From the origins to the 18th century
According to findjobdescriptions, the first documents of literature in Hungarian, sermons, legends, sacred hymns, date back to the century. 13th and 14th. From the fifteenth century historical poems and commemorative songs prevail. At the same time, until the end of the Middle Ages, Latin literature of a religious nature also flourished (Stellarium and Pomeriumby Pelbárt Temosvári, 1435-1504) and one, also Latin, now of a humanistic character (Ianus Pannonius) especially during the reign of Mattia Corvinus and Beatrice of Aragon, whose court was a center of humanistic culture in Central-Eastern Europe. The literary horizon of the sec. 16th and 17th is dominated by a twofold struggle: for religious freedom and for national independence. Religious sentiment occurs in this period in a dialectical form in the polemical literature between the Reformation (G. Károli, G. Heltai, I. Magyari, P. Méliusz Juhász, A. Szenczi Molnár, P. Alvinczy etc.) and Counter-Reformation (M. Telegdi, P. Pázmány, G. Káldi etc.), controversy that indirectly gives a boost to the development of literary prose; the national sentiment, on the other hand, exasperated by the struggles against the Turks, then also by the growing Austrian pressure, is almost omnipresent in the entire literary production. With the works of B. Balassa (second half of the 16th century), the first great Hungarian lyricist, M. Zrinyi (17th century), author of the first national epic, and I. Gyöngyösi (17th-18th century), typical representative of Baroque literature, Hungarian literature rises to the European level. After the parenthesis of the struggles for national independence led by F. Rákóczi II, during which (1703-11) the popular poetry calledKurucköltészet, contacts with classical and Italian literatures continue, not only in the works of the main authors of the eighteenth century (K. Mikes, L. Amadé, F. Faludi), but also in short stories, and in the so-called school dramas, which prepare the ground at the birth of the true national theater. ● The relative stasis of the first half of the eighteenth century, with the spread of Enlightenment ideas, soon changed into a feverish activity. Various groups are formed: the pro- French people led by G. Bessenyei, the classicalists (J. Rajnis, J. Révai, B. Virág; and later D. Berzsenyi), the admirers of German neoclassical literature (J. Kármán, F. Kazinczy), the national traditionalists (J. Gvadányi, A. Dugonics, M. Fazekas), who, in different ways, all pursue the same aim: to enrich national literature with new forms and make the language more expressive. The strong critical authority of F. Kazinczy, which could represent the synthesis of all trends, leads the struggle for the renewal of the language, which ends with the victory of the neologists. Besides the two Kisfaludy (Károly and Sándor), the most significant and most original personality in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries is M. Csokonai Vitéz, who is a precursor of the ‘national popular’ address.
From the 19th century. to the First World War
The first decades of the nineteenth century are also characterized in the Hungary by the currents of Romanticism (M. Vörösmarty in the poem, in the drama and in the lyric; K. Kisfaludy in the drama; M. Jósika in the historical national ‘, which culminates in S. Petőfi’s lyric, J. Arany’s poems, J. Katona’s national drama and M. Jókai’s national-romantic fiction. J. Eötvös’ novels spread liberal-democratic ideas. ● The second half of the nineteenth century is still dominated by national sentiment, which however, at the time of reconciliation with Austria (1867) and afterwards, slowly gave way to more universal currents of Western ideas. I. Madách and G. Csiky excel in the drama; J. Vajda, G. Reviczky, J. Komjáthy in philosophical, pessimistic lyric; and Z. Kemény in the realistic novel on a level of psychological analysis. Hungarian fiction then turned towards the models of the European novel (É. Zola, A. France, M. Proust, J. Joyce, T. Mann), even if it already contained most of its currents: from naturalism and realism (S. Bródy, Z. Móricz), to the most acute psychologism (F. Karinthy, G. Csáth), post-symbolist and expressionist (D. Szabó, M. Füst) and surrealist (T. Déry, M. Szentkuthy) research. Such influences have transformed the anecdotal style, eg. that of K. Mikszáth, in a sort of post-symbolist novel, where the poetic discourse is shattered between dreams and memories (G. Krúdy, D. Kosztolányi). The populist novel (Z. Móricz, L. Nagy, G. Illyés), as well as the more traditional forms of the historical novel (G. Gárdonyi, F. Herczeg, L. Passuth) and the social novel (L. Németh), up to the bourgeois novel of ‘entertainment’ (Z. Harsányi, L. Zilahy, F. Körmendi). In the theater the style of the pochades triumphsFrench, thanks to the popularity achieved by the comedies of F. Molnár, author among other things of the famous A Pál-utcai fiúk (“The boys of the Pal street”, 1907). ● The renewal of literature is also linked to the literary magazine Nyugat (“Occidente”, 1908-41), meeting point of all modernist trends, represented by E. Ady, M. Babits, followed by D. Kosztolányi, G. Juhász, Á. Tóth, M. Füst, L. Szabó. A further urge for renewal also came, at the beginning of the twentieth century, from the activity of the group of philosophers gathered around the magazine Huszadik Század (“Twentieth century”, 1909-16), the most important of which were A. Hauser and G. Lukács, and by that of the avant-garde group, headed by L. Kassák, editor of the magazines Tett (1915) and Ma (1916-26). The war and subsequent revolutions overwhelmed a large part of these intellectuals, who would return to the Hungary only after a forced emigration.