László Végel
Serbia / Hungary
László Végel was born in Srbobran, Serbia, in 1941 and now lives in Novi Sad. He works as the editor of the Hungarian magazine Uj Symposion, and as a dramaturge for Novi Sad's television channel and the people's theatre of Subotica. From 1994 until its closure in 2000 he was the managing director of the offices of the Soros Society in Novi Sad. László Végel published his first novel in 1968; since then, six novels, seven volumes of essays and several theatre plays have appeared in Hungarian and Serbian. He is regarded as one of the most important innovators in modern Hungarian prose writing.

László Végel is a "homeless local patriot", a member of the Hungarian minority in Serbia and – like Danilo Kiš, Aleksandar Tišma or Ottó Tolnai – one of the great authors of the Vojvodina. At an early date, László Végel became familiar with the role of the outsider as a result of his own exclusion. As a young man, for example, he was obliged to meet his Serbian girlfriend at the Catholic churchyard, even in the winter, because her father had forbidden her to see this "jumped-up Hungarian" and "descendant of fascists".

László Végel made such early stigmatisation – "the experience of isolation and of being an outsider, the drama of an awareness of identity", the struggle of the individual "excluded from the (national-) state" – into his literary theme. As a consequence, he has always written about the existential experiences of modern man, left alone on the stage of life. "Those who live their lives with this experience know that they are suffocating in the narrow context, yet lost within the wider frame; nevertheless, they have no choice, for they must find a temporary home in the insoluble contradiction between the two."

Until nationalism in Serbia grew unbearable and the war began at the beginning of the 90s, László Végel believed that he had found a home in Novi Sad. But "just as the state disintegrated, Novi Sad did too, for the true values of peripheral groups can only be upheld in a mosaic-like city, characterised by the multi-cultural. The city by the Danube, on the border between Central Europe and the Balkans, had a chance to embody a fortunate encounter of the diverse among its inhabitants. Located at an interface of cultures, in the once ethnically diverse Yugoslavia, Novi Sad sustained the idea that a city is something different to a country, possibly something more, and thus suited to the utopia of free, independent city-dwellers." But with the war, Novi Sad turned into a grey, Serbian provincial city. And on a visit to Hungary in 1999, László Végel experienced "double foreignness": while NATO was bombing Belgrade, he was sent – as a "Yugo" – back "home" from Budapest to Serbia because his residence permit had expired.

Since then, László Végel has had even fewer illusions about the basic nature of man. "I often catch myself walking up and down in the rooms of my empty apartment, searching for a place where I can remain permanently. A place where my memories do not punish me, because nothing under the sun is spying on me. For in recent years, I have only argued with the sky. I could no longer be disappointed by anything else."