Other Literary Forms
Although principally a poet, Gyula Illyés was also the author of significant prose and drama. Two of his most important prose works appeared in the 1930’s: Puszták népe (1936; People of the Puszta, 1967), widely translated, is partly an autobiographical documentary and partly a sociography of Hungary’s poverty-stricken peasantry; Peto``fi (1936; English translation, 1973) is both a personal confession and a scholarly analysis of the great nineteenth century poet, Sándor Petőfi. Published late in Illyés’s life, the essays collected in Szellem és ero``szak (1978; spirit and violence), officially banned but published in the West in a facsimile edition, reflects his concern about the mistreatment of four million Hungarians living as minorities in countries neighboring Hungary. His principal plays deal with a search for lessons in Hungary’s history.
Illyés also excelled as a translator of Louis Aragon, Ben Jonson, Robert Burns, Paul Éluard, Victor Hugo, Jean Racine, François Villon, and others; a collection of his translations was published in 1963 under the title of Nyitott ajtó (open door).