Additional Book Information
Series: NYRB Poets
Publication Date: January 11, 2022
In a Bucolic Land
by Szilárd Borbély, translated from the Ottilie Mulzet
Szilárd József Borbély is one of the most searching and powerful poetic voices to emerge in the twenty-first century. In a Bucolic Land was his final work, completed but left unpublished at the time of his premature death in 2014. At the heart of the book are poems in which Borbély returns to his 1960s childhood in a tiny, impoverished town in northeastern Hungary. Conditions were brutal, as the poems attest, even as, shifting between present and past, they are also invested with a strange shimmering sense of myth and eternity. The book opens and closes with elegies for his teacher Lajos Szuromi in which the poet meditates on the nature of language and speech and on the adequacy of words to speak of and for the dead. Ottilie Mulzet’s English translation conveys the full power of a writer of whom László Krasznahorkai has said, “He was a poet—a great poet—who shatters us.”
[Borbély’s] poetry is epoch-making.
Szilard Borbely was one of the best and most original poets and novelists of his generation—and Ottilie Mulzet is a wonderful translator of his work.
[Borbély] is considered one of the most important figures in contemporary Hungarian literature, having had an immense impact on the transformation of Hungarian poetry in the last decade, strongly influencing the conceptualization of poetry’s social role and linguistic-thematic possibilities. . . . Borbély’s poetry, prose, and essays try to bring the readers closer to the lives of those who cannot speak of their trauma or suffering. They can be uneducated and poor villagers, survivors of the Holocaust, women grieving after a miscarriage, or victims of terrible aggression. Through Borbély’s texts we readers become increasingly less cruel-hearted.
—László Bedecs, Asymptote