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Ottó Tolnai was born in Magyarkanizsa/Kanjiza in Vojvodina, the Hungarian-speaking part of today's Serbia, in 1940; today he lives in Palics in the same region. Tolnai works as a poet, prose writer, dramatist, art critic, essayist, chief editor of the Veszpréme magazine Új Symposion and translator. He is regarded as one of the most important authors of contemporary Hungarian literature, whereby his work enjoys a special status, not least because of its extreme complexity. Tolnai has published more than thirty books in Hungary and Yugoslavia and has received numerous national and international prizes, including the Brücke Prize in 1967 and 1980, the Attila József Prize in 1991, the Endre Ady Prize from the Soros Foundation Budapest 1993, the Tibor Déry Prize 1995 and, most recently, the Hungarian Literature Prize 2005 from the Foundation Hungary in Europe for his "novel of a radio interview", "Költ? disznózsírból" (Poets Made of Lard, 2004), in which he recorded dialogues with Lajos Parti Nagy.

In the volume "I sketch the acacia wood in my notebook" (2002) Tolnai's characters look back at their lives in four loosely connected stories. The protagonists' inner monologues are rife with memories – the fictive and the experienced are adjacent and equally important –, and scurrilous-surreal anecdotes are combined with descriptions of everyday rural life. The author uses a clear and yet still poetic language and lends structure to his non-linear narrative method with repetitions and recurrent metaphors as leitmotifs.

Those who read Tolnai, according to the Hungarian author Lajos Parti Nagy in the foreword to the "acacia wood" volume, will "get to know someone who, in terms of significance and status, is closely related to Danilo Kiš, Bohumil Hrabals or even Sándor Weöres. Immediately and as if by a miracle, this rural area is transformed into the centre of the created world, as soon as Ottó Tolnai lays hands on it and creates from it lyric poetry, prose or essays – in a word; a characteristic, comprehensive Tolnaiad." Orpheus from the country is a name Ottó Tolnai has given to himself; he has chosen the life of a poet in the provinces voluntarily, for he sees the microcosm as an inexhaustible reservoir of stories.

Publications in German Translation
Der Weihnachtsbaumfäller; Pali? (Palics), both in: Das Buch der Ränder. Die Unsichtbaren – Ungarische Prosa jenseits der Staatsgrenzen. Edited by Irene Rübberdt and Christine Schlosser. Wieser, Klagenfurt 1999
Schönes Babylon. Gedichte aus Europa in 12 Sprachen. Edited by Gregor Laschen. DuMont, Cologne 1999
Ich kritzelte das Akazienwäldchen in mein Heft. Vier Erzählungen. Translated from the Hungarian by György Buda and Géza Deréky. edition per procura, Vienna/Lana 2002
Akzente (1/2005) 2005
Eine Postkarte an Don Dukay. Neun Geschichten aus der Provinz. Translated from the Hungarian by György Buda, with an epilogue by Gábor Csordás. DAAD series Spurensicherung 15. DAAD, Berliner Künstlerprogramm, Berlin 2005
Lorbeeren vom Balkan. Gedichte. Sprache im technischen Zeitalter 178 (2/2006) 2006
Published by DAAD
Eine Postkarte an Don Dukay 2005
Events by DAAD
Kleine Sprachen - Große Literaturen

Lesungen von Daniel B?nilescu, Petr Borkovec, Gianni Celati, Feng Li, Amanda Michalopoulou, Ottó Tolnai, Filmgespräch mit László Garaczi


Abgesang vom Balkan

Lesung mit Ottó Tolnai. Einführung: Ernest Wichner. Freitag, 25. Februar 2005, 20:00 Uhr Literaturhaus Berlin.

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