Multicultural Societies: Kálmán Mikszáth, Pál Závada and Péter Huncik


  • Enikő Molnár Basa Library of Congress



ethnic studies, multiculturalism, Hungarian minorities, Hungarians in Slovakia, Hungarian literature


Three Hungarian works, one from the 19th century and two contemporary novels, reflect changing attitudes to ethnicity and nationality questions within Hungary, including the area that became part of Czechoslovakia after World War I. Kálmán Mikszáth’s Tót Atyafiak shows a society in which the various nationalities of Upper Hungary live in harmony. Ethnic problems seem not to be present. Pál Závada’s Jadviga Párnája presents a more complex picture: while the protagonists seem free of nationalistic sentiments, they are conscious of their Slovak roots, their customs and language. A majority in the city and community which forms the backdrop to the story, they are a minority in the larger region of the Hungarian Plain. However, different customs and language are not perceived as setting themselves off from other Hungarians. Outside forces and prejudices do intrude since key sections of the story occur during World War I and its aftermath. The third novel, Péter Hunčik’s Határeset examines the fate of the population of Ipolyság, a town in what is now southern Slovakia. This is an area which still has a large Hungarian population; many families nevertheless have a background that includes Slovak and other nationalities. With the border changes of 1920, 1938 and 1945 lives are disrupted. Communism further complicates the tensions and absurdities fueled by outside forces. The works are testimonies to tolerance because the protagonists most affected are open to other ethnicities, other nationalities.

Author Biography

Enikő Molnár Basa, Library of Congress

Enikő Molnár Basa received her Ph.D. in comparative literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She taught at universities in the Washington, DC area before accepting a position at the Library of Congress. She is a founder and currently Executive Director of the American Hungarian Educators Association, as well as an active member of the Southern Comparative Literature Association and the Modern Language Association, where she has served on the Board of the Hungarian Discussion Group. Her publications include Sándor Petőfi in the Twayne World Authors Series. She was editor of the series and saw four other works to publication. She edited Hungarian Literature in the Review of National Literature series. In addition to articles published in various journals, both in the United States and Hungary, she has presented papers on various aspects of Hungarian literature at scholarly conferences. In 2002-2003 she was Kluge Staff fellow at the Library of Congress and is currently working on a book that will be largely based on research begun at the time. It will examine the work of poets as “spokesmen for the nation” when political and social commentary was stifled.






Cluster Articles: Hungarian Borders, Immigration, Diasporas