Mór Jókai

Mór Jókai
Mór Jókai, ca. 1900
Mór Jókai Statue
The native form of this personal name is Jókai Mór. This article uses the Western name order.

Móric Jókay de Ásva ([ˈmoːr ˈjoːkɒi], known as Mór Jókai; 18 February 1825 5 May 1904), outside Hungary also known as Maurus Jokai, was a Hungarian dramatist and novelist.

Early life

He was born in Komárom, in the Kingdom of Hungary (present-day Komárno in Slovakia). His father, József, was a member of the Ásva branch of the ancient Jókay family; his mother was a scion of the noble Pulays. The lad was timid and delicate, and therefore educated at home till his tenth year, when he was sent to Pozsony (today: Bratislava in Slovakia), subsequently completing his education at the Calvinist college at Pápa, where he first met Sándor Petőfi, Sándor Kozma, and several other young men who subsequently became famous.

After his father's death when Jókai was 12, his family had meant him to follow the law, his father's profession, and accordingly the youth, always singularly assiduous, plodded conscientiously through the usual curriculum at Kecskemét and Pest (part of what is now Budapest), and as a full-blown advocate succeeded in winning his first case.


The drudgery of a lawyer's office was uncongenial to the ardently poetical youth, and, encouraged by the encomiums pronounced by the Hungarian Academy upon his first play, Zsidó fiú (The Jewish Boy), he flitted, when barely twenty, to Pest in 1845 with an MS. romance in his pocket; he was introduced by Petőfi to the literary notabilities of the Hungarian capital, and the same year his first notable romance Hétköznapok (Working Days), appeared, first in the columns of the Pesti Divatlap, and subsequently, in 1846, in book form. Hétköznapok, despite its manifest crudities and extravagances, was instantly recognized by all the leading critics as a work of original genius, and in the following year Jókai was appointed the editor of Életképek, the leading Hungarian literary journal, and gathered round him all the rising talent of the country.

He married the great tragic actress, Róza Benke Laborfalvi, on 29 August 1848. On the outbreak of the revolution of 1848, the young editor enthusiastically adopted the national cause, and served it with both pen and sword. Now, as ever, he was a moderate Liberal, setting his face steadily against all excesses; but, carried away by the Hungarian triumphs of April and May 1849, he supported Kossuth's fatal blunder of deposing the Habsburg dynasty. He was present at the surrender at Világos (now Şiria, Romania) in August, 1849. He intended to commit suicide to avoid imprisonment, but was spared by the arrival of his wife, with whom he made a difficult journey on foot through Russian lines to Pest.

Jókai lived for the next fourteen years the life of a political suspect. Yet this was perhaps the most glorious period of his existence, for during it he devoted himself to the rehabilitation of the proscribed and humiliated Magyar language, composing in it no fewer than thirty great romances, besides innumerable volumes of tales, essays, criticism and faceti. This was the period of such masterpieces as Erdély aranykora (The Golden Age of Transylvania), with its sequel Török világ Magyarországon (The Turks in Hungary), Egy magyar nábob (A Hungarian Nabob), with its sequel Kárpáthy Zoltán, Janicsárok végnapjai (The Last Days of the Janissaries), Szomorú napok (Sad Days).

On the re-establishment of the Hungarian constitution by the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867, Jókai took an active part in politics. As a constant supporter of the Tisza administration, not only in parliament, where he sat continuously for more than twenty years, but also as the editor of the government organ, Hon, founded by him in 1863, he became a power in the state, and, though he never took office himself, frequently extricated the government from difficult places. In 1897 the king appointed him a member of the upper house. In 1899 he created a country-wide scandal by contracting a marriage with Bella Nagy, a young actress.

Jókai died in Budapest on 5 May 1904, his first wife having predeceased him on 20 November 1886. Both were buried at the Kerepesi Cemetery.

His writings

Jókai was extremely prolific. It was to literature that he continued to devote most of his time, and his productiveness after 1870 was stupendous, amounting to some hundreds of volumes. Stranger still, none of this work is slipshod, and the best of it deserves to endure. Amongst the finest of his later works may be mentioned the unique and incomparable Az arany ember (A Man of Gold, translated into English, among others, under the title The Man with the Golden Touch), the most popular A kőszívű ember fiai (The Heartless Man's Sons), the heroic chronicle of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848, and A tengerszemű hölgy (Eyes like the Sea), the latter of which won the Academy's prize in 1890. He was also an amateur chess player (see: Mór Jókai Museum in Balatonfüred).

His jövő század regénye (The novel of the next century - 1872) is accounted an important early work of Science Fiction though the term did not yet exist at the time (see[1]). In spite of its romantic trappings, this monumental two-volume novel includes some acute observations and almost prophetic visions, such as the prediction of a revolution in Russia and the establishment of a totalitarian state there, or the arrival of aviation. Because it could be read as a satirical allegory on Leninism and Stalinism in the Soviet Union, the book was banned in Hungary in the decades of the Communist régime. (Its "Critical Edition" was delayed until 1981.)

Collected editions

The greatest collections of his works:


Other English Editions (**):

Source (*): http://www.globusz.com/ebooks/HunShort/00000012.htm

Source (**): Lóránt Czigány: A magyar irodalom fogadtatása a viktoriánus Angliában 1830-1914 (Budapest, Akadémiai, 1976) ISBN 963-05-0786-2

Source (***): http://www.gutenberg.org



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