A true cosmopolitan, Ferenc Molnár was born to a wealthy family and lived in luxury most of his life. The son of Dr. Mór Neumann, a prosperous Jewish physician, and Jozefa Wallfisch, a frail, sickly woman, Molnár and his only sister, Erzsébet, were reared by nannies and taught by tutors as young children. In 1887, Molnár entered the Református Gimnázium, a Calvinist high school, where, at the age of fourteen, he began to write, launching a student newspaper and undertaking his first dramatic venture. After he was graduated in 1895, Molnár enrolled at the University of Budapest to study law, where he formed the habit of sitting in the Central Café to study and entertain friends with his bons mots and puns. His father quickly sent him to Geneva to continue his legal training there but to no avail. While abroad, Molnár began to write in earnest, sending home vivid reports to be published in the Budapest papers. He also finished a novel, Magdolna és egyéb elbeszélések (1898), while traveling in France. After returning home, he abandoned law and became a full-time journalist, working for József Vészi’s Budapesti napló. Soon he published a new novel, Az éhes város (1901; the hungry city), and saw the opening of his first play, A doktor úr (the lawyer).
In the ensuing years, Molnár published at least one book a year, and his fame grew rapidly. His charm, wit, and banter made him the favorite...
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