Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Although best known for his lyric poetry, Mihály Babits was also among the outstanding essayists of modern Hungary, and his novels and short stories were important expressions of the Hungarian intellectuals’ search for their place in a changing society. Equally familiar with the history of European and Hungarian culture, the formal and contextual problems of literature from Homer to the moderns, and the literary struggles of his own times, Babits wrote essays on topics ranging from Henri Bergson and Friedrich Nietzsche to folk literature. Especially revealing of his attitude toward the responsibility of creative artists is his 1928 essay, Az írástudók árulása (the treason of the intellectuals), which took its topic as well as its title from Julien Benda’s La Trahison des clercs (1927). Babits’s awareness of the intellectual and artistic ferment of the twentieth century is evidenced by the numerous reviews and critical essays he published.

Babits’s novels and short stories are marked by the lyrical approach to prose characteristic of his generation. His short novel A gólyakalfia (1916; The Nightmare, 1966) is heavily garlanded with the Freudian trappings of the period, particularly with notions concerning dreams and split personalities. The novel Timár Virgil fia (1922; the son of Virgil Timár) is closer to the author’s own experiences, as it deals with the life of a teacher-priest whose...

(The entire section is 485 words.)