From Autobiography to Fiction, or Translating Géza Csáth’s Diary from Hungarian to French and to Polish


  • Mateusz Chmurski Interdisciplinary Center for Central-European Studies, Paris-Sorbonne University (CIRCE)



Géza Csáth, diary, translation, reception, morphine, sexuality


The aim of this paper is to analyze the complex relation between autobiography and fiction in the work of the Hungarian psychiatrist, writer and music critic Géza Csáth (the pen name of József Brenner [1887–1919]), in particular his 1912–1913 diary, usually called the morfinista napló [diary of a morphine addict], by comparing its Polish and French translations as a means of highlighting alternative interpretations of the diary itself. Because the choices that were made when translating such fragmented texts already imply more or less developed interpretations of them, variations between them can be examined side by side in order to reveal sometimes widely diverging understandings of the diaries’ meaning, purpose and general structure. The decision-making that led to the translators’ choices is not only examined here case by case, but also in the context of an assumed overarching reading of these diaries, accounting for a sense of consistency in their differentiation patterns. Scrutinizing these choices allows for the discussion of relevant internal contradictions within the text itself, which in turn accounts for its richness and poetic value; they invite us to immerse ourselves into a world of tangled streams of thoughts where life and work crisscross, into a narrative that is neither a proper diary nor a novel. Beyond attempting to assess the degrees of validity of the given translations, this paper focuses mainly on showcasing them as alternative yet equally relevant interpretative stepping stones into Csáth’s monstrously complex and tormented literary world.

Author Biography

Mateusz Chmurski, Interdisciplinary Center for Central-European Studies, Paris-Sorbonne University (CIRCE)






Cluster Articles: Teaching and Translating Hungarian Language and Culture