Mila Haugová

Portrait Mila Haugová
© Hartwig Klappert

The poet and translator Mila Haugová was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1942 and raised in Slovakia. Daughter of a Hungarian mother and Slovakian father, she grew up speaking two languages.

Her father, a qualified farmer, was imprisoned as a so-called “class enemy” and consquently the author was prevented from taking her chosen study path in Slovakian and German Language and Literature.  From 1959 to 1964 she studied Agriculture and then worked as an agronomist and thereafter as a teacher. She stopped teaching, and from 1986 to 1996 worked on the editorial staff of the literary magazine ‘Romboid’. In the early 70s Haugová started to write her own poems, which she initially published in 1980 under the pseudonym Mila Srnková. But it is the book of poems ‘Premenlivý povrch’ (1983, Engl: Changeable Surface(s)) that she regards as her true debut. From the start her verse has been characterized by themes related to naturalness and intimacy, particularly in the relationship between the sexes, but her poetic language – which grew increasingly radical – was not received well by the mainstream literary critics.  Starting in the early 80s, the author also began to make a name for herself as a translator of numerous poets, including Ingeborg Bachmann, Sylvia Plath, Sarah Kirsch, Friederike Mayröcker, Else Lasker-Schüler, Paul Celan, and Georg Trakl.  The breakthrough finally came for Haugová with the book of poems ‘Èisté dni’ (1990, Engl: Pure Days), in which a female first-person narrator expresses herself in an uncompromising way; at the time such a stance was still unheard of in Slovakia.  In addition to contributions to international poetry magazines and anthologies, Haugová has so far published more than ten collections of poetry, which have been translated into English, French, Polish, Russian, and German. Jaroslav Šrank praises the “cathartic openness” of Haugová’s verse, which “in mapping mysterious gardens and wastelands [explores] the most basic and the most intimate questions of our existence.” Here, language is freed from its syntactic contexts and through intertextual references to classical modern verse, polyvalent layers of meaning are opened.

Today Mila Haugová lives with her partner, the Austrian artist, BHX LOHMER, as a freelance writer in Bratislava and Zajacia Dolina Levice in Slovakia.

© international literature festival berlin