Endre Ady’s heritage and birthplace had a profound influence on his poetry. His ancestry was the relatively poor nobility, or gentry, which on his mother’s side also boasted a tradition of Calvinist ministers. In the small village of Érdmindszent, he came to know the peasantry intimately, for his own family’s life differed little from theirs. His father wished him to enter the civil service, so he was educated with a view to obtaining a legal degree. The area in which Ady grew up (today Sălaj, Romania) is situated in the Partium, a region of eastern Hungary that had stormy ties to Transylvania during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when that principality had been a bulwark of Hungarian autonomy and traditions while the rest of the country was under Turkish or Habsburg rule. The Partium was thus doubly a frontier area in whose Calvinist and kuruc (anti-Habsburg) traditions Ady saw justification for his own rebellious, individualistic nature. He was always proud of his ancestry and considered himself much more Magyar than many of his contemporaries with more mixed ethnic backgrounds.
After completing five elementary grades in his village, Ady was sent first to the Piarist school in Nagykároly, then to the Calvinist gymnasium at Zilah, which he regarded as his alma mater; he always fondly remembered his teachers there. Several of his classmates were later to become prominent among the more radical thinkers and politicians of the early years of the twentieth century. He also read voraciously, both earlier Hungarian literature and European Naturalistic writers, and became acquainted with the works of Arthur Schopenhauer. After a brief period in law school in Debrecen and time spent as a legal clerk in Temesvár (Timisoara, Romania) and Zilah (Zălău), he realized that his true vocation was in journalism. He followed this career until his death.
Ady first worked in Debrecen, and in this period not only did his horizons widen, but his critical theses began to crystallize as well. “Life” and “truth” became important bywords for him, and he continued his readings: Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer, Nietzsche, Henrik Ibsen, Fyodor Dostoevski, and especially the late eighteenth century poet Mihály Csokonai Vitéz, a native of Debrecen. It was in Nagyvárad (today Oradea, Romania) that Ady became familiar with the...
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