Sándor Márai – the definition of a Central European writer

The publication of the novel Embers brought the name of Sándor Márai back into the international spotlight somewhat. Since then a number of translations into English have followed – most recently Portraits of a Marriage, which a review on Hungarian Literature Online says is actually a grouping of two Márai novels.

Although known as a Hungarian novelist Márai was born and raised in Košice in Slovakia, and though he is the city’s most famous writer, he is hardly known in Slovakia at all. Michal Hvorecký, whose work recently appeared in the Dalkey Archive’s anthology of contemporary Slovak fiction, spoke about this fact on the Košice 2013 European Capital of culture site:

“I keep repeating that the world and especially Germany had discovered Sándor Márai long ago, but we have not. His works have been published in all world languages for about 15 years. He has become a true literary superstar in Germany. He is an author who has been listed in the 20th century European prose classics – that is a spectacular achievement, because we must realize that rank includes only about one hundred authors. In Germany, it was Marcel Strabniczky, a Polish-German Jew, with a famous literary television show, who introduced Márai in the beginning. He kept explaining that Márai was not Hungarian, but an author from Košice in Eastern Slovakia. He is an author of Central European literature, not a Hungarian one. He is a prominent author, and Košice should be a bit prouder of him.”

The city has slowly been responding to the growing fame of its native son and a local tourist board even promises an upcoming “In The Footsteps of Sándor Márai” walk.

Photo – Sándor Márai and Thomas Mann in 1935. In the 1940’s exile would bring both of them to Southern California.

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Categories: Literary History, Quotes, Writers


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