Gyula Illyés’s immense prestige and world renown were largely the result of his ability to integrate the philosophies and traditions of Eastern and Western Europe, the views and approaches of the rational intellectual and of the lyric dreamer, and the actions of homo politicus and homo aestheticus. In a 1968 interview, Illyés confided:
With all the literary genres with which I experimented I wanted to serve one single cause: that of a unified people and the eradication of exploitation and misery. I always held literature to be only a tool.
Five sentences later, however, he exclaimed:
I would forgo every single other work of mine for one poem! Poetry is my first, my primary experience and it has always remained that.
André Frenaud has remarked of Illyés that he is a poet ofdiverse and even contradictory impulses: a poet who can be
violent and sardonic, who lacks neither visions coming from deep within, nor the moods of sensuality. He knows the cowardice of man and the courage needed for survival. He knows the past and interrogates the future.
Illyés began his literary career in the 1920’s under the influence of Surrealism and Activism. He found his original style and tone at the end of the 1920’s and the beginning of the 1930’s. Lyric and epic qualities combined with precise, dry, objective descriptions (whose unimpassioned tone is occasionally heated by lyric...
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