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New protagonist in the canon of modernity: Lőrinc Szabó

Dr. Lóránt Kábdebó was in the air on December 31, 2021 in Zugló TV KultúrZug’s life. This was his very last occasion to be seen in public, unfortunatelly, he passed away very soon after this conversation.

Professor Kábdebó as the most outstanding specialist, most established monographer of the Hungarian poet Lőrinc Szabó’s life and poetry, was interviewed by Gábor Ferenc about his newest publication, Egy költő agya. (Brain of a Poet).

Lóránt Kabdebó:

In 1962 I commenced to perform the monographic processing of poet-career, to disclose and publish the text-world of Lőrinc Szabó, our classical poet and great son of Miskolc.

Prior to the change of regime I collected and published the documents of his oeuvre by a one-man work, later as professor and leader of the PhD-course this work continued by training of students (1). In addition of the documentation of the poet’s course of life I aimed right at the beginning at the publication of the text-world of Lőrinc Szabó, to reach the level just preceding the critical edition. Finally, this was reached by the publication of the Lőrinc Szabó series of the Osiris Classics (Osiris Klasszikusok). „Under the guidance of Lóránt Kabdebó” attested texts supplied with the necessary notes and reference service were published in cooperation with students and researchers.

The edition including all his known poems run into its second edition, the two volumes of „Our Everlasting Friends” (Örök Barátaink), a selection of his translations compiled by the poer himself, the volumes „Verse and Reality” (Vers és Valóság) and „Confidential Data and Notes” (Bizalmas adatok és megjegyzések) with verse explanations, later the prose-volumes issued with critical character: „Memoirs and Publitistics” (Emlékezések és publicisztikai írások), „Confessions” (Vallomások) and the „Literary Studies” (Irodalmi tanulmányok) were published.

Simultaneously, the Lőrinc Szabó Research Group (Szabó Lőrinc Kutatóhely) established at the Miskolc University, with the aid of OTKA-support (OTKA – National Scientific Research Fund) published eleven documentary volumes, in cooperation with the Csokonai Publishing House of Debrecen issued five unpublished drama-translations of Lőrinc Szabó. Seven memorial tablets were erected and unveiled with ceremony abroad relating to the poet’s presence, coupling these ceremonies with local foreign language conferences (Titisee, Opatija, Dubrovnik, Macocha–cave near Brno, Hafling-Avelengo, Korcula and the Balassagyarmat-Bridge that served and border-bridge for some time). In cooperation with the Archive of Manuscripts of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences’ Library (MTA Könyvtára Kézirattár) the website entitled Lőrinc Szabó – Vers and Reality (Szabó Lőrinc – Vers és Valóság), that allows the digital appearance and data processing of all the printed pieces and all variants of all poems published up to the edition of „Omnibus Volume of Lőrinc Szabó, 1943” – Szabó Lőrinc Összes versei, 1943 (as researching-creating work of my younger colleague, Károly Horányi).

In the Research Group Bálint Szele, Csilla Nagy, Aranka Kemény and László Barna grew into professional up-to-date philologists of the Lőrinc Szabó Philology, most of them defended their PhD-dissertation at our University. Further, the conference series of Pécs and Miskolc organized together with academician Ernő Kulcsár Szabó that meant the change of process of the professional regime can also be mentioned, as well as the cycles of the Hungarian professional periodicals (Irodalomtörténet, Literatura) reducted by us, where a new generation of scientists grew up who are today academic doctors (among them the other monographer of Lőrinc Szabó, Zoltán Kulcsár-Szabó, who commenced his career of training in my department of the Miskolc University, and today he’s one of the determinant personalities of our profession).

When I started to work, László Németh gave my work his blessing: he emphasized even in two letters the importance of the task and to treat it as national interset: „I see you deal with Lőrinc Szabó. He is one of those who has been sentenced to eliminate from the public remembrance without ado. It is a hard but noble task to work against this careless oblivion and vicious living down.” (17th November 1966); „I’m also glad that your book on Lőrinc Szabó is in progress […] I do belive that even in this case the socially unpromising subject will be asociated with high mental and professional enrichment: since in addition to his talent the career of a critic depends first of all on his orientation – to what he risks himself.”

(15th September 1967) (2).

László Cs. Szabó in the emigartion, in London suggested a proposal for the Mikes Kelemen Society of Amsterdam – as obeisance of western writers to the national performances – and published his opinion before the public in the Irodalmi Újság (Literary News) of Paris(3), in 1983  just the Lőrinc Szabó-research (at that time a one-man team) was awarded by the commemorative plaque of the society (the plaque and deed of gift could be sent home only by smuggling through the border): „The omission of Hungarians is staggering. Out of the two Nyugat-generations only one great poet is „redeemed”: only Lőrinc Szabó has a biography in three volumes, large volumes, complete and relatively final in western sense of the word or une biographie définitive as it is said in France. In Kortárs similar words were written by academician István Sőtér under the title Lőrinc Szabó and his synopsis. (4)

At the moment of the change of regime when the Diary of 1945, apologies and verse-interpretations of the poet were issued (5) Tamás wrote in his essay: „L.K. – who when issueing the Napló, levelek, cikkek (Dairy, letters, articles) in 1974 and since then redacting the Harmichat év (Thirty six years), this amazing book of letters, and Bírákhoz és barátokhoz (To Judges and to Friends), these staggering confessions made a great service to all Hungarian friends of literature – last year clearly showed to the general reader: how a philologist can change the literary history. (6)

In the Hungarian change of regime of literary scieneces Lőrinc Szabó could have appeared as protagonist. As a result of repeated OTKA-supports (National Scientific Research Fund) he is present in the mind of the cultivated public and history of literature with major part of his text-world. This is verified by the paper of Ágnes Osztovics from the new century: „Lóránt Kabdebó attained with a work of several decades that Lőrinc Szabó could get his deserved place in the Hungarian lyrics of the 20th century and so the image on the Hungarian poetry could be modified.” (7)

In leading periodical of the profession, Irodalomtörténet (History of Literature), the reviewer of the volume wrote the following about my comprehension on the Szabó Lőrinc researches: „Lóránt Kabdebó gives the modest title  Szabó Lőrinc utóélete („Posthumous life of Lőrinc Szabó) to his review on the processing, publication, critical edition and analysis of the poet’s text-world, although it becomes clear,how profound, careful giganteic work – performed along at the beginning and with student later on – stands in the background so Lőrinc Szabó, threatened by the danger of forgetting, could get the deserved position in the history of Hungarian lyrics.” (8)

I processed the poet-carreer of Lőrinc Szabó in a monography of three volumes (Szabó Lőrinc lázadó évtizede [Rebellious decade of Lőrinc Szabó], Útkeresés és különbéke. Szabó Lőrinc 1929-1944. [Seeking ways and means and separate peace. Lőrinc Szabó 1928–1944.]

Az összegzés ideje, Szabó lőrinc 1945–1957. [Time of summation, Lőrinc Szabó 1945–1957](9), then I wrote the poetic monography of the poet, that has two editions („A magyar költészet az én nyelvemen beszél.” A kései Nyugat-líra összegződése Szabó Lőrinc költészetében [„The Hungarian poetry speaks in my language”, Summation of the late Nyugat-lyrics in the poetry of Lőrinc Szabó], the text of my academic doctoral theses served as a basis for the latter one (10)

Further, in two micro-monographs I propagated the poet (Szabó Lőrinc, Szabó Lőrinc pályaképe [Lőrinc Szabó, Poet-career of Lőrinc Szabó]) (11), later in a collection I contended enforced by data with the character-killing legends developed around Lőrinc Szabó (Szabó Lőrinc „pere” [„Legal action” of Lőrinc Szabó])(12),finally in two study-volumes I published case studies on the development of career(13). Just after my 80th birthday celebrated in the assembly hall of the Academic Committee of Miskolc I completed my book that summarizes the poetry of Lőrinc Szabó and compares his poetry with the modern European poetry. Major part of the book consists of my lectures prepared for high-grade conferences. I continue to write my results achieved so far. My monographic books being composed in earlier debates I introduce Lőrinc Szabó to the Hungarian experts and expectant reader and researchers as fashioner of the classical poetry, as phenomenon of the world literature („egy Költő Agya”. Szabó Lőrinc Lőrinc pályaképe a „modern” európai költészetben [„Brain of a Poet”. Course of poet-career of Lőrinc Szabó in the „modern” European” poetry]) (14).

(1) The bibliography cited see in the Appendix of the book.

(2) Németh László élete levelekben (Life of László Németh in letters), Osiris, Budapest, 2000, Vol. I, 1042, and Vol. III. 170. In internet: letters no.2859 and 3059, Digital Literary Academy (Digitális Irodalmi Akadémia) – Petőfi Irodalomi Múzeum (Petőfi Museum of Literature), Budapest, URL. 2

(3) Cs. Szabó, László: Kabdebó Lóránt. A háborúnak vége lett (és K.L. Szabó Lőrinc-kutatásairól (Lóránt Kabdebó. The war is over (and ’On the Lőrinc Szabó researches of L.K.’), Irodalmi Újság 1984/2., 17–18.

(4) Sőtér, István: Szabó Lőrinc és összegzője (Lőrinc Szabó and his synopsis), Kortárs 1981/4., 647–651.

(5) Szabó, Lőrinc: Bírákhoz és barátokhoz. Napló és védőbeszédek 1945-ből (To judges and to friends, Diary and apologies from 1945, redacted and annotated by Lóránt Kabdebó, Magvető, Budapest, 1990. – Szabó, Lőrinc: Vers és valóság. Összegyűjtött versek és versmagyarázatok, 12 kötet, (Verse and reality. Collected verses and verse interpretations, Vol. 1–2.) edited, the text corrected, the epilogue and annotation written by Lóránt Kabdebó, Magvető, Budapest, 1990

(6) Tamás, Gáspár Miklós: Szabó Lőrinc: Birákhoz és barátokhoz, Vers és valóság (Szabó, Lőrinc: To judges and to friends, Verse and reality (Élet és Irodalom 1991. április 5., 10.

(7) Osztovits, Ágnes: Máig fájó sebek (Wounds aching so far), Heti Válasz 2012. augusztus 16, 58–59.

(8) Kállay, Géza: „Az ideál mindazonáltal megőrződik”. Tanulmányok Bécsy Ágnes tiszteletére. („Ideal is preserved in spite of everything”. Studies in honour of Ágnes Bécsy). Ed.: Horváth, Kornélia – Osztroluczky, Sarolta, It 2014/3., 406.

(9) Kabdebó, Lóránt: Szabó Lőring lázadó évtizede (Rebelious decade of Lőrinc Szabó), Szépirodalmi, Budapest, 1970, 686. – id.: Útkeresés és különbéke (Seeking ways and means and separate peace) Szépirodalmi, Budapest, 1974. – id.: Az összegzés ideje (Time of summation), Szépirodalmi, Budapest, 1980.

(10) id.: „A magyar költészet az én nyelvemen beszél”. A kései Nyugat-líra összegződése Szabó Lőrinc költészetében, („The Hungarian poetry speaks in my language”. Summation of the late Nyugat-lyrics in the poetry of Lőrinc Szabó) Argumentum, Budapest, 1992, 1996

(11) id.: Szabó Lőrinc (Lőrinc Szabó), Gondolat, Budapest, 1985. – id.: Szabó Lőrinc pályaképe (Course of poet-career of Lőrinc Szabó), Osiris, Budapest, 2001.

(12) id.: Szabó Lőrinc „pere” („Legal action” of Lőrinc Szabó), Argumentum, Budapest, 2006.

(13) id.: Mesék a költőről. Szabó Lőrinc tanulmányok, (Tales on the poet. Studies on Lőrinc Szabó), Ráció, Budapest, 2011. – id.: „Nyílik a lélek”. Kettős látás a 20. században. Szabó Lőrinc „rejtekútja” („Opens the soul”. Diplopia in the 20th century. „Secret path” of Szabó Lőrinc), Ráció, Budapest, 2015.

(14) Kabdebó, Lóránt: „egy Költő Agya”. Szabó Lőrinc pályaképe a „modern” európai költészetben. („Brain of a Poet”. Course of poet-career of Lőrinc Szabó in the „modern” European poetry). Ed. Róbert Smid, Kárpát-medencei Tehetséggondozó Nonprofit Kft. Előretolt helyőrség Irásakadémia program kiadása, Budapest, 2022.

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