The page of Illyés Gyula, English biography

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Illyés Gyula
(1902–1983)
 

Biography

Born November 2, 1902 in Rácegrespuszta. Poet, dramatist, critic, translator. Father a manorial machinist. Spent early school years in villages and small towns in Dunántúl. Sent to school in Budapest in 1916. Participated in leftist student movements. Attended meetings of Galilei Circle and Socialist Students' Association. Continued to participate in workers' movement after failure of Revolutionary Government. Forced to leave Hungary in 1920. Went to Vienna, Berlin, and France. Settled in Paris. Participated in workers' movement and literary avant-gardism. Worked as miner, bookbinder, and teacher; also studied literature and psychology at Sorbonne. First writings appeared in short-lived Hungarian emigrant periodicals in Paris. Returned to Rácegrespuszta in 1926, later moved to Budapest. Contributed to Dokumentum; poems began to appear in Nyugat in 1928. Became close friend of Mihály Babits (q.v.). Numerous publications brought him recognition as member of new generation of writers. Awarded Baumgarten Prize four times between 1931 and 1936. Through poems and articles he became one of the founders of the populist writers' movement in early 1930's. Formed friendship with Attila József (q.v.). Increasing involvement in populist movement resulted in his imprisonment. Helped to edit Válasz during 1930's. Attended Moscow Writers' Conference in 1934 with Lajos Nagy (q.v.). Became joint editor of Nyugat in 1937 and its editor after death of Babits; then edited its successor, Magyar Csillag, until April 1944. During World War II spent long periods of time hiding in provinces. After 1945 served as parliamentary representative of Nemzeti Parasztpárt. Edited newly revived Válasz 1946-1948. Awarded Kossuth Prize in 1948 and 1953. Occasionally a member of Írószövetség but gradually withdrew from public scene. Opposed government in October 1956. Now devoting time entirely to writing.
One of the most important poets in 20th-century Hungarian literature. Poems blend realism and modern verse trends in highly individual manner. Extends poetic language and themes to everyday occurrences. Prose contains images from the folk songs and setting of Transdanubia. His writings are permeated by his experiences with environment of his home village. Strong humanistic outlook and sympathy for the poor. Often struggles with hopes and reality emerging in Hungarian society since end of World War II. Dramas reflect a search for a better life for man. Among the best translators in Hungarian literature; translated works of Eluard, Aragon, and other modern French poets as well as Hugo, Burns, Villon, and Ben Jonson. Made significant contributions to the sociography of peasants.
Puszták népe has been translated into Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, English, French, German, and Slovenian; Két férfi into Polish; Petőfi into Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, French, Serbian, and Slovenian; Magyar népmesék into Bulgarian; an edition of his poems is available in French; and some of his writings have been translated into Italian, Rumanian, Russian, and Slovakian.
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