György G. Kardos was world-famous as a novelist, in addition to earning his living with literary journalism, he spoke eight languages and used his language skills on Italian and German television. He also wrote film scripts, among which Mese habbal, Me e kissöcscem, Kérők and Hard Hat and Potato Nose received a level award.
The masterpiece and self-censorship
In 1968, the harvester of world success appeared Seven days of Avraham Bogatir his novel, published in 1971 by Where did the soldiers go?in 1977 End of story followed by his novel. His literary oeuvre is essentially made up of this trilogy. He considers György Spiró to be an outstanding writer who has now been forgotten. Fortunately, the fact that the upper level of the Writers’ Shop was full on the memorial evening, many people had no room: some stood, others sat on the stairs listened to the protagonists of the memorial evening.
“I used to talk to him,” answered the writer György Spiró when asked how the memory of György G. Kardos lives on in him. Later, he also talked about how, in his opinion, G. Kardos should have written about the fifties when he came back from Israel, but he didn’t dare.
When we touch on the Hungarian topic, for some reason we lose our courage a little, because we would have to report on such atrocities that continue to this day and which are life-threatening to write about. In all kinds of ways. There is a censorship here, there is an independent Hungarian censorship, which does not prevent us if we describe a non-Hungarian topic. Incidentally, this censorship also worked for Imre Kertész, he should have written about the fifties in the same way. These are the two people who could have written it, but none of them did, because we live in Hungary.
György Vári did not know him personally, yet he has a personal memory of György G. Kardos from the age of 16; was traveling somewhere by bus when he saw Kardos G. at one of the stops. The writer stood there, and then, without any emotion, he began to swear at length, but very carefully.
“I knew who he was, I had already read the seven days of Avraham Bogatir by him, and I was completely impressed by his production,” György Vári analyzed his teenage experience.
Spiro then realized that G. Kardos loved to discover people, but hated long manuscripts. Spiro understands this, even though he once gave him a long manuscript, which he returned unread. This did not shake him, in fact, he realized that he would not do this again, because he realized that “writers should be left alone, let them work.” Kardos only read his writing after it was published, but then he said: it is a masterpiece.
“You Spiringer,” he added, because that’s what he called him, “don’t think you’re somebody.” I said I don’t think so. Anyone who believes this after writing a good book is pretty stupid. I wasn’t that stupid. But even if one believes that, this comment makes him reconsider. So you can’t say anything smarter than that after someone reads the work of a talented person.
In 2006, György Vári wrote an analysis of György G. Kardos in the journal Jelenkor, in which he stated that Avraham Bogatir a reverse creation story – Claudia Hegedűs told the audience. Vári took the floor and continued by saying that if we look at the phases of the biblical story of creation, we see that the god of the text works on creation, but in the process makes separations.
“To create something, you have to create spaces, create a system out of chaos. And the story is about falling back, about losing hope, personal and historical perspectives. Even now, I believe that, in addition to the other aspects of the billion, there is also such an aspect of the text. There is a story of creation and the slow liquidation of the book’s created world.”
He didn’t let go out of love
“Geniuses tend to recognize geniuses,” remarked Spiro, who did not know the author personally in 1968, when Avraham Bogatir’s Seven Days was published.
I’m totally blown away, it’s so self-evidently a masterpiece. It is rare in one’s life for a contemporary to write something like this
– Spiro continued, then told how after the death of György G. Kardos, he came across the correspondence between Antalné Szerb and Sándor Lénárd in the Petőfi Literary Museum. Lénárd – who lived in a small village in Brazil – decided to translate Avraham Bogatir into German, thus starting the series of foreign translations. The two writers never met each other, but they recognized each other unmistakably.
György G. Kardos has received almost all cultural recognitions, he was awarded the Attila József, Tibor Déry, Pro Literatura and Sándor Márai awards, the Golden Pen, the gold degree of the Work Order of Merit, and the Gyula Krúdy award. According to Spiro, everyone loved him; both the folk and the urban, because it was a phenomenon, but perhaps too much so, since it was managed to prevent it from receiving the Kossuth Prize.
“Today he is completely forgotten, no one writes down his name. But that doesn’t mean anything, because even if someone’s name is written down for ten, twenty or thirty years, it can just as easily disappear into the sinkhole. A masterpiece is known because it can be read. You don’t have to make an effort, you make yourself read, because the author knows the purpose of literature: it’s about portraying people, everything else is completely incidental. Gyuri depicted people as naturally as if he were describing his acquaintances. Maybe they were. He describes stories taken from his own life, he didn’t really know anything else, and he didn’t really want to. And there was a little extra in it: humanity. He just didn’t let go of love, even when he saw it wasn’t working. He loved everyone, he only wanted to capture the good features of everyone. Also for the one you are disappointed in.“
György G. Kardos
He was born in 1925 in Budapest.
In 1944, he was dragged to the Bor labor camp in Yugoslavia, from where he was freed by the partisans. In the same year, he went to Palestine, where he joined the army.
He returned to Hungary in 1951 and became a mason. Between 1955 and 1956, he was the dramaturg of the Kisfaludy Theater in Győr. Between 1956 and 1958 he worked at Magyar Rádio.
Between 1958-1965 and 1972-1974 he was employed by the State Puppet Theater as a dramaturg. In this profession, as well as as a consultant, copywriter, and play editor, he occasionally visited other companies.
Until 1990, he worked for about a decade and a half, then from 1994 to Élet és Irodalom, and from 1990 to Kurir.
György G. Kardos died on November 22, 1997 in Budapest. In 2000, he was elected a posthumous member of the Digital Literary Academy. In 2021, a memorial plaque was unveiled on the wall of his former residence at 8 Irányi Street in Budapest.
In one of his volumes, G. Kardos asks the question of where journalism ends and where literature begins, raised by Claudia Hegedűs, to which Kácsor said: he calls himself a lucky creature, because he cannot separate the two. At the beginning of the 20th century, the greatest Hungarian writers also worked as journalists and gave interviews. He noted that even in G. Kardos, he cannot separate the writer and the journalist, because his portfolios, sketches and glosses are also excellent writings.
Of course, Zsolt Kácsor also understands the dilemma: “I have been writing portfolios for more than 30 years, in the last seven years, since Népszabadság ceased to exist, since then I have been writing portfolios for a living. Two weekly for Népszava, and several monthly for other papers. So I know very well how much energy it takes from a short story that I wanted to send to Jelenkor three years ago, but I can’t write it, because the portfolio is a genre in which you shouldn’t make mistakes. It’s a short genre, and every sentence has to be tight, and you can put it there out of routine, but nobody wants to make a fool of themselves, so you have to write well. And if you’re a columnist, you can’t write for days, and that’s why the wine novel wasn’t born. And it’s also possible that he talked himself out of it, but one thing is certain: portfolio writing is not good for great epic works.“
(Cover photo: György Spiró at the György G. Kardos memorial on November 22, 2022. Photo: Péter Papajcsik / Index)