22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

László Végel

Portrait László Végel
© Hartwig Klappert

László Végel was born in Srbobran, in Yugoslavia’s Vojvodina, in 1941, as a member of the Hungarian minority. He studied in nearby Novi Sad and in Belgrade and later worked as a journalist, among other things as editor of the daily newspaper »Magyar Szó« and as co-editor of the likewise Hungarian monthly paper »Ui Symposion«. He wrote many plays and scripts, as a playwright for Novi Sad’s television station as well as for Subotica’s people’s theatre. Apart from this he also wrote novels and essays, some of which were published in Serbo-Croatian first and in the original Hungarian version later.

In 1967 Végel’s epic début, »Egy makro emlékiratai« (t: The great remembrance scriptures), appeared, followed a quarter of a century later by the sequels »Àttüntetések« (1984; t: Overviews) and »Eckhart gyûrûje« (1989; t: Eckhart’s ring). They were published as a set entitled »Újvidéki trilógia« (1993; t: Novi Sad trilogy) and are considered his masterpiece. The themes of homelessness and exclusion are already present and assume an increasingly large role within Végel’s work, in which the multi-ethnic city of Novi Sad stands for a cultural diversity that was initially expected, later enforced, and eventually lost after the break of the Balkan War. As he writes in an essay in 2002, his self-characterisation as a »homeless local patriot« – a phrase coined in his collection of essays »Peremvidéki élet« (1993; t: Life in the margins) – lost its applicability as his sense of allegiance to both the country or the society disappeared in the face of the rising nationalism that led to the war, and the precarious position of minorities which turned completely hopeless. »War seizes the homeland of all those who are not born into this or that national history, into this or that community. Whoever was ejected and banned from this great collective narrative has therefore preserved his intellect and his independence, and alone still possesses individuality. For that he pays a high price: He loses his homeland.«

From 1994 until its closure in 2001 Végel led the office of the Soros Foundation in Novi Sad. He organised events such as the third »Balkan Roundtable«, at which cultural representatives from Hungary, Germany, Slovakia, Romania, Serbia and Montenegro discussed the »Problems of Border Identity and the Phenomenology of Small, Local Cultures«.

To date two of Végel’s stories have been published in German (in the anthology »Draußen das Lamm, drinnen der Wolf«, 1985, and in the journal »Neue Literatur«). In addition, he has published several essays, notably in »Sinn und Form«. He has received the Tibor Déry Prize, the Gold Medal of the President of the Hungarian Republic, and the Milán Füst Prize for his work. In 2005 he was awarded the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary. Végel was a guest at the Heinrich Böll House until February 2006 and currently holds a scholarship awarded by the German Academic Exchange Service in Berlin.

© international literature festival berlin