On 19 September the Hungarian Cultural Institute in Sofia hosted an exciting evening dedicated to the Bulgarian scholar, poet and translator, doctor of philological sciences György Szondi on the occasion of his 70th anniversary.

Presenter of the event was the literary historian Plamen Doynov and the actor Veselin Mezekliev and the Bulgarian linguist and rock singer Angel Angelov Djendema took part in it. The hall was packed with people and emotions. There is hardly a Bulgarian intellectual who does not know and does not respect this great Hungarian. One of the biggest Bulgarian scholars in the world, an outstanding artist and an amazing person - cordial, honest, with sense of humor.

I remember the interview with him taken in 2003, when Dr. György Szondi was a director of the Hungarian Cultural Institute in Sofia and counselor at the Embassy of Hungary (1999-2004). Back then I told him that the list of honors he has received from us as a sign of gratitude is so long that they can not be listed. He simply replied: „The greatest reward for me is the respect and love of the Bulgarians.“ Both then and now, Dr. Szondi is the absolute owner of this award. Bulgarians love and appreciate him. He loves them as well.

Then, in the interview Dr. Szondi said that his love for Bulgaria started in his student years when he studied Hungarian and Bulgarian philology in Budapest. In 1972, only knowing „roughly 458 Bulgarian words“ he went hitch-hiking to the Summer Seminar in Bulgarian language in Sofia. The distance from Ruse to Sofia took him a week. And not because hitch-hiking was difficult, but because anyone who took him in his car, finally told him: „Come visit us!“ So little by little, form car to car, from family to family, he made his way to Sofia. There he met Mrs. Teodora Radeva, head of the seminar, who formed a great company of students that together toured Bulgaria. „Since then I have this great luck, this magnificent career of a Bulgarian scholar.“

Starting from „458 Bulgarian words“, today Dr. Szondi has translated into Hungarian over 12 000 pages of prose and over 20 000 verses written by nearly 400 Bulgarian authors! And over five hundred publications in Hungarian and Bulgarian. He has participated in the compilation of three dozen anthologies in Hungary and Bulgaria. A representative collection of his artistic translations is „Spring Flowers“ /Vándorvirágok/, „Napkut“ publisher, 2010, as well as „Saplings and Crumbs“ /Magoncok és morzsák/. Short forms of 168 Bulgarian authors, „Napkut“ publisher 2006. As a poet he has two poetry books in Bulgarian „The Diagonal Faints“ /1992/ and „To Echo to You“ /1996/ and one Hungarian. He is co-author of the textbook „Bulgarian for Hungarians“ /1982/ and a Hungarian-Bulgarian phrasebook /1984/. He is editor of many books.

More moments of his biography:

From 1975 to 1979, Dr. Szondi was a lecturer in Hungarian language at Sofia University „St. Kliment Ohridski“, later he was a guest lecturer. From 1981 to 1984 he was a post graduate student of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Sofia. He completed his dissertation in linguistics on „Functions and Grammatical Categories of the Verb in Bulgarian and Hungarian Language“. Since 1975 he has worked at the National Library of foreign languages in Hungary, where he was a general counsel and where he retired in 2007. In 1980-1999, he was a managing editor for Bulgarian literature at the publishing house „Europe“ in Budapest. For a while he was the chief editor of the „Polis“ magazine and the monthly magazine for literature „Naput“. From 2003 to 2016 he was Director of the publishing house „Napkut“ that he founded. From 1991 to 2014 he was in the editorial board of the cultural and social Budapest bilingual magazine „Hemus“ and the magazine „Language and Literature“. From 2016 he is the editor of the online edition Napút Online logo - www.naputonline.hu.

György Szondi is a member of the Union of the Hungarian Writers, the International Hungarian Philological Association, the Community of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the Hungarian Academy of Arts, the Union of Scientists in Bulgaria, an honorary member of the Association of Bulgarian Writers.

Photos provided by the Hungarian Cultural Institute in Sofia.

Top from left to right: the actor Veselin Mezekliev, the literary historian Plamen Doynov, Dr. György Szondi and the director of the Hungarian Cultural Institute Ms. Györgyi Dimitrov

Bottom: Plamen Doynov and Dr. György Szondi, Peter Chuhov, Angel Angelov - Djendema