Kálmán Mikszáth (MIHK-saht) was born in Szklabonya, Hungary, on January 16, 1847, the son of an innkeeper and butcher descended from a family of Lutheran gentry. Despite family hardships, he received a law degree from the University of Budapest and for a time eked out a living as a county clerk and journalist. Many of his later short stories which treat debt and poverty with comic irony stem from this period. His journalistic fortunes improved as he moved from one newspaper to another until, in 1871, he began to publish fiction. His fame then rapidly increased; he was elected to the national literary societies, was awarded the grand prize of the Hungarian Academy, was granted an honorary degree from the University of Budapest, and was elected president of the Hungarian Society of Journalists.
Despite his turbulent personal life (he divorced and remarried his wife and saw his young son die), Mikszáth’s writings generally show a detached, humorous attitude toward human foibles and frailities, with only occasional touches of bitterness. Even his most explicitly “problem” novels are filled with wit and fantasy as characters from different centuries and classes confront one another with a comic hostility and bewilderment. He was, however, not a rebel but a conservative country gentleman who loved the common people.
Mikszáth received national honors in 1908, when an estate was purchased and presented to him; his birthplace was named after him, and essays, monographs, and books devoted to his work were published. His stories and novels constitute a collected edition of fifty volumes (1931). He died in Budapest on May 28, 1910.