Szabolcs Várady (pronounced: Sábbolch Wáradi) was born in Budapest on 27 January 1943. He studied Hungarian at the University of Budapest and then worked as an editor at the publishing firm Európa, where he is still responsible for Anglo-Saxon literature. Since 1989, he has also been on the editing staff of the literary journal Holmi.
In 1981, he published the collection Ha már itt vagy (Now that you’re here) at the publishing firm Kozmosz and in 1987 Hátha nem úgy van (Perhaps it isn’t like that) at Magvető. On the occasion of his 60th birthday, Európa published his collected works (poems, translations, essays, occasional poems and humorous poems) under the title A rejtett kijárat (The Hidden Exit).
Among other awards, he has received the Graves prize (1981), Attila József prize (1982), Soros-oeuvre prize (1992) and the Palládium prize (2004). Popular with the Hungarian public are Várady’s humorous verses, in which he plays with language in virtuoso fashion, as well as his song lyrics. He has also translated a great deal of English-language literature – poetry, prose and drama – into Hungarian.
In his ‘serious’ poetry, Várady is anything but prolific – his collected works take up less than a hundred pages. The poems look as if they are the result of a long process of planing and polishing. He is firmly rooted in the poetic tradition; in many poems he adopts a fixed form and he makes frequent use of rhyme – making use of the great wealth of possibilities that happen to be available in the Hungarian language. The speaker is an uncertain, eternally doubting lyrical I-figure who, in his casual observations and reflections, formulates more questions than he does answers.
Várady likes to make use of small, absurd situations in life and to exploit the poetic potential of language, as in ‘Cistern Villanelle’. More than once, the situation in the poem is based on a dream. The poet likes to present himself as part of a circle of friends, of which one of the central figures is his friend and colleague György Petri (1943-2000). Even the so-called ‘serious’ poems are full of (self-reflexive) irony and here too, creative linguistic inventions and unexpected rhymes form a source of humour.
Ha már itt vagy (Now that you’re here), Kosmosz, Budapest, 1981
Hátha nem úgy van (Perhaps it isn’t like that), Magvető, Budapest, 1987
A rejtett kijárat (The hidden exit), Europá, Budapest, 2003
Szabolcs Váradyon Lyrikline