Gyorgyi Faludy - one of the three doyen's of Hungarian literature

Gyorgy Faludy

Internationally acclaimed Hungarian poet and novelist, Gyorgy Faludy died a week ago at his Budapest home. He was 95. Faludy's life was remarkable - he fled the Nazis and later the communists, was a member of the United States army in 1943, lost his family in the Holocaust, was arrested in Hungary in the 1950s, took part in the 1956 revolution and when it was crushed went into exile again, this time for 33 years.

First, he edited a literary magazine in London, in the mid-1960s moved to New York for a while, then settled in Toronto. When communism collapsed in Hungary in 1989 Faludy decided it was time to come home. "I am a Hungarian poet" he said "That's where I belong". Gyorgyi Jakobi asked writer Pal Bekes to give an assessment of Gyorgy Faludy's life and work:

"Mr Faludy was one of the doyen's of Hungarian literature. I remember when I was a university student and it was the turn of the 1970s and the 1980s, his poetry could be read in Samizdat, which sounds pretty unbelievable, especially when we talk about his first very famous volume of poetry. It made him immensely popular in pre-war Hungary but his works, including this one, were banned during the fascist era in Hungary and during the Communist era too. So, he was the well-known poet who was banned, who spent much of the 1950s in prison in Hungary and left the country in 1956. He became a kind of emblematic figure of Hungarian literature though he couldn't be in Hungary. The other very successful book that he wrote was an autobiography, which is really in the form of a novel. This one was a hit, a real best seller success. So, these are the two works - the early translations and the late novel that made him unbelievably popular in Hungary.

"But this is one side of the story. The other side of the story is that many people doubt whether he really was a great poet. The art of Faludy is life. I will leave the discussion open and time will obviously decide whether his poetry is worth reading or not. But one thing is sure. He was 20th century Hungarian literature and history in one person. This is the way I see him and many other people look at him too.

"I didn't meet him often. Once, in the early 1980s when I lived in the United States I visited Toronto in Canada and I met him because he was living there at that time. That was our first meeting and later on when he returned to Hungary I met him again. But in that period he was a kind of father of Hungarian literature, so we knew everything [about him] and everyone knew him and it was natural that he was in the centre of Hungarian literary life. One more thing to add is that he was the kind of poet whose private life was always very colourful, vivid, and sometimes scandalous, which is a kind of attitude among artists and literary figures and he was this type so didn't let anyone forget about him. He was always in the centre of attention. After a while, you couldn't say that you knew him personally because of these very colourful details of his life and scandalous acts."