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Personal · 5 April 2012 ·

István Örkény

Most of István Örkény’s stories are short. Very short. In fact, shorter than what would be called “short stories”. On average, they take no longer than a minute to read.

Despite their brevity, Örkény is able to convey much more meaning than many other authors are able to fit into a 200 page novel. Every sentence, every word, even dots and whitespace, contribute to the overall interpretation of the novel. Örkény leaves away as much as possible without turning to an abstract minimalism.

No, these stories are not minimalist at all, many of them, like Thoughts from the cellar and Ballad about the magic of poetry, carry a lot of emotions as well, they don’t limit themselves to a single form or topic. Örkény writes about nails, echoes, the second world war, childhood, adulthood; and whilst some stories are heart-warming and full of melancholy, others are witty and satirical, or any combination of the these. Most of them, however, also go into the grotesque, the absurd, and have an interesting twist, that makes them open to an implicative interpretation. The meaning is often not explicit, but conveyed through the context. This gives Örkény’s stories a laconic twist and serenity, and the reader has room to wonder.

If you have a minute, read one of his stories.

Today, Örkény would have celebrated his 100th birthday. You can find a selection of his stories and his biography on the István Örkény memoriam website.

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