22. ilb 07. - 17.09.2022

Péter Farkas

Portrait Péter Farkas
© Ro. Ka. Wi.

Péter Farkas was born in 1955 in Budapest. He studied literature, history and teaching at the Pedagogical Academy there. However, in an autobiographical retrospective, he later spoke of what he learned there as »suppressed, distorted and paternalistic-fascist«. His ambition to become a writer was just as ingrained as his mistrust of the communist dictatorship: »It was already clear to me at a young age that I lived in a country in which those in power and their stooges were primarily involved in an attempt to wipe out the members of my family«, Farkas has said. He dropped his studies after five semesters and became involved in the democratic political opposition and released »Túlpartrol« (1979; tr: From the other Bank) which appeared in the Samisdat. He eventually emigrated to Germany in 1982, where he founded the IL publishing house (Irodalmi Levelek; tr: Literary Letters). It published the literary series of the same name in Hungarian, which involved the authors György Konrád and Béla Szász among others, as well as elaborately designed art editions like »Bildmanifest« (tr. Picture Manifest) on the »Orgien-Mysterien-Theater« by Hermann Nitsch. What is more, he initiated the Humane Society for Intellectual Necrophilia, which organised numerous art events. Farkas has also worked as a freelance journalist and reviewer. He travelled back to his homeland for the first time in the nineties. Shortly after that, he began working on the hypertext project »Gólem« (1996–2005), an experiment that grew over a period of ten years, and debuted with his work of prose »Háló« (1996; tr. Net).

His short novel »Nyolc perc« (2007; tr. Eight Minutes) tells in a dense and figurative style the story of a couple suffering from dementia, fighting together against frailty and disappearing memory – »nothing more than the story of their ›practicing for death‹«, Farkas described it. In great detail and with brutal honesty, he describes the physical and intellectual demise of two lives while conveying in a haunting manner the admirable respect and dignity that the couple still manage to retain. In this way, he manages to create contemplative and meditative scenes that seem to reflect the essence of the human condition in their apparent inactivity and emptiness. One is also aware of his criticism of how our society deals with old age and death. The seeming paradox that Farkas so skilfully expresses in literary form is the »attempt using language to penetrate an area of speechlessness«.

In 2011, Farkas received the Sándor Márai Prize, in particular for his innovatively poetic style of prose. In addition to his work as an author, he also runs a second-hand book store in the Neustadt-Süd district of Cologne, where he lives with his family.