Karinthy Frigyes
(Budapest, June 25 1887 - Siófok, August 29 1938)

Writer, poet. The father of Gábor and Ferenc Karinthy. Losing her mother at an early age, the vivid spiritual environment and Budapest becoming a metropolis all played a very significant role in his childhood. Two of his sisters, Etelka and Elza learnt painting, the third one, Emilia was very talented at learning languages. His father was an educated officer; Karinthy was brought up in the atmosphere of discussions concerning philosophy, litarature and art. His parents were obsessed with positivism and French culture, thus Karinthy had had the view on the whole culture of Europe, instead of only learning German. During his secondary education in the Marko Street High School, the natural sciences played a pricipal role.

His sense of humour and criticism has already appeared in his early diaries, and in his parodistic book "Honeymoon through the Center of the Earth", written at the age of 15, as well. After he graduated, he claimed that he enrolled at the math department; his works were published in several newspapers from 1906 onwards. In 1912, his articles also appeared in the Nyugat (the most famous Hungarian literary periodical); he entered the world of cabaret in Endre Nagy's show. He made friends with Kosztolányi and Géza Csáth, who later introduced him to freudism.

The scientific life in Hungary was flourishing at the time when Karinthy's career started. Karinthy entered the intellectual life of Pest very enthusiastically. "Art cannot exist without science" - he argued. He gathered his knowledge not only from books, but also from his scientist friends. He tried flight with the help of Viktor Wittmann. His view of women in his short stories was dominated by Freud's, Strindberg's and Weininger's philosophies. Apart from concentrating on French enlightened writers, he also devoted his attention to contemporary philosophers. His entry to popular literature in 1912 was spectacular: that year saw five of his works being published. "It is Snowing" called attention due to its extraordinary naturalistic approach; "The Ballad of Dumb Men", "Fool's Encyclopaedia", "Curved Mirror" and "You Write Like This" were all published in 1912 too. The latter one represents a strong argument against the conservatives of Hungarian literature. He wrote satirical critics; he created a uniquely comical set of words and phrases, and thus revolutionalised the art of humour and satire.

He had got acquainted with Etel Judik in 1910, they got married in 1913. The outbreak of the war strengthened his pacifism even further, and his protest, "Grimace", came among the first ones. His anti-war ideas were later put forward in his fantastic satirical gulliverade, "A Travel to Faremido" and in his drama, "Tomorrow Morning". He said: "The opposite to war is not peace, but the revolution of ideas." The peak of his satirical publications, "Christ and Barabas", was also published in this spirit. He agreed with the idea of the revolution, but rejected the proletar dictatorship. He retired from public life after the death of his wife. His diary was the only witness to his tremendous pain: "I feel I have developed brain cancer."

He was hurt by politics as well. After the fall of the commune, he made fun of the white terror; thus he was attacked from ther left and from the right too. He married Aranka Böhm in 1920. He was among the first to critise the feared dictators, Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin. He participated in lecture tours throughout the Carpathian Basin; he wrote shocking confessions about his awareness of being Hungarian. His phenomenal poem collection, "I Cannot Tell Anyone", was published in 1930.

He took part in a Zeppelin journey in 1931, and participated in PEN and Esperanto congresses. In his novels and short stories, he developed the classical forms towards the absurd, relativistic black humour. His brain tumor was removed by Olivecrona in 1936. "The Heavenly Report" and "A Journey Around My Skull" about his operation were published in 1937. He was making preparations for his next title "Message In The Bottle" when he died.

Karinthy's writings on the Internet (in English):

Another biography in the Hungarian Electronic Library (in Hungarian)
Please Sir!
The class of Karinthy Frigyes
Family pictures
Karinthy on motion picture
Karinthy's voice, from the Archive of the Hungarian Radio (http://mr75.radio.hu/mr75.html)

Karinthy's writings on the Internet (in Hungarian):

Karinthy művei a Magyar Elektronikus Könyvtárban
Vicces házigazda
Így írtok ti részlet: Ninácska
Az emberke tragédiája
Ady stílusparódia
Impresszionista fenyképészet
Du Journal d'un écrivain débutant (translated to French by Judith and Pierre Karinthy)

Books used for the page:

The biography was taken from the Literary Encyclopaedia.
The pictures and the labels come from the "Karinthyak" photo collection published by Littoria kiadó in 2000.
The film was taken from a photo collection called "Check out this photography" published by Népművelési Propaganda Iroda.