This planet just loves Hungarian literature

I do believe that the Hungarian Language („magyar”) is one of the most poetic languages in the world. Still, I know that I can’t ask my foreign friends or in fact anybody coming to Hungary to learn it. (Well, I could, but that would be – for some – a mission impossible.) Though the language is hard to pick up, you may get a hint of it by reading Hungarian literature translated to English instead. And as a I found out, the world is getting to notice our writers’s pieces. Nay, loving it!

The good thing about the internet is that you can stay at home without making any real efforts to do whatever you like. In the case of finding Hungarian literature, it’s no different. The most basic website dealing with the topic is the Hungarian Literature Online where you can find poems, excerpts from novels of Hungarian artists and digg in the news of the Hungarian literary life. And all this in English, of course.

If you are interested in the history of Hungarian literature, you should check the relevant site of Encyclopedia Britannica. And if you want to hit specific works immediately, then your choice should be Goodreads, „the free website for book lovers”, which is itself a kind of social platform. It offers you more than 2000 popular Hungarian Literature Books from Ferenc Molnár’s The Paul Street Boys to the 2002 Nobel Prize Winner Imre Kertész’s Fateless, both classics and contemporary works.


Antal Szerb: Journey by Moonlight – Imre Kertész: Fatlessness – Magda Szabó: The Door (image sources:, Tumblr)

Since I just mentioned contemporary, it’s worth to look at how Hungarian literature lives on at other sides of the planet.  The New York based New Direction publishing company makes available a series of Hungarian books translated to English and writes relevant posts on its blog too. The latest news is „that Satantango, by Hungarian writer László Krasznahorkai and translated by George Szirtes, won the 2013 Best Translated Book Award for fiction”. By the way, it seems like the Big Apple is really open to the Hungarian art life. For one reason, there is another publisher in the city offering (or currently working on it for the future) Hungarian works called Contra Mundum Press. They are interested in publishing works translated not only into English but also to Hungarian, which is a refreshing approach.

If you are looking for a journal which suits your desire for Hungarian Literature, the Hungarian Studies is for you. On the other hand it covers philosophy, folklore, musicology, art history, sociology and publishes book reviews too. Subscribers can access the electronic version of every printed article. Also, the Hungarian Studies Review can be an interesting choice, since it is an „interdisciplinary journal devoted to the publication of articles and book reviews relating to Hungary and Hungarians”. It is published by the Hungarian Studies Association of Canada, the Hungarian Studies Association and the National Széchényi Library of Hungary. It might be perfect for broadening your perspective in connection with the Hungarian culture because it regularly deals with issues of „history, politics and cultural affairs”. You have free access to the older issues too in the electronical database of EPA.


The Paul Street Boys sculpture in Budapest (image source: Wikipedia)

In the case that you are more interesed in, let’s say, the coventional stlye of studying, than you can choose from the offers (in general Hungarology and including Hungarian literature) of Hungarian institutes of universities all around the world: the Columbia University in the City of New York (the Big Apple, once again), Rutgers The State University of New Jersey (well, almost New York), the University of Toronto in Canada, the Ankara University in Turkey and we could go on and on. If you would like to find more faculties and institutes related to Hungary, I recommend this table of the International Association for Hungarian Students. According to their data there are 68 universities and colleges where Hungarian Studies education is available.

Given all this information I think what I just called „mission impossible” – learning Hungarian – or at least getting familiar with the Hungarian way of life might not be so impractical. As we say it, Hungarians are everywhere and in 2013 you can basically visit any country in search of our cultural footprints. You’ll succeed.

by Petra Gönczi


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