Hungary Literature Part V

One of the noblest figures in Hungarian literature was Francesco Kölcsey (1790-1838), who also taught as a critic and political speaker. His lyric faithfully reflects the romantic world of the time. The nation welcomed his hymn as a prayer. His greatest contemporaries, Giuseppe Bajza, Francesco Toldy and Michele Vörösmarty, gathered around the Aurora, founded by Carlo Kisfaludy, brought criticism to a European level, which soon raised the new literary generation against Kazinczy’s school. It played a decisive part in the whole spiritual life of the country through the Academy of Sciences, founded in 1830, the Kisfaludy Society, formed in 1836, the National Theater, inaugurated in 1837, and through the magazine entitled Athenaeum. The creator and partly also the implementer of these reforms was Count Stefano Széchenyi (1791-1860). The ideas displayed in his main works: CreditoMondoStadium, for two decades guided and made the cultural and economic life of the nation flourish again. Hungary found a worthy interpreter of its hopes and anxieties in the person of Michele Vörösmarty (1800-1855). We have to wait until Giovanni Arany to find an epic poet comparable to him (The route of Zalano,Two nearby castles). With his romantic dramas, he raised this genre to poetic height, and made it national, especially with the fairy tale comedy Csongor and Tünde. In love and patriotic poetry, his tone is solemn and intimate at the same time. The creation of the modern Hungarian poetic language is associated with its name.

Of his numerous followers, Gregorio Czuczor and Giovanni Garay distinguished themselves in the epic, while the influence of Vörösmarty’s plays is particularly felt in the tragedy of Count Ladislao Teleki, entitled The Favorite. More skilled than Vörösmarty in scenic effects were Sigismondo Czakó, Carlo Hugó, Carlo Obernyik; alongside the social dramas of these, the comedy also appeared on the Hungarian stage which, to obtain effects, uses current events (Ignazio Nagy, Baron Giuseppe Eötvös).

Author of the first social novel (Casa Bélteky, 1832) was Andrea Fáy. Louis Kuthy followed French romanticism in its boldest exaggerations. The storyteller Pietro Vajda is a disciple of Rousseau and the German romantics. Baron Nicola Jósika (1794-1865), with his works: Abafi ZólyomiThe Last BáthoryThe Bohemians in Hungary, creates the Hungarian historical novel. In him there are many of the merits but also all the defects of W. Scott. Baron Giuseppe Eötvös (1813-1871) serves the ideas of the national reform not only with scientific works (The Influence of the Dominant Ideas of the Nineteenth Century on the State) and with his noble lyric, but also with novels with social and political tendencies (Il CertosinoThe village notaryHungary in 1514). The third and most significant novelist of these decades, Baron Sigismondo Kemény (1814-75), is already a follower of literary realism. No one, perhaps, to date has managed to overcome it in psychological analysis. His historical novels: Paolo GyulaiFanaticsHard Times, through their tragic heroes, reveal the soul of sixteenth-century Transylvania with extraordinary clarity.

According to watchtutorials, the aesthetic ideals of national romanticism interpenetrate the historical-literary activity of Francesco Toldy (1805-1875).

From a political point of view, this new school has its roots in the doctrines of liberalism, of which Louis Kossuth (1802-1894) was an exponent, who, with authentic masterpieces of oratory, wrote his name in the history of literature. The spread of democracy attracted everyone’s attention, not only to the material fate of the people, but also to their art. The collections of popular songs, fables and legends begin (Giovanni Erdélyi, Giovanni Kriza) and, faced with the freshness and simplicity of the rich Hungarian folk poetry, the chaos of romanticism becomes more and more evident. The lyric above all needed new vital lymphs and found them in popular poetry. Alessandro Petőfi (1823-1849) and Giovanni Arany (1817-1882) made this new orientation dominate for decades.

Both sprung from the people, they opened up the extraordinarily varied world of the Hungarian soul and life: each of their creations faithfully reflects their national individuality. Petőfi’s style, inspired by folk songs, is characterized by frankness and an intimate truth. The forms, rhythm and drama of his compositions are also of popular origin. Arany also does not resort to foreign models: he takes the moves from popular poetry, vigorously transfusing in his verses the richness of the language of the people and the images of the Hungarian land. It is an exquisitely sensitive nature; not impulsive and impressionist like Petőfi, but, contemplative and serene; possesses a developed sense of reality and strives to be objective. Reflection predominates in his lyric; after the war of independence,

Just as Petőfi and Arany had renewed poetry, so Maurizio Jókai (1825-1904), under the same popular influence, created a simpler and fresher language for prose.

Narrator of extraordinary ease (he wrote a hundred novels) covers the representation now with the charm of his sentimentality, now with the witty ideas of a humorist who finds reasons to smile everywhere, without transcending cynicism.

Edoardo Szigligeti (1814-1878) introduced the popular element in the drama, but rather in its external aspects: music, dances and country types – thus starting a literary genre very close to the operetta.

Hungary Literature 5