Hungarian Literature

Are you going on holiday to Hungary? Perhaps you’d like to learn about the poetry and literature of Hungary? Our guide to Hungarian literature gives you the facts & information you’ll want to know

Hungarian Literature

The first known piece of Hungarian literature dates back to the 11th century AD, although the Magyar people of Hungary are far older and it is most likely that they has some form of their own literature that long predates the 11th century. Literature written in the native Hungarian tongue is somewhat scarce at the time of the middle ages because Latin was the dominant language of the educated elite. From the 16th century onwards, however, there does appear to be a growth in native Hungarian literature. Below an overview of Hungarian literature from the 16th century onwards is given.

16th century Hungarian literature

Probably the most influential name in Hungarian literature during the 16th century was Balint Balassi who lived from 1554-1594. Balassi was a Hungarian poet whose works still survive to this day and are considered to be master pieces. The themes behind the literary writings of Balassi include love, religion and war.

17th century Hungarian literature

In the 17th century, the annals of Hungarian literature record Miklos Zringi as being one of the most important writers of that time. Zringi is best remembered for his work titled ‘Peril of Sziget’ which recounts the true story of a war that took place decades earlier in the Hungarian town of Sziget.

19th century Hungarian literature

Hungarian literature during the 19th century was largely shaped by the social and political conditions of Hungary and Europe at that time. The 19th century saw great changes in governance and social struggles that often turned into wars. Sandor Petofi was a crucial figure in Hungarian literature during the first half of the 19th century as he is regarded as a spokesman for the aspirations for Independence that people in Hungary were consumed with at the time.

Ideas of Hungarian nationalism resonate strongly throughout his literature and would have been a great motivation for rallying Hungarians during the war of independence in which Petofi fought and lost his life. After the Hungarian defeat in the war of Independence, literature in Hungary took a distinctly apolitical turn and looked instead to more universal human issues such as humanism and romance to seek solace. Great figures in Hungarian literature at this time included Mor Jokai and Janos Arany. Jokay is widely regarded to be the best Hungarian novelist of the 19th century while Arany is the most highly regarded romantic poet.