György Rába: Poet and critic whose verse targeted the intellect rather than the ear
Wednesday 16 February 2011
György Rába was one of the last survivors of the generation of writers and poets based around the literary review Ujhold (New Moon), a group which left its imprint on Hungarian cultural life in the years following the Second World War.
Born in Budapest in 1924, he graduated in Hungarian and French literature at Péter Pázmány University, teaching in a grammar school from 1949-57. It was only after the revolution of 1956 that he was able to devote his considerable talent to literary research, which he carried out during the following decades in the Institute for Literary Studies of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences.
His interest was focused on the literature of the early 20th century, particularly on the life and work of the poet Mihály Babits on whom he wrote two seminal books, Babits Mihály Költészete (The Poetry of Mihály Babits, 1981) and the monograph Mihály Babits (1983). In the collection Csönd-herceg és a nikkel szamovár (Prince Silence and the Nickel Samovar, 1986) there are essays devoted to foreign poets such as Apollinaire, Cesare Pavese and Yves Bonnefoy, as well as Hungarian poets of the first half of the 20th century. His interest in the problems of translating poetry resulted in a study A szép hutlenek (The Beauty of the Unfaithful Ones, 1969), in which he discusses the brilliant but often unfaithful translation-paraphrases of the leading poets of the literary pre-war monthly Nyugat (West).
In fact, Rába's own first poems were published in Nyugat itself in 1941, his first book being published in 1943. He was a founding member of the periodical Ujhold, which came into being after the war. Rába's second book of poetry came out in 1947, but with the suppression of Ujhold by the Communist authorities, he remained silent and had to wait until 1961 for the publication of his new collection Nyílttenger (Open Sea).
This marked an important departure for Rába – he gave up personal lyricism for a severely "objective" form of poetry which uses universal myths to express personal drama. His typical verse form is blank verse characterised by a terse concentration of feeling and passion, not unlike the poems of Italian hermeticism. This kind of verse targets the intellect rather than the ear and has fewer followers than traditional or even early modernist poetry. Of his many books, the most accomplished is probably Próbaido – Új és válogatott versek (Probation Time – New and Selected Poems, 1982).
In spite of his poetic hermeticism, Rába was honoured by all political regimes, and after the Attila József Prize (1983) came the Széchenyi and the Kossuth prizes in 1993 and 2008 respectively. In 1983 he also achieved a PhD in literary science and acted for several years as vice-president of the Hungarian Philological Society.
His verse translations from French and Italian are highly regarded and in 1965 he edited an anthology of Italian poetry. Many of his translations were published in Idegen ünnepek (Foreign Festivities, 1973). English translations appeared in the second volume of the anthology In Quest of the Miracle Stag (Budapest-Chicago, 2003).
György Rába, Hungarian poet, translator and critic: born Budapest 13 June 1924; died Budapest 29 January 2011.
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...
£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...
£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...
£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...