Women’s Literary Tradition and Twentieth-Century Hungarian Writers

Renée Erdős, Ágnes Nemes Nagy, Minka Czóbel, Ilona Harmos Kosztolányi, Anna Lesznai


In Women’s Literary Tradition and Twentieth-Century Hungarian Writers, Anna Menyhért presents the cases of five women writers whose legacy literary criticism has neglected or distorted, thereby depriving succeeding generations of vital cultural memory and inspiration. A best-selling novelist and poet in her time, Renée Erdős wrote innovatively about women's experience of sexual love. Minka Czóbel wrote modern trauma texts only to pass into literary history branded, as a result of ideological pressure in communist times, as an 'ugly woman'. Ágnes Nemes Nagy, celebrated for her ‘masculine’ poems, felt she must suppress her ‘feminine’ poems. Famous writer’s widow Ilona Harmos Kosztolányi’s autobiographical writing tackles the physical challenges of girls' adolescence, and offers us a woman’s thoughtful Holocaust memoir. Anna Lesznai, émigrée and visual artist, wove together memory and fiction using techniques from patchworking and embroidery.

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Anna Menyhért is a Professor of Trauma Studies at the University of Jewish Studies in Budapest. She is an academic and a writer; her research focuses on two threads: trauma in the digital age and women’s literature.

Anna Bentley has been translating Hungarian literature since 2015. She graduated from the Balassi Institute, Budapest’s Literary Translation Programme in 2018.
“The result is a fascinating reading about important stations in the selected writers' lives and careers along with Menyhért’s well-reflected challenging of their existing place in the Hungarian literary canon and her convincing arguments for the place they deserve in that very same canon. She undertakes this re-evaluation not only for the sake of demonstrating the shortcomings and narrow-mindedness of the existing canon but also to offer herself and other women writing today some literary predecessors of their own gender they can build on, both in terms of language and literary imagery and technique, and from whom they can take their inspiration. She demonstrates, against the oft-reiterated argument (by both male and some female literary critics and writers) that there is only one literature irrespective of the author’s gender, that gender matters, and that it matters to a very important degree when it comes to who is allowed entry into the canon and who, and why, is pushed to its margins or altogether out of it.”
- Agatha Schwartz, University of Ottawa Canada, in Hungarian Cultural Studies Vol. 14 2021 pp. 260-263
Foreword: a Writer in Search of Her Foremothers
emsp;Nadezhda Alexandrova and Suzan van Dijk
List of Illustrations
Translator’s Note

1 A Tradition of One’s Own
emsp;1 A Tradition of Forgetting
emsp;2 Canons and Sinking Streams
emsp;3 Women’s Literature
emsp;4 My Own Say
emsp;5 From Room to Room, All the Way to My Own Room
emsp;6 A Portrait Gallery on the Museum’s Postcard
2 Between Love and the Canon: Renée Erdős (1879–1956)
emsp;1 Author’s House: Closed
emsp;2 Private Life – Literary Life
emsp;3 Woman Writer at the Journal Future
emsp;4 The Woman Writer’s Chances
emsp;5 Voices in the Novels
emsp;6 Fracture
emsp;7 Success in Her Time
emsp;8 Contemporary Reviews
emsp;9 The Label of Erotic Lady Author
emsp;10 Female Voice, Female Verse
emsp;11 The Author’s House Is Open
3 In the Canon with Secrets: Ágnes Nemes Nagy (1922–1991) and the Women’s Literary Tradition
emsp;1 The Weeping Poetess
emsp;2 Secret Poems and the Writing of Literary History
emsp;3 The Female Poet and Objective Poetry
emsp;4 Woman’s Room, Woman’s Landscape, Woman’s Body
emsp;5 Self-Liquidation and Recognition
emsp;6 A Woman’s Role
emsp;7 Statue and Mask
emsp;8 Women’s Poetic Tradition
emsp;9 Entering the Room
emsp;10 Epilogue
4 No Canon for Otherness - The Witch: Minka Czóbel (1854–1943)
emsp;1 The Enigmatic Monographer
emsp;2 The Mysterious Bob
emsp;3 Detective Work
emsp;4 Painting a Portrait
emsp;5 Writing between the Lines
emsp;6 Ugly, Ugly, Not Fit for the Canon
emsp;7 Contemporary Views of Minka Czóbel
emsp;8 The Feminist Witch
emsp;9 The Otherness of the Witch
emsp;10 Loss of Control
emsp;11 Perversion, Horror, Revenge, Web
emsp;12 Boundaries, Mirrors
emsp;13 Reading the Witch
5 Mirror, Body, Trauma - a Writer’s Wife at the Edge of the Canon: Ilona Harmos Kosztolányi (1885–1967)
emsp;1 To Big Girls about Little Girls
emsp;2 Widow, Pigeonholed: the Writer’s Wife
emsp;3 Female Reading
emsp;4 Body
emsp;5 Mirror
emsp;6 Women’s Holocaust Memoirs
emsp;7 Trauma: Persecutors and Persecuted
emsp;8 Setting the Stage for Death
emsp;9 Connections: Ilona Harmos, Minka Czóbel, Dezső Kosztolányi, Ágnes Nemes Nagy
emsp;10 The Writing Woman
emsp;11 Sitting Down at the Writing Desk
6 Museum, Cult, Memory - Locked in the Canon: Lesznai (1885–1966)
emsp;1 Memory’s Volunteers
emsp;2 The Well- Known Woman Writer
emsp;3 Museum, Cult, Memory
emsp;4 Dusting Off a Novel
emsp;5 Belatedness and Renewal
emsp;6 Threads and Patterns
emsp;7 Female Figures
emsp;8 A Father’s Blessing
emsp;9 The Novel that Remembers
emsp;10 Nižný Hrušov – Memory’s Tou

Apendix 1 List of Poems and Their Translators
Apendix 2 A List of Titles of Works Referred to in English and in Hungarian
Scholars of humanities, post-graduates, teachers, students, average educated readers; in various subfields of literature, women’s studies, gender studies, memory studies, trauma studies. One of its strengths is its readable style that makes theoretical concepts and insights accessible for readers at different levels.
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