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Jókai, Mór

Entry updated 12 September 2022. Tagged: Author.

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Working name of Hungarian author, born Móric Jókay de Ásva (1825-1904), who sometimes published as Maurus Jókai, the dominant literary figure of nineteenth-century Hungary, centrally involved in establishing Hungarian as a "respectable" literary language, almost at the same time that the Finn, Elias Lönnrot (1802-1884), performed a similar task for his own related Uralic tongue with his "translation" of the Kalevala (1835; exp 1849). In the nineteenth century, therefore, Jókai was seen, with some cause, as a heroic pioneer; he was frequently translated then, and is still very highly regarded. Many of his 100 or more novels are violent historical tales, full of catastrophic incident; their tone tends to the vatic and the surreal, though only a few come close to sf. Az arany ember [in modern Hungarian this is given as Az aranyember] ["The Golden Man"] (1872; trans Mrs Laura Curtis Bullard and Miss Emma Herzog as A Modern Midas: A Romance 1884; new trans Mrs H Kennard as Timar's Two Worlds 1888; trans rev Elizabeth West, vt The Man With the Golden Touch 1963 Hungary), which contrasts a hectic and hysterical urban life with an intensely idyllic Utopia established on an "ownerless island" in the Danube, is not really sf, despite the title of its first English translation; at the same time, the closing pages of the tale are best understood in terms of a successful gaining of Transcendence.

Jókai did compose, however, a number of anticipations in novels and in short fiction, few of which have been translated into English but many into German. Tales from Jókai (coll trans R Nisbet Bain 1904) contains "The City and the Beast" (1858), which deals with Atlantis and its destruction, plus three contes cruels. An untranslated novel, Óceánia (1846), is also about Atlantis. Fekete gyémántok (1870; trans A Gerard as Black Diamonds 1896) focuses upon a scientist seeking to create a utopia; it is partly set in an Arctic sea. The most important sf by Jókai, never translated into English, is A jövö század regénye ["The Novel of the Next Century"] (1872 3vols), a dazzlingly inventive tale of the future. Egész az északi pólusig ["All the Way to the North Pole"] (1876) is also sf, featuring Suspended Animation; Ahol a pénz nem Isten ["Where Money is not a God"] (1904) is a utopian Robinsonade. [PN/JC]

Mór Jókai

born Komárno, Hungary [now Slovakia]: 19 February 1825

died Budapest, Hungary: 5 May 1904

works (highly selected)

  • Az arany ember (Pest, Hungary: 1872) [binding unknown/]
    • A Modern Midas: A Romance (New York: R Worthington, 1884) [trans by Mrs Laura Curtis Bullard and Miss Emma Herzog of the above: hb/nonpictorial]
    • Timar's Two Worlds (Edinburgh, Scotland: William Blackwood and Sons, 1888) [published in three volumes: new trans by Mrs H Kennard of the above: hb/]
  • A jövö század regénye ["The Novel of the Next Century"] (place and publisher not determined: 1872) [published in three volumes: hb/]
  • Tales from Jókai (London: Jarrold and Sons, 1904) [coll; trans by Robert Nisbet Bain of various works: hb/]


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