He studied mathematics at ELTE university in Budapest from 1969 to 1974; his first writings were published in literary journals in 1974. He worked as a mathematician from 1974 to 1978, and he became a freelance writer in 1978.
Esterházy, the scion of a comital branch of the Esterházy magnate family, is perhaps best known outside of his native country for Celestial Harmonies (Harmonia Caelestis, 2000) which chronicles his forefathers' epic rise during the Austro-Hungarian empire – when Haydn composed music at the family palace – to its dispossession under communism.
His next novel, Revised Edition (Javított kiadás, 2002), which appeared as an "appendix" to the former work, was born from the shock when he learnt that his father was an informer for the secret police of the Communist era. The book deals with the research work as a diary, his father's unfolding activity, and the very process of his facing and digesting the facts.
His works have been published in more than 20 languages. He has won almost every literary distinction in Hungary, including the prestigious Kossuth Prize in 1996, and has received awards for his work in France, Austria, Germany, Slovenia and Norway.
Works published in English
(The italicized dates refer to original publication, other dates refer to the English-language publications.)
- Helping Verbs of the Heart (A szív segédigéi, 1985, 1990, 1991, 1996)
- The Transporters (Fuvarosok, 1983, 1991, 1994)
- The Book of Hrabal (Hrabal könyve, 1990, 1993, 1994, 1996)
- The Glance of Countess Hahn-Hahn (Down the Danube) (Hahn-Hahn grófnő pillantása, 1991, 1994, 1998, 1999)
- She loves me (Egy nő, 1993, 1994, 1997, 1998)
- A Little Hungarian Pornography (Kis magyar pornográfia, 1984, 1995, 1997)
- Celestial Harmonies : A Novel (Harmonia Caelestis, 2000, 2004)
- Vilenica Prize, Slovenia (1988, 1998)
- Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France (1992, 1994, 2003)
- Prize of the Literary Festival in Rome, Italy (1993)
- Bjørnson Prize, Norway (1995)
- Austrian State Prize (1999)
- Herder Prize, Austria (2002)
- Peace Prize of the German Book Trade at Frankfurt Book Fair (2004)
- Angelus Central European Literature Award, Wroclaw, Poland (2007)
He has also received nearly 20 awards in his native country.
- Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung (Darmstadt)
- Akademie der Künste (Berlin)
- Académie Européenne des Sciences, des Arts et des Lettres
- "Esterhazy's prose is jumpy, allusive, and slangy. ...there is vividness, an electric crackle. The sentences are active and concrete. Physical details leap from the murk of emotional ambivalence." (John Updike, The New Yorker)
- Tötösy de Zepetnek, Steven (斯蒂文·托托西演). 文学研究的合法化: 一种新实用主义 ·整体化和经主 义文学与文化研究方法 (Legitimizing the Study of Literature: A New Pragmatism and the Systemic Approach to Literature and Culture). Trans. Ma Jui-ch'i (马瑞琪翻). Beijing: Peking University Press, 1997. 111-34.
- Tötösy de Zepetnek, Steven. "Cultures, Peripheralities, and Comparative Literature." Comparative Literature: Theory, Method, Application. By Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1998. 121-75.
- This award is not recorded on the list of prize winners on the official website of the Austrian Arts Ministry
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Péter Esterházy.|
- Video Interview PEN World Voices at LIVE from the New York Public Library May 4, 2008
- A comprehensive record on him in Hungarian Literature Database