frame of the famous Corvina Library, the richest of the era after the Laurentian, a large crowd of Italian and Hungarian humanists support the political conceptions of the sovereign and, enjoying his patronage, lead to an intense flowering of letters, arts and sciences.

After years of study in the Ferrara school of Guarino da Verona and at the University of Padua, the greatest Hungarian humanist, Giano Pannonio (1434-72), reaches full maturity in that environment. Among the numerous Italian humanists of the court of Mattia Corvino we must remember G. Marzioand A. Bonfini like those who, with their works, have become more integrated into the sphere of Hungarian culture: the first for having given a whimsical, anecdotal portrait of the patron king, the second for having dressed Hungarian history in Roman clothes, giving the material of the chronicles a Livian style. Still linked to a medieval setting is the chronicle of a Hungarian author, J. Thuróczi (ca. 1435-ca. 1488). In addition to Janus Pannonius, Hungary has given the Catholic Church another figure of European stature in this century, the preacher P. Temesvári (1435-1504), author of sermons in Latin collected in the volumes Stellarium and Pomerium. In the years following the death of Mattia Corvino, the country plunges into a serious political crisis determined by the spread of Reform and especially the defeat suffered by the Turks in Mohács (1526). The tension of the period also has repercussions on the souls of writers, provoking a psychosis of tragedy, of desperate struggle, of fatalism, of suspicion. The canon St. Stieröxel known as Taurinus (1480-1519) published in Vienna in 1519 his Stauromachia id est cruciatorum servile bellum, in which he describes with rude realism the cruelties of the peasant revolt and its repression; I. Werböczy (1458-1542) codifies the state of subordination of the serfs in the face of the landed nobility in the Tripartitum opus juris consuetudinarii inclyti regni Hungariae (1517). If the Hungarian humanistic movement privileged the use of Latin, from the sixteenth century onwards there is instead a recovery of the vernacular, especially in poetry. The vernacular is brought to a high degree of perfection by B. Balassi (1551-94), in whose poetry the themes of Renaissance “courtesy”, a keen sense of nature, a deep religious sentiment and the heroic experience of border soldiers converge. The honors of the press, however, only reach his religious poems by a follower, a lyric poet himself, J. Rimay (1569-1631), while the love poems continue to circulate in manuscript in a kind of clandestinity that has been common to all. the “flower songs”. In the severe climate of the Reformation and political decay, other kinds are cultivated. After the partial translations, Catholic and Hussite, of the fifteenth century and those of Erasmian inspiration of the early sixteenth century, at the end of the century (1591) the complete translation of the Bible was completed thanks to the Calvinist pastor G. Károli (1529-92). The Catholics did not reply until 1626 with the complete translation due to G. Káldi (1572-1634). Another genre that contributes not a little to the evolution of Hungarian prose is that of religious controversy which rarely remains limited to the dogmatic field, but invades history and politics. In genres destined for the consumption of wider audiences, “beautiful stories” predominate, mostly translated from classical, medieval, Italian, German sources etc.; meanwhile the activity of storytellers such as mostly translated from classical, medieval, Italian, German sources etc.; meanwhile the activity of storytellers such as mostly translated from classical, medieval, Italian, German sources etc.; meanwhile the activity of storytellers such as S. Tinódi (1505-56) and P. Selymes, who tell the story of the continuous skirmishes with the Turks located above all in the border posts. In the seventeenth century, the religious controversy reaches its peak with The causes of many ruins in the kingdoms of the Lutheran preacher I. Magyari (1602) to which the Jesuit P. Pázmány (1570-1637), future archbishop and cardinal, responds, who is the major figure of the Counter-Reformation in Hungary. He is at the same time the most important innovator of Hungarian prose and of the language in general before Kazinczy. His ascetic, devotional, didactic, polemical, apologetic writings, his correspondence and his sermons, gathered in the fifteen large volumes of the opera omnia, have for a long time conditioned the intellectual life of the country, restoring the Catholic majority. If the Protestants also put theater at the service of religious controversy, above all to stamp out conversions, the Jesuits cultivated the theatrical genre for pedagogical purposes. The first example of Hungarian philosophical language is recognized in the Cartesian-inspired work Little Hungarian logic (1654) by JA Csere (1625-59).

To the same we owe the publication of the first encyclopedia in the Magyar land. In 1675 the first journalistic enterprise was born with the Ephemerides Latinae by M. Szentiványi (1653-1705). Meanwhile, the improvement of the biblical texts continues, thanks above all to AS Molnár, author of a new translation of the Psalms and first editor of the Bible of the Károli. But in the literary panorama of the seventeenth century the two epic poets M. Zrinyi (1620-64) and I. Gyöngyösi (1624-1704) emerge above all . The first, a poet-soldier who adds his personal commitment to his training on Italian models (Ariosto, Tasso, Marino), in unison with that of the nation, and composes the heroic poem dedicated to the Sziget Siege already defended against the Turks by his namesake ancestor. The poem is translated into Croatian by the poet’s brother. If Zrinyi represents the bucolic aspect in a short early period of his youth and with his main poem the heroic aspect of the baroque (completing his work with political and military treatises), Gyöngyösi represents its imaginative, amusing aspects. Not without foundation he is counted as a celebrator of noble marriages. Zrinyi’s poetry ascetic, Gyöngyösi’s hedonistic, both develop the potential of the Hungarian poetic language which with Kuruc poetry, born in the military disputes between nationalists and loyalists of the Habsburgs, is enriched with a popular note. The genre of autobiography was also born, thanks to the Transylvanian prince J. Kemény (1617-62), by the famous Hungarian printer M. Kis (1650-1702) of Tótfalu, and by Count Miklós Bethlen (1642-1716). The genre developed above all in the eighteenth century; interesting examples are the Confessions of Prince F. Rákóczi (1676-1735), written in Latin, and especially the Letters from Turkey of his secretary, K. Mikes (1690-1761), who accompanied him into exile in Turkey, this work of very fine psychological and environmental introspection on the life of exile, also interesting as an example of Rococo prose. In the Hungarian poetry of the eighteenth century different currents are differentiating which refer to as many models of inspiration. The Jesuit F. Faludi refers to the Italian school(1704-79), who however also began a populist orientation, and the soldier L. Amade (1703-64), a typical Rococo poet. L. Orczy (1718-89) and Á belong to the properly populist or Magyarizing school. P. Horváth (1760-1820). The classical school is represented by the triad DB Szabó (1739-1819), M. Révai (1750-1807) and J. Rájnis (1741-1812). Instead, it is the novelty of the content that characterizes the poetry of the Germanizing P. Ányos (1756-84), LS Szabó (1767-95) and G. Dayka (1769-96), sentimental and pessimistic. J. Kármán (1769-1795), with the Memoirs of Fanny, introduces the literary genre of the sentimental novel in epistolary form, A. Dugonics (1740-1818) that of the romantic historical novel and J. Gvadányi (1725-1801) that of the popular and adventurous poem. At the end of the century stands the greatest figure of the Hungarian Enlightenment, G. Bessenyei (1747-1811). At the turn of the century The movement for the renewal of the language develops, reflected in the passionate controversies between the so-called orthologists and neologists: among the latter the greatest figure is F. Kazinczy (1759-1831), an organizing genius who, through an indefatigable activity as an epistolographer (the not yet completely complete edition of his letters fills dozens of large volumes), creates a very particular form of literary life. In the field of poetry the classical school reaches very high results with B. Virág (1754-1830) and D. Berzsenyi (1776-1836), while the Italianizing address can boast names such as M. Csokonai Vitéz (1773-1805) and S. Kisfaludy (1772-1844): the former manages to combine graceful forms of Rococo with a good dose of populism, while the latter is a belated flower of Petrarchism. His brother, K. Kisfaludy (1788-1830), has the main merit of having given the decisive impetus to the development of the Hungarian theater, no longer the bearer of polemical and pedagogical purposes, as well as having created the first important Hungarian literary magazine, Aurora (founded in 1821). In the theater of the nineteenth century the figures of the author and the actor often converge: this is the case of J. Katona (1791-1830), author of the “national” tragedy Bánk Bán (1819); Also Petofi and Arany lived a transitional period of their career on the stage. A fate not touched by M. Vörösmarty (1800-55) and I. Madách (1823-64) whose works, respectively féerie Csongor and Tünde (1830) and the historical-philosophical drama The tragedy of man (1861), mark the peaks of Hungarian theater. In that same atmosphere of search for origins, which among other Finno-Ugric peoples led to the collection of the Finnish Kalevala and the Estonian Kalevipoeg, the heroic poem with The Flight of Zalán by Vörösmarty, the greatest romantic poet, and with Death was born in Hungary. of Buda by Arany (1817-82). Arany is one of the most complex figures in Hungarian literature because despite the romantic component of his inspiration and his political populism (the slogan of the Arany-Petöfi alliance is in fact “let’s make the people dominant in literature so that they can dominate also in politics”), he is counted as a representative figure of national classicism. His masterpiece, the Toldi trilogy, has as its protagonist a nobleman oppressed by his feudalist brother and forced to lead the life of a peasant, and therefore operates on the literary level a social reconciliation as important as the liberation of the serfs in the national reforming assemblies. The typically Hungarian amalgamation of classical, romantic and populist reaches its most perfect melting point in S. Petöfi’s libertarian, amorous and above all landscape lyric (1823-49), at the same time marking the greatest Hungarian success in the context of European literature.. Among others, M. Tompa (1817-68) belongs to the populist trend. Great luck smiled in the Hungarian nineteenth century to the historical novel by M. Jósika (1794-1865), Z. Kemény (1814-75), J. Eötvös (1813-71) and M. Jókai (1825-1904).

The figures of L. Kossuth (1802-94) and I. Széchenyi (1791-1860) stand out in the publications and in political literature. Prophetic are the writings of M. Wesselényi (1796-1850) on the dangers of the growing Slavic expansion and of J. Eötvös on the consequences of the dominant ideas of the century. XIX on the State. The last of the great political writers is F. Deák (1803-76). In the lyric, the nihilism of J. Vajda (1827-97), the crepuscular decadence of G. Reviczky (1855-89), the solipsism of J. Komjáthy (1858-95) prepare for the great rebirth of the first years of the century. XX, which is summarized in the figure of E. Ady (1877-1919). In the twentieth century the monopoly of culture passed from the hands of the clergy, aristocracy and nobility into those of the middle classes. A concomitant phenomenon is the “urbanization” of literature: Budapest becomes not only the center of literary life but also the inspiration of themes and atmospheres. More than in the sessions of the Academy and the Kisfaludy Society, literary life takes place on the columns of prestigious literary magazines such as A hét (The week), founded by the Jewish poet J. Kiss (1843-1921), whose figure seals the definitive emancipation of the Jews in the intellectual field; like Nyugat (West), founded in 1908 by E. Osvát (1877-1929) and later directed by M. Babits (1883-1941), who also launched Ady and who ensured the continuity of Hungarian literary life until the Second World War, when changed its title, under the direction of G. Illyés (1902-83), to Magyar Csillag (Hungarian star); Napkelet (East), founded by C. Tormay (1876-1937) in 1923 but which, despite the choice of the name, is not exactly on opposite positions to those of Nyugat; finally the magazine Ùj idök (New Times), founded by F. Herczeg (1863-1954) again in 1894, intended for a wider audience than the middle and petty bourgeoisie. In fiction, K. Bikszáth (1847-1910) is still active at the beginning of the century. But the Budapest public recognizes itself rather in the works, narrative and theatrical, of F. Molnár (1878-1952), more cosmopolitan and brilliant.

According to ehistorylib, the third and fourth decade of the century, however, marked the greatest expansion of Hungarian fiction and theater (including operetta) in international literary circles: to the names of Herczeg and Molnár we must in fact add those of L. Zilahy(1891-1975), of S. Márai (1900-89), by F. Körmendi (1900-72) and many others. In poetry, and not only in it, the domain passes after Ady’s death into the hands of M. Babits, intellectual poet, translator of medieval sacred hymns, Greek poets and the Divine Comedy, but also D. Kosztolányi (1885-1936) enjoys no less popularity, from impressionistic crepuscularism to philosophical stoicism. A. József (1905-37) marks the greatest degree of social commitment in Hungarian opera; G. Illyés, on the other hand, draws its roots from the rural environment and becomes an intellectual poet who achieves the maximum syntactic, expressive and psychological concentration in his language. His A Period on Tyranny, a hammering indictment formally contained within the structure of a single period, is the highest expression of European libertarian consciousness. While Illyés always remained on the level of rationalism, S. Weöres (1913-89) transplanted to Hungary, even in popular forms, all the motifs of modern European poetry, from surrealism to Dadaism, to the other avant-garde movements. The social commitment and the experimentation of the various forms of European modernism inspired by directions of the figurative arts are instead found in the verses in freedom by L. Kassák (1887-1967).

Hungary Literature