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Renowned Hungarian Poet Sándor Kányádi, Artist of the Nation, Has Died at Age 90

2018.06.22.

Sándor Kányádi, Kossuth Prize-winning Transylvanian-Hungarian poet, translator, and member of the Hungarian Academy of Arts, passed away earlier this week, on 20 June, at the age of 90.

Ethnic Hungarian poet and translator Sándor Kányádi was born on 10 May, 1929 in Nagygalambfalva (in Romanian Porumbeni), a small village in Hargitha County, Transylvania. He moved to Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca) in 1950. He graduated from Bolyai University as a Hungarian language and literature teacher.

His first poems were published in 1955. During his active years he was the editor and frequent contributor to several literary and children’s magazines. He has been active in political issues in his life, as shown in his numerous works relating to the ongoing oppression of  Transylvania’s Hungarian minority.

His work has been honored with several awards and prizes, including the Kossuth-Prize, Prima Primissima, and the Order of Merit; in addition he was also chosen as  artist of the nation. After retiring from literature, in the last years of his life, he split his days between Budapest and his countryside cottage in Transylvania.

In an unusual way, the poet even had a memorial erected during his own life, a bench at the Arany János metro station of metro line M3. In 1983, Kányádi wrote in his poem Vanity that

I dare not wish more just a bench at the  Arany János metro-station in Budapest

Ten years later, a pensioner couple, Endre Kunfalvi and his wife, made Kányádi’s dream a reality: the poet got his own bench at the metro station with Vanity‘s lines above it on a golden plaque. However, the poet was a bit embarrassed about the incident – referencing famed poet János Arany’s comment that “not even a blade of grass should be named after a living person.”

His works have been translated into English, Finnish, Estonian, Swedish, German, French, Romanian and Portuguese. Below, you can read an English translation of his poem Valaki jár a fák hegyén:

Valaki jár a fák hegyén

valaki jár a fák hegyén
ki gyújtja s oltja csillagod
csak az nem fél kit a remény
már végképp magára hagyott

én félek még reménykedem
ez a megtartó irgalom
a gondviselő félelem
kísért eddigi utamon

valaki jár a fák hegyén
vajon amikor zuhanok
meggyújt-e akkor még az én
tüzemnél egy új csillagot

vagy engem is egyetlenegy
sötétlő maggá összenyom
s nem villantja föl lelkemet
egy megszülető csillagon

valaki jár a fák hegyén
mondják úr minden porszemen
mondják hogy maga a remény
mondják maga a félelem

(Sándor Kányádi, 1994)

Somebody walks atop the trees

somebody walks atop the trees
who lights your star and makes it fade
those do not fear their destinies
whom hope has finally betrayed

my fears my hopes don’t disappear
this is the grace that helps me stay
this caring providential fear
has held my hand along the way

somebody walks atop the trees
when I must tumble one fine night
will he then kindle one of his
new stars with my departing light

or will he crush me to a grain
a dark abandoned piece of grit
and never light my soul again
when infant stars are newly lit

somebody walks atop the trees
he cares for every crumb it’s said
it’s said he is the hope we breathe
it’s said he is the fear we dread

(Translated by Peter Zollman)

Several other contemporary poets, musicians and politicians have praised the Kossuth-prize-winner in the days since his death, including poet Anna Szabó T., who said Kányádi was a great poet and
with all his words, all his being he lived and preached Hungarian poetry, the healing power of language and the fearless life,
while János Szentmártoni, president of the Hungarian Writers’ Association said “he was a real classic and a universal poet who, beyond his own values, was the summary, renewal and extension of poetry.” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán also said goodbye to “the greatest poet” in a Facebook post:
The Hungarian Academy of Arts and the Ministry of Human Capacities both announced that they would be honoring Kányádi and covering all funeral expenses.

photo: Zsolt Szigetváry / MTI

via MTI, mma.hu, index.hu, wikipedia

featured photo: Gyula Czimbal / MTI