With a Pure Heart

Without father without mother
without God or homeland either
without crib or coffin-cover
without kisses or a lover

for the third day — without fussing
I have eaten next to nothing.
My store of power are my years
I sell all my twenty years.

Perhaps, if no one else will
the buyer will be the devil.
With a pure heart — that’s a job:
I may kill and I shall rob.

They’ll catch me, hang me high
in blessed earth I shall lie,
and poisonous grass will start
to grow on my beautiful heart.

— Atilla József
(Trans. by Kabdebó Tamás)

Tiszta szívvel

Nincsen apám, se anyám,
se istenem, se hazám,
se bölcsőm, se szemfedőm,
se csókom, se szeretőm.

Harmadnapja nem eszek,
se sokat, se keveset.
Húsz esztendőm hatalom,
húsz esztendőm eladom.

Hogyha nem kell senkinek,
hát az ördög veszi meg.
Tiszta szívvel betörök,
ha kell, embert is ölök.

Elfognak és felkötnek,
áldott földdel elfödnek
s halált hozó fű terem
gyönyörűszép szívemen.

Born in 1905, Hungarian poet Atilla József grew up in poverty and distress. Despite many social and economic disadvantages, he managed to earn the equivalent of a high school certificate. Around that same time, he was charged with blasphemy for writing Tiszta szívvel (With a Pure Heart). (He was subsequently acquitted.) Atilla joined the underground Hungarian Communist Party in 1930, but was subsequently run out by a Stalinist faction. In 1931 his book Döntsd a tőkét (Fell the Capital!) was suppressed by Hungarian authorities and his essay Irodalom és szocializmus (Literature and Socialism) was considered to prove his political degeneracy. He struggled to continue his writing career until 1937, when he was hit by a train. Historians are divided as to whether his death was an accident or if he committed suicide.

[Research note: Thomas Kabdebo, Ed. Attila József Poems (London: The Danubia Book Co., 1966). (http://www.mathstat.dal.ca/~lukacs/ja/poems2/jozsef-eng.htm)%5D

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