George Szirtes

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George Szirtes
Szirtes in 2011
Born (1948-11-29) 29 November 1948 (age 71)
Budapest, Hungary
Years active1973–present
Spouse(s)Clarissa Upchurch

George Szirtes (/ˈsɪərtɛʃ/; born 29 November 1948)[1] is a British poet and translator from the Hungarian language into English. Originally from Hungary, he has lived in the United Kingdom for most of his life after coming to the country as a refugee at the age of eight. Szirtes was a judge for the 2017 Griffin Poetry Prize.


Born in Budapest on 29 November 1948, Szirtes came to England as a refugee in 1956 aged 8. After a few days in an army camp followed by three months in an off-season boarding house on the Kent coast, along with other Hungarian refugees, his family moved to London, where he was brought up and went to school, then studied fine art in London and Leeds.[1] Among his teachers at Leeds was the poet Martin Bell.[2]

His poems began appearing in national magazines in 1973, and his first book, The Slant Door, was published in 1979. It won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize the following year. In 2000, British composer Jane Sinclair Wells used his text for her work Air Kissing.

He has won a variety of prizes for his work, most recently the 2004 T. S. Eliot Prize, for his collection Reel,[3] and the Bess Hokin Prize in 2008 for poems in Poetry magazine. His translations from Hungarian poetry, fiction and drama have also won numerous awards. He has received an Honorary Fellowhsip from Goldsmiths College, University of London and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of East Anglia. He also won the Poetry and the People Award in Guangzhou, China in 2016.

Szirtes lives in Wymondham, Norfolk, having retired from teaching at the University of East Anglia in 2013. He is married to the artist Clarissa Upchurch, with whom he ran The Starwheel Press and who has been responsible for most of his book jacket images.

Prizes and honours[edit]

  • 1980 Faber Memorial Prize for The Slant Door
  • 1982 Elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature
  • 1984 Arts Council Travelling Scholarship,
  • 1986 Cholmondeley Prize
  • 1990 Déry Prize for Translation The Tragedy of Man
  • 1991 Gold Star of the Hungarian Republic
  • 1992 Shortlisted for Whitbread Poetry Prize for Bridge Passages
  • 1995 European Poetry Translation Prize for New Life
  • 1996 Shortlisted for Aristeion Translation Prize New Life
  • 1999 Sony Bronze Award, 1999 – for contribution to BBC Radio Three, Danube programmes
  • 1999 Shortlisted for Weidenfeld Prize for The Adventures of Sindbad
  • 2000 Shortlisted for Forward Prize Single Poem: Norfolk Fields
  • 2002 George Cushing Prize for Anglo-Hungarian Cultural Relations
  • 2002 Society of Authors Travelling Scholarship
  • 2003 Leverhulme Research Fellowship
  • 2004 Pro Cultura Hungarica medal
  • 2004 T. S. Eliot Prize, for Reel
  • 2005 Shortlisted for Weidenfeld Prize for the Night of Akhenaton
  • 2005 Shortlisted for Popescu Prize for The Night of Akhenaton
  • 2005 PEN Translation Fund Grant from PEN American Center
  • 2006 Ovid Prize, Romania
  • 2008 Bess Hokin Prize (USA) Poetry Foundation
  • 2009 Shortlisted for T S Eliot Prize for The Burning of the Books and Other Poems
  • 2013 CLPE Prize for in the Land if the Giants, poems for children
  • 2013 Shortlisted for T S Eliot Prize for Bad Machine
  • 2013 Best Translated Book Award, winner, Satantango[4]
  • 2015 Man Booker International winner, as translator of László Krasznahorkai
  • 2016 Poetry and People Prize (China)
  • 2020 Shortlisted for the PEN/Ackerley Prize for The Photographer at Sixteen[5] Winner James Tait Black Prize for Biography 2020


Poetry collections[edit]

  • Poetry Introduction 4 with Craig Raine, Alan Hollinghurst, Alistair Elliott, Anne Cluysenaar and Cal Clothier (Faber, 1978)
  • The Slant Door (Secker & Warburg, 1979)
  • November and May (Secker & Warburg, 1981)
  • Short Wave (Secker & Warburg, 1984)
  • The Photographer in Winter (Secker & Warburg, 1986)
  • Metro (OUP, 1988)
  • Bridge Passages (OUP, 1991)
  • Blind Field (OUP September 1994)
  • Selected Poems (OUP, 1996)
  • The Red All Over Riddle Book (Faber, for children, 1997)
  • Portrait of my Father in an English Landscape (OUP, 1998)
  • The Budapest File (Bloodaxe, 2000)
  • An English Apocalypse (Bloodaxe, 2001)
  • A Modern Bestiary with artist Ana Maria Pacheco (Pratt Contemporary Art 2004)
  • Reel (Bloodaxe, 2004)
  • New and Collected Poems (Bloodaxe, 2008)
  • Shuck, Hick, Tiffey – Three libretti for children, with Ken Crandell (Gatehouse, 2008)
  • The Burning of the Books (Circle Press, 2008)
  • The Burning of the Books and Other Poems (Bloodaxe, 2009)
  • In the Land of the Giants – for children (Salt, 2012)
  • Bad Machine (Bloodaxe, 2013)
  • Bad Machine (Sheep Meadow, 2013, USA)
  • Mapping the Delta )Bloodaxe, 2016)
  • The Children (Paekakariki Press, 2018)
  • Selected poems in Hungarian, Chinese, Italian, German and Romanian


  • The Photographer at Sixteen (Maclehorse Press, 2019)


  • Imre Madách: The Tragedy of Man, verse play (Corvina / Puski 1989)
  • Sándor Csoóri: Barbarian Prayer. Selected Poems. (part translator, Corvina 1989)
  • István Vas: Through the Smoke. Selected Poems. (editor and part translator, Corvina, 1989)
  • Dezsö Kosztolányi: Anna Édes. Novel. (Quartet, 1991)
  • Ottó Orbán: The Blood of the Walsungs. Selected Poems. (editor and majority translator, Bloodaxe, 1993)
  • Zsuzsa Rakovszky: New Life. Selected Poems. (editor and translator, OUP March 1994)
  • The Colonnade of Teeth: Twentieth Century Hungarian Poetry (anthology, co-editor and translator, Bloodaxe 1996)
  • The Lost Rider: Hungarian Poetry 16–20th Century, an anthology, editor and chief translator (Corvina, 1998)
  • Gyula Krúdy: The Adventures of Sindbad short stories (CEUP, 1999)
  • László Krasznahorkai: The Melancholy of Resistance (Quartet, 1999)
  • The Night of Akhenaton: Selected Poems of Ágnes Nemes Nagy (editor-translator, Bloodaxe 2003)
  • Sándor Márai: Conversation in Bolzano (Knopf / Random House, 2004)
  • László Krasznahorkai: War and War (New Directions, 2005)
  • Sándor Márai: The Rebels (Knopf / Random House 2007; Vintage / Picador, 2008)
  • Ferenc Karinthy: Metropole (Telegram, 2008
  • Sándor Márai: Esther's Inheritance (Knopf / Random House, 2008)
  • Sándor Márai: Portraits of a Marriage (Knopf / Random House, 2011)
  • Yudit Kiss: The Summer My Father Died (Telegram, 2012)
  • László Krasznahorkai: Satantango (New Directions, 2012)
  • Magda Szabó: Iza's Ballad (Harvill Secker, 2014)

Poetry set to music[edit]

As editor[edit]

  • The Collected Poems of Freda Downie (Bloodaxe 1995)
  • The Colonnade of Teeth: Modern Hungarian Poetry, co-edited with George Gömöri (Bloodaxe 1997)
  • New Writing 10, Anthology of new writing co-edited with Penelope Lively (Picador 2001)
  • An Island of Sound: Hungarian fiction and poetry at the point of change, co-edited with Miklós Vajda (Harvill 2004)
  • New Order: Hungarian Poets of the Post-1989 Generation (Arc 2010)
  • InTheir Own Words: Contemporary Poets on Their Poetry, co-edited with Helen Ivory (Salt, 2012)


  • The Poetry Quartets 6, with Moniza Alvi, Michael Donaghy and Anne Stevenson (Bloodaxe / British Council 2001)
  • George Szirtes (Poetry Archive, 2006)


  1. ^ a b "Szirtes personal webpage". Archived from the original on 20 May 2013. Retrieved 9 July 2011.
  2. ^ "George Szirtes : The Poetry Foundation". Retrieved 14 April 2014.
  3. ^ Farley, Paul (4 February 2005). "A world of memory: Paul Farley salutes George Szirtes, a worthy winner of the 2004 TS Eliot prize with Reel". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  4. ^ Chad W. Post (10 April 2013). "2013 Best Translated Book Award: The Fiction Finalists". Three Percent. Retrieved 11 April 2013.
  5. ^ "Light wins 2020 PEN/Ackerley Prize". Books+Publishing. 21 August 2020. Retrieved 23 August 2020.

External links[edit]