László Márton was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1959. He studied Hungarian Studies, German Language and Literature, and Sociology at the Loránd Eötvös University in Budapest. From 1983 to 1990 he worked as an editor at Helikon Publishing in Budapest and then started to work as a freelance writer. In the 90s he lived in Berlin: from 1995 to 1996 he was invited by the Literary Colloquium Berlin and from 1998 to 1999 as a guest of the Berlin artist’s program of the DAAD.
Since his literary debut in 1983, Márton has published novels, stories, dramas, and essays and has received numerous prizes. He also made a name for himself as a translator. He translated Novalis’ ‘Heinrich von Ofterdingen’, Kleist’s ‘Michael Kohlhaas’, and Goethe’s ‘Faust’ into Hungarian. Working closely with these texts also clearly influenced his writing. The novel ‘Jacob Wunschwitz igaz története’ (1997) is a historical parable about power and powerlessness in times of despotic rule, which shows clear parallels with Kohlhaas. In the year 1603 the fabric dyer Jacob Wunschwitz is traveling on business in Lower Lusatia and suddenly finds himself caught up in the mechanisms of spiritual and worldly powers. Márton’s lavish language uses elaborate multi-clause sentences and almost completely renounces the use of direct speech; his narrator comments excessively on the events and makes philosophical observations. Transmitting historical and encyclopedic knowledge is just as characteristic of Márton’s writing as is his predilection for intricate narrations and various time levels: as someone who travels between different times and worlds, Wunschwitz is a victim of the Spartacus revolt in 1919 in Berlin and at the same time one of the founders of the Sozialistische Einheitspartei Deutschlands (Socialist Unity Party of Germany).
His second novel published in German ‘Árnyas fõutca’ (1999) takes as its point of departure the missing portraits of people and landscapes taken by photographer Ignác Halász in a small town in Hungary in the first half of the 20th century. From these fleeting memories Márton reconstructs the everyday life and fate of the Jewish residents, whose life was destroyed by National Socialism and Soviet rule. After escape and expulsion, only the memory remains of Jews and Christians living peacefully side by side together.
Péter Esterházy praised this novel as “unusually original and radical”, which secured Márton a place with established Hungarian writers like Imre Kertész and Péter Nádas. With ‘Im österreichischen Orient’ (2005), Márton wrote his first story in German.
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