Miklós Szentkuthy is one of our featured authors. As the writer of such singular works as Prae, Towards the One & Only Metaphor, and the epic 10-volume St. Orpheus Breviary, amongst numerous others, Szentkuthy is recognized as one of the most prodigious and daring Hungarian writers of the 20th century.
Often compared to Musil and Proust, many see him as so sui generis that it is misguided to refer to him as the Hungarian Joyce, which is frequently done, and more accurate to see him as nothing but the Hungarian Szentkuthy. When disputing comparisons of Prae to Ulysses and À la recherche du temps perdu, Hungarian critic Ferenc Takács argues that a “more accurate description of [Prae’s] fictional mode could be Northrop Frye’s ‘anatomy’ or ‘Menippean satire’: the basic concern of the book is intellectual, its pervading mood is that of the comedy of ideas; ultimately, Prae is a huge mock-encyclopaedia of whatever we know (or its author knows) about mind and matter, history and self, language and reality, fact and fiction, man and woman.” It is a kind of anatomy as Takács notes, similar in kind to those of “Lucian, Rabelais, and, more particularly, Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy.”
To date, Szentkuthy’s works have been translated into French, Portuguese, Romanian, Slovakian, and Spanish while excerpts of his work have been translated into Polish, German, and other languages. In September of 2012, we published Marginalia on Casanova, volume 1 of his St. Orpheus Breviary (voted one of the Best Books of the Year by The Guardian in 2013), offering the very first English translation of his work; in September of 2013, we published Towards the One & Only Metaphor. Over the next five years, we will continue to offer further translations of his work, hoping to inaugurate the long awaited renascence of Szentkuthy in the Anglophone world. Other translations to follow include Prae, Chapter on Love, Narcissus’s Mirror, and Black Renaissance, part two of the St. Orpheus Breviary. Our editions of Szentkuthy are translated by Tim Wilkinson, known for his highly regarded renderings of Imre Kertesz and others.
Szentkuthy was the recipient of the Baumgarten Prize (1948), the József Attila Prize (1977), the Kossuth Prize (1984), and many others. In 1975, his translation of Joyce’s Ulysses was given the Europa Award of Excellence. His other translations into Hungarian include Gulliver’s Travels, Oliver Twist, and many other works, including texts by Sir Thomas Browne, Edgar Allen Poe, and Mark Twain. Szentkuthy’s voluminous diary is rumored to be over 200,000 pages and is, he claimed, an instrumental part of his oeuvre, if not his real work. The first part (1927–1947) was finally opened in July of 2013; the second half (1948–1988) will be opened in 2038. It is held by the Petőfi Literary Museum of Budapest.
Szentkuthy is now being translated into Turkish, and excerpts of his work, translated into German, will be featured in Sinn und Form over the coming years. His work is also being digitized by Digitális Irodalmi Akadémia.
To read an overview of Szentkuthy’s life and work, see András Nagy’s “Masks Behind Masks: A Portrait of Miklos Szentkuthy,” Berlin Review of Books (March 25, 2013). For an essay on Towards the One & Only Metaphor, see Rainer J. Hanshe’s “To Humanize & Dehumanize: Imitation, True Contrasts, and the Faustian Pact,” Hungarian Literature Online (December 16, 2013). See also the special Hyperion issue on Szentkuthy, which features essays and translations in English, French, Hungarian, and Slovakian.