Borbély Szilárd költő, író, irodalomtörténész, kritikus életműve két évvel ezelőtt, fájdalmasan korán zárult le. Jóllehet, a hagyatékban föllelhetőek kiadatlan darabok – így például a szerző (jelen lapszámban is ismertetett) Csokonai-könyve tördelt változatba került, s a nyomdai munkálatokra vár –, az oeuvre lényegében az 1988 és 2013 közötti időszak termését foglalja magában, az Adatok című verseskötet megjelenésétől a Nincstelenek című regény publikálásáig ívelően. Tucatnyi szépirodalmi kötetről (köztük lírai, drámai és epikai művekről), irodalomtudományos munkákról és egy kortárs kritikai gyűjteményről van szó, s az életmű mind mennyiségét, de legfőképp minőségét és egyedülálló jellegét tekintve kiérdemli a vele történő alapos számvetést. A lap szerkesztőbizottsága, valamint a Debreceni Egyetem Magyar Irodalom- és Kultúratudományi Intézete úgy látta, hogy Borbély Szilárd kollégánk és szerkesztőtársunk emlékét az ápolja leginkább méltóképpen, ha a Studia Litteraria az életművet rendszerszerűen áttekintő, tudományos igényű lapszámot jelentet meg – olyan közeli időpillanatban, amely a szakmai távolságtartást már (valamelyest) lehetővé teszi. A szakmai szerkesztői feladatok ellátására Valastyán Tamás és jómagam kaptunk megbízatást. A célkitűzés eléréséhez a szerző munkásságát jól ismerő, illetőleg arra újszerű, friss pillantást vető szakembereket egyaránt igyekeztünk megszólítani, azzal a kéréssel, hogy írásaikkal ne az emlékműavatás gesztusát gyakorolják, hanem a szövegek megszólításával, megnyitásával a szakmai párbeszéd és együttgondolkodás feltételeit teremtsék meg.
Szilárd Borbély’s career as a literary historian began with a thesis about Csokonai, and ended with a postdoctoral work about the same poet a quarter century later. This paper gives a rough sketch about the path between these two endpoints, in a subjective manner. The first part is the overview of this thematically diverse progress, including the most relevant text editions and books. The second half of the paper offers a shot description of the remarkable characteristics of the Csokonai biography, which was edited posthumously.
Szilárd Borbély described the periodical change in poetry at the turn of the 18th and 19th century as a ”shift in the attitude of literary texts” and as a transformation of ”literary understanding”. The turning away from the late Baroque and Classic poetry – which both followed inherited models of genre – came when the narrator received a unique identity, and the reader began to understand the text as an expression of the Self. This change can be pointed out in Sándor Kisfaludy’s cycle of poems, Kesergő szerelem (1802), which influenced the creation of Csokonai’s own cycle of love poems. The temporalization of the attitude towards the textual genre happened in the poetry of Ferenc Kölcsey. The narrators of Kölcsey’s Vanitatum vanitas and Hymnus create their identity by uniquely reflecting on the genre and dislocating the ready-made meanings. The peak of the transition is the inventive formation of history by means of poetry and language. The epic poetry of Mihály Vörösmarty structures language in a way that makes the mythical recounting of origin possible for the subject attempting to establish an identity in the past. Yet this language brought about the paradox of excluding the subjective from the expression. The concept emphasizing the formation of the attitude that reflects on the genre by language is not only a re-interpretation of 18th-19th century Hungarian poetry, but it is obviously close to the postmodern poetic method which is attributed to Halotti pompa [The Splendours of Death].
The paper focuses on Szilárd Borbély’s dramas, more particularly on Istenasszony Debrecen, which is his only piece with humorous parts, although it is not a comedy. The play is connected with the literary history works of the author. The main characters are Ferenc Kazinczy and Csokonai: two figures of Hungarian literature in the 18th and 19th century, who Borbély thoroughly studied. I examine the drama from the aspect of revealing Borbély’s expertise as a literary historian, and from the ways its poetic characteristics reveal his knowledge about literary history, especially the latest findings of the Kazinczy research. My paper also reviews the role of dramaturgical innovations, and the belated and ambiguous reception of Borbély’s dramas.
In the oeuvre of Szilárd Borbély a complex system of references relates his works to the lyrical and publicist writings of János Pilinszky. Whereas Borbély’s poetry cites some canonical texts of Piliszky often in a „blasphemous” reversal, his essays and interviews keep a polemic dialogue with the Catholic poet by using theological arguments. The debate, which primarily concerns the Christian interpretation of the Holocaust, shows a shift of pivotal importance. Although Pilinszky wrote about the Holocaust as the „abyss of history”, he, however, maintained the unchanged validity of a Christological interpretation. Borbély on the contrary, highlights the antagonistic conflict between the doctrinal tradition of Christianity and the experience of history. Although he did not strive to build a new system of thought, his utterances create an original constellation of poetical, theological, historical and social scientific reflection. His attitude is not only a more radical one than that of Pilinszky, but coincides with recent theological interpretations, in which the memory of Auschwitz proves to be inseparable from the recognition of incapability of the explanatory framework of classical theodicy.
The configuration of faith and desperation constitutes a pattern in modernity that appears in different ethical, epistemic and aestethic contexts. I think that this pattern is outlined in the poetry and essays of Szilárd Borbély and what is more, it has essential power. We may say that the existence after the holocaust can be measured by its own relations in contrast to genocide. Existence is already a relation to genocide. In my essay I present the attempts of Borbély Szilárd to show that horrible measurement. Or more exactly: I cannot explore the characters of his deep, colourful laminated, and sometimes controversial answers; I just focus on three points: At first I present the dilemmas of dealing with the poetic life-work of Miklós Radnóti; then I discuss the polemic relation to the holocaust interpretation of Kertész Imre; and finally I try to approach the poems in A Testhez [To the Body] which derive their truth from the memory of holocaust survivors.
The critical reviews and articles of Borbély Szilárd are collected in the volume Hungarikum-e a líra? The central question of this book is whether the canonical position of Hungarian poetry is relevant or exists at all. Besides the books of certain authors, this volume inquires into different poetical forms, patterns and modifications in the history of Hungarian poetry, which are subordinated to the ideological discourse, beyond the system of literature. In my study I try to reveal the blindness and insights of Borbély’s reading, and moreover I try to show how the foregoing ideological figure, which Borbély tried to eliminate, can be basically rewritten into Borbély’s concept by the arrestive paradox that constitutes the structures and methods of his book. Hence I attempt to reveal ’Borbély’s unique voice’ that configures the language and narrative technique of his book. My aim was to present the merits of his volume and find its place in the author’s oeuvre.
The first book of Szilárd Borbély, Adatok (1988), did not receive much attention from the readers and the critics, so it has not received any professional reviews. It is a book with eclectic genres, stylistic peculiarities and pathetic tones of the voice, that did not meet the readers’ expectations in the time of regime change. Critics of Borbély’s later books consider it an experiment. No comprehensive interpretations have been written and its place in the oeuvre has not been determined. The book is divergent at the first reading, yet this divergence is consistent. The style is often anachronistic, but the setting is full of experimental solutions, therefore the texts rely heavily on the experimental attitude of avant-garde poems. The study of the text corpus with its essayistic and lyrical details help to rehabilitate the first chapters of the lifework and to discover the topics, motifs and motivations of Borbély’s subsequent books. This essay takes a closer look at the first and only edition of Adatok, including the (essay)poems and related visual parts, the characteristics of Borbély’s first publications prior to this volume, and also the connections between Borbély’s early poems and the avant-garde.
According to the reviews of Szilárd Borbély’s long poem Hosszú nap el (1993), the monotonous and repetitive characteristics of the work are based on the imitation of lingual sense-making and its unconscious processes. Most of the interpretations influenced by the ravaged and flawed side of the text have been dissolved in the varios trophes (stuttering, incantations etc) of orality and social language use that refer to the performative function of language. The analysis of the poem’s allegorical structure highlights that the identity of the speaking self is unsettled by the repetition encoded in the trophe and by a temporality which ties the birth of the subject to the witholding of speech. In my paper I attempt to reveal the patterns of a manipulated and ”overcoded” language behind the syntactical and rhetorical infractions of Borbély’s poem.
Szilárd Borbély’s Berlin & Hamlet may raise a number of questions about the subjectivity of postmodern text creation. Berlin has a special place in the ambivalent relationship between the literary tradition evoked by the poems and the author’s unexpressed intention. All of these broaden and narrow down the range of possible interpretations of this book. The streets, statues, museums of the place called ”Urbangod” stand as the crumbling sets of the declining European culture. Parallel with this, the tools of poetry seem to peel off the disappearing character of the poet, who represents an existence without a centre. The language of the poems is a mixture of sceptical and elegic tones, while the textual world is enigmatic, fragmented and it relativizes the allegorical speech – all these give way to a number of assumptions about the lyrical self which is revealed in poetical roles, and which, at times, exposes itself. A monological dialogue stems from the implications of the hiding lyrical self and the summoned spectre, in which the distance between the speakers and the addressees is insurmountable. This distance can be partially covered by an analysis, as the author, lost in the labirynth of sounds, can only fill the space between the texts by his own absence.
The presence of Pilinszky’s lyrical poetry in Borbély Szilárd’s works is common knowledge which can easily be proved with examples taken from Borbély’s statements and the reception of his works. This study examines the connections between the poetic history of the two oeuvres from two aspects. First, the ways they relate to Christian traditions are brought into discussion. Arguing with the canonized interpretations of Pilinszky’s reception too, the question to be answered is whether only the theologically anti-dogmatic articulation of the experience of not-being-redeemed can be the poetically relevant statement from poets in the lyrical poetry of modernity and postmodernity. Second, the analysis of the poem about camp commander Otto Moll in the cycle entitled Haszid szekvenciák [Hasidic Sequences] of Halotti Pompa through the dialogue between the religious traditions intends to illustrate how Szilárd Borbély was able to reinterpret Pilinszky’s well-known paradox of “atoning the unatonable” in his own pessimistic world, and in so doing how he can preserve something from passing hope.
The present study attempts to analyze kabbalistic motifs in the poetic cycle Hasidic Sequences by Szilárd Borbély, which is included in the amplified third book of the second, extended edition of his poetry volume Halotti pompa [The Splendours of Death – 2006]. By using the theory of transtextuality developed by Gérard Genette, focusing on the elaborated motif-structure gathered around the topic of creation of the world, it is clear that hypertexts, used by the author, are derived from the imaginarium of the creation of late lurianic kabbalah. These pretexts or hypotexts, however, originated from the Talmudic or Biblical sources. In this manner of palimpsestuous reading, the texts reveal their unique bricolage structure, which offers a detailed view of Szilárd Borbély’s writing method.
Szilárd Borbély’s poetry often operates with the concepts of body and language, especially regarding trauma experiences and mourning. My paper examines these concepts in two of his volumes (Halotti Pompa [The Splendours of Death] and A Testhez [To the Body]) and tries to show how the relation of body and language creates the notion of the self. The meanings of these notions constantly change and are extremely volatile in Borbély’s poetry, therefore I attempt to highlight how they occur through some examples rather than giving a dictionary. At the same time the paper aims at presenting the main characteristics of Borbély’s poetry and showing how these poems transform the innermost personal experiences to more general (social and cultural) problems. Interpreting the “legends” of A Testhez, my paper also introduces relevant theories of trauma, and focuses on the relations between trauma experiences and fragmented language, and on the poetic tools that make the “wounds” of the texts visible.
The study deals with the possibilities of the subordinate language in the texts of Szilárd Borbély. The theoretical background is provided by the article of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak Can the subaltern speak?, Marxist philosophy, deconstruction, postcolonial literary theory, cultural studies, feminist literary studies, trauma theory, ecocriticism, multiculturalism and network theory. The paper refers to the change that occured in Hungarian literature and in the works of Szilárd Borbély from around 2000, resulting in the replacement of the ironic-parodic language of literature with the traumatic. The subordinated language of the works of Szilárd Borbély can be approached as a poetics of silence, communication disorders, speech impediments, aphasia, a voice disorder, stuttering, the anarthria, dysarthria, apraxia, mutism etc., as well as a dialect and the poetics of error. The grammatical and stylistic errors of the texts result in a tragic and traumatic effect.
The dramatic texts of Szilárd Borbély, who was canonized as a poet and later as a prose writer, have been left beyond the vantage point of contemporary theatre. Zsuzsa Radnóti notices this distance when she refers to Borbély as a ”wait-listed author”, and a ”loss” for Hungarian theatre. Besides the examination of recent theatrical performances – most of which are based on prosaic works –, the paper attempts to highlight different approaches to Borbély’s plays and the legitimacy of the unique dramatic solutions of the texts by reading the dramatic oeuvre from the thematic opposition of seeing and blindness.
In the drama titled Az Olaszliszkai the author sums up the essence of our contemporary situation in a Shakespearean paraphrase: “The country stinks”. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, a minor character utters one of the key sentences: ”Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”. Considering the consequences of “rottenness”, we can also speak of stinking. But now, not “something” stinks, the country itself has a stench – the country is Hungary at the beginning of the 21st century. Szilárd Borbély searched for the possible literary presentation of this stinking country. But what makes a country stink? That is, what can the metaphor of “stinking” hint at? Reading the novel, Nincstelenek [The Dispossessed], we tend to think that the country stinks of poverty. However, we have only shifted the question: what exactly does “human deepness” mean? How can we define its centre or rather its core? If I had to answer this question, I would point out violence first of all. The dispossessed – the poor, the small and the other – are the ones being targeted and ill-treated. The country stinks of their suffering. In this sense, “dispossession” generally features the world of the dramas, and the present paper discusses Az Olaszliszkai in this context.
The paper is an overdue review on the volume Árnyképrajzoló – körülírások [Draughtsman of Shadow – Circumlocutions – 2008]. Having construed the relations between the title story and its subtitle, the paper comes to the conclusion that one possible interpretation of the term „circumlocutions” refers to the linguistic strategy that is characteristic of nearly all writings of the volume. Szilárd Borbély was widely acknowledged as one of the most important poets at the time of the publishing of the book. However, as a prose writer, he was in an experimental stage. These writings represent this experimental playground. The essay Egy bűntény mellékszálai [The Secondary Threads of a Crime], as well as its counterpart the volume Halotti pompa [The Splendours of Death], which was a milestone in contemporary Hungarian literature, can be regarded as a masterpiece without exaggeration. The key of the literary success is the fact that the narrator treats the tragic fate of his parents, who were victims of a brutal robbery, as a text. Szilárd Borbély applies a tool of his own profession, narratology to this story. He deconstructs – in the Derrida-esque sense - the traditional ways of narration.
The self-definition of Szilárd Borbély’s only novel – limited fiction based on biographical elements – makes biographical and referential readings possible, thus we can interpret the text as the novel of 20th century poverty and traumatised childhood. However, the aspects of interpretation are concerned with the methods of fiction, the existential and metaphysical questions of the book: the child narrator’s tone offers the vision of a childhood rolling in an eternal present. This, together with the amnesia that interweaves the whole text, suggests a hopeless state of being. The feelings of otherness and solitariness, the signs of the absurdity of waiting for a Messiah and the representation of misery expand to an antrophological stance. New meanings can be attributed to the image of desperate human existence by the motif of prime numbers. The novels of Péter Esterházy, Sándor Tar and Tibor Noé Kiss are also discussed in connection with the representation of poverty and teodicea.
The author of this essay looks at the book Nincstelenek, as something very special; the author of the book struggles with himself, because he wants to understand why he has been different from everybody else from his childhood. He must re-createhis childhood self to be able to give account about a very deep and severe trauma he could cope with any means. He wants to understand himself at last. He tries to create a distance from his childhood self, and from the world where he felt alienated as a child. Lacking that distance he could not live further. But not even the prime numbers could help him, though there is an exact order among them; and the design of the old house could not help him either. Szilárd Borbély was not able to stop the confusion of his life.
The mother is a central figure in the works of Szilárd Borbély, and she usually appears as Mater Dolorosa, the sorrowful mother. The novel Nincstelenek is exceptional in this respect, because it also presents her as the resisting mother. The novel focuses on the aggressive attribution of identities, the exclusion of those who are considered Jewish – and thus: as the Other – from the community. This process stretches over several generations. The only character in the novel whose attitude towards this violent attribution of inferior identity consciously changes is the mother. While her husband and her children are stigmatized by blood lineage, in the case of the mother Jewishness is a choice. Thus she becomes able to understand the events that befall her family, their exclusion, their poverty. She offers this insight to her husband at the end of the novel, and he finally accepts the status of the Jew, and participates in the Shabbat ritual. The peculiar practice of the mother is an attempt to grasp agency.
The issue of subjectivity became particularly relevant in the second half of Szilárd Borbély’s oeuvre. While his first period in the 1990s is dominated by the poetical power hidden in silence and the unspeakable, the works after 2000 have the characteristics of a closeness between the lyrical self and the real self, the former previously defined as ironical and reserved. These are the results of a fatal tragedy, the deadly attack on his parents, which has become the focal point of Borbély’s individual mythology. The thematisation of subjectivity, however, did not end in the formation of an autoreferential horizon. Instead, the poet created a net of meanings where the events of his own life are blended together with the Christian narrative of salvation, different myths, literary and philosphical parables. In my paper I investigate the way the personal and abstract structure of the lyrical self is represented in the subsitute sacrifice as a form of identity and in the theological and metaphysical topos of eternity, both of which being the defining motifs of Borbély’s second period.