István Örkény

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István Örkény 1974

István György Örkény (5 April 1912, Budapest – 24 June 1979, Budapest) was a Hungarian writer whose plays and novels often featured grotesque situations. He was a recipient of the Kossuth Prize in 1973.


He was born to a wealthy Jewish family. He graduated from the Piarist Gymnasium [hu] in 1930 and enrolled at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics where he studied chemistry. Two years later, he chose to specialize in pharmacology and received his degree in that subject in 1934.[1]

In 1937, he became associated with the journal Szép Szó [hu] and began traveling; to London and Paris, where he held several odd jobs. He returned to Budapest in 1940 and completed his degree in chemical engineering. He published his first book, Ocean Dance, in 1941. In 1942, he was sent to the Russian Front on the Don River. As a Jew, he was placed in a forced-labor unit. There he was captured and detained in a labour camp near Moscow, where he wrote the play Voronesh. In 1946, he returned home to Budapest.

After 1949, he worked as a dramaturge at the Youth Theater and, after 1951, as a playwright at the People's Army Theater. In 1954, he began working as an editor for Szépirodalmi Publishing [hu]. He was prohibited from publishing after the Revolution and worked as a chemical engineer at United Pharmaceuticals [hu] until 1963.

He was married three times. His second wife, Angéla Nagy [hu] was a cookbook writer. They were married from 1948 to 1959. His third wife, Zsuzsa Radnóti [hu] was a prize-winning dramaturge. They were married in 1965.

He died of heart failure in 1979 and was buried in Farkasréti Cemetery. In 2004, the Madách Chamber Theatre in Budapest was renamed the Örkeny Theater in his honour.


  • Ocean Dance
  • Voronezh
  • Macskajáték (Catsplay)
  • Tóték (The Toth Family)
  • One Minute Stories (Válogatott egyperces novellák)


  1. ^ Szállási, Arpád (2008). "Örkény István, az író "gyógyszerész" [István Orkény, the writer as "pharmacist"]". Orvosi Hetilap. 149 (16): 761–3. doi:10.1556/OH.2008.H-2175. PMID 18426724.

Further reading[edit]

  • Örkény, István. One Minute Stories, selected and translated by Judith Sollosy. Budapest: Corvina, 1995. ISBN 963-13-4783-4.
  • Örkény, István. More One Minute Stories, selected and translated by Judith Sollosy, preface by Péter Esterházy. Budapest: Corvina, 2006. ISBN 963-13-5523-3.

External links[edit]