Attila Jozsef (Born April 1905-died December 1937)
While walking along the Danube from the lovely Parliament Building in Budapest towards the unusual Holocaust Monument of bronze shoes on the river bank, we came across a statue of a seated figure.
It’s another great statue in this city full of statues of all kinds. The Hungarian poet Attila Jozsef, who wrote about the Danube and died at the early age of 32 (possibly by suicide), is commemorated here, on the banks of the Danube between the Parliament and the monument of the shoes on the Danube. The statue seems perfectly placed, as if the poet himself has been frozen in time, as he sat and contemplated the river he wrote about.
The seated bronze statue depicts him deep in thought, coat strewn to one side, a quotation from his poetry written (in bronze cursive letters) on the face of the steps on which he’s settled. It’s a great spot to sit and stare at this historic river that runs through Budapest and the heart of Central Europe. His poem about the river “By the Danube“, written in 1936, is a metaphor for the transience of life.
It made me curious to read some of his poetry (but right now Amazon doesn’t have a copy of the collected poems “By the Danube” available).
Who was this poet?
Son of Aron Jozsek, of Romanian origin, and a Hungarian peasant girl, Attila Jozsef was born in a poor district of Budapest. He had two elder sisters. At age three he was sent to live with foster parents when his father abandoned the family and his mother became ill.
He finished high school and wanted to be a teacher but was turned out of university because of a provocative poem he’d written (With All My Heart). He tried to support himself by publishing his poems, but it was difficult as he had many psychiatric problems. He never married but was known to fall in love with the women who were treating his psychiatric problems. He died when he was hit by a train, while crawling through the railway tracks. Some say it was suicide, but some experts say it was an accident.
Despite his instability, he wrote lyrical poems that defied despair and projected far beyond the circumstances of his tragic life.