The Siege of Sziget

The difficulties of getting writing translated into foreign languages is often taken as a particularly current subject, as if the glut and popularity of English-language bestsellers, the Internet and modern publishing are obviously to blame. But the case of Miklós Zrínyi would make even the most happily obscure contemporary poet shudder.

He published his Hungarian epic poem The Siege of Sziget in 1651. A year later it was translated into Croatian, though by his brother, which is not quite the same thing as being discovered and signed and all that. After that . . nothing, for almost 450 years at least. Now though the first translation of a poem from Europe’s great epic tradition is coming into English – the first translation not done by a member of his immediate family – translated by László Korössy.

The work is modeled on Homer’s Iliad and recounts the exploits of the writer’s great-grandfather, also named Miklós Zrínyi, in the famous 16th-century Battle of Szigetvar, which Cardinal Richelieu supposedly called “the battle that saved civilization.”

The Siege of Sziget  is filled with scenes of battle, theological disquisitions, dueling angels and devils, as well as adventure and romance. Besides the value of having this 17th century classic made available to a wider readership it also allows non-Hungarians to see a vital link in the chain of Hungarian literature.

And for those in the Washington D.C. area the translator will be discussing his work (which took six years) at the Hungarian embassy on October 12 at 7:00 p.m.

Feature photo – Nikola Šubić Zrinski (Croatian version of Miklós Zrínyi) by Oton Iveković

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Categories: Books, New and notable

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