Jenő Rejtő

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Jenő Rejtő
BornJenő Reich
(1905-03-29)29 March 1905
Budapest, Austria-Hungary
Died1 January 1943(1943-01-01) (aged 37)
Evdakovo, Voronezh Oblast Soviet Union
OccupationNovelist, dramatist
Notable worksA láthatatlan légió, A tizennégy karátos autó, Piszkos Fred, a kapitány, A három testőr Afrikában, A szőke ciklon

Jenő Rejtő (29 March 1905 - 1 January 1943) was a Hungarian journalist, pulp fiction writer and playwright. He died in a labour camp during World War II.

Early life[edit]

Jenő Rejtő was born in Budapest, Austria-Hungary, on 29 March 1905, to Áron Reich Lipót and Wolf Ilona. He had two brothers, Lajos and Gyula.[1] He lived with ill-health as a child, but took boxing and acting classes as well as writing poetry. He completed his studies in a drama school in 1924, after which he travelled extensively throughout Europe.[2]


After returning from his travelling, he made his living as a playwright in Hungary, most notably with his operetta, Aki mer, az nyer (Who Dares Wins, 1934).

Later, he started to write adventure novels based on his trips and experiences abroad,[3] using a writing style which included his unusual sense of humour. His most successful novels were written under the pseudonym P. Howard, and parodied the French Foreign Legion. His most popular novels combined elements from detective novels, romance and humour. He also wrote novels in the tradition of American Westerns, as well as a large number of cabaret farces, and editing the first and only edition of the newspaper, Nagykörút (Grand Boulevard).


Starting in 1939, he could not publish his novels any more under his own name because of his Jewish origins.[4][5] On 9 October 1942, an article in the Nazi Arrow Cross Party’s newspaper (Egyedül Vagyunk [We Are Alone]) exposed Rejtő as a Jew and reported that he was seen writing calmly in Budapest cafés while evading the labour service draft that was compulsory for Jewish men of military age (they were forbidden to perform arm-bearing service in the military).[6] He was seriously ill by this time but was taken by force from hospital to do his labour service on the eastern front, into the Soviet Union.[6][7]

He died in Evdakovo, Voronezh Oblast, Soviet Union (then under Axis occupation) on 1 January 1943.[7][8]


In the early years of communism his works were only available on the black market as pre-war editions, but from the 1960s on, his novels were republished, and they gained instant popularity in Hungary (then still under communist rule). Some of his works have been made into films and comic books. Rejtő’s comic book adaptations by Pál Korcsmáros (1916-1975) are regarded as classics in their own right in Hungary.[9] While a writer, he was a regular customer at the Cafe Japan (Japán kávéház) in Budapest, which was near Nova, his publisher. He paid for his coffee with lines written on napkins, which in turn were taken to Nova, where they were purchased and collated.[10]

Rejtő's memory is kept alive in Budapest. In 2001 a street was named after him,[11] while in 2003 there was an exhibition dedicated to him in the Petőfi Museum of Literature (Petőfi Irodalmi Múzeum).[12] In 2005 his picture appeared on a Hungarian postage stamp (as part of the series "Great Hungarians") and there was an initiative to erect his statue in Budapest.[13]


The original Hungarian editions of Rejtő's numerous works - the most famous of which are his Foreign Legion books and his "Dirty Fred" series - entered the public domain everywhere on 1 January 2014 (70 years after the next 1 January following the author's death).

English translations of some of his works are available online:

  • A tizennégy karátos autó (The 14-Carat Roadster)
  • A szőke ciklon (The Blonde Hurricane)
  • Az elsikkasztott pénztáros (The Embezzled Bank Teller)

Other works (selection)

  • Az elveszett cirkáló (The Vanished Cruiser)
  • A megkerült cirkáló (The Found Cruiser)
  • Piszkos Fred, a kapitány (Captain Dirty Fred)
  • Piszkos Fred visszavág (Dirty Fred Strikes Back)
  • Az elátkozott part (The Cursed Shore)
  • A három testőr Afrikában (The Three Musketeers in Africa)
  • Csontbrigád (Bone Brigade)
  • Az előretolt helyőrség (The Frontier Garrison), Macon: Etalon Press, 2014, ISBN 9781940872001 (Kindle); ISBN 9781940872018, LCCN 2014930851 (print)
  • Vesztegzár a Grand Hotelben (Quarantine at the Grand Hotel), Budapest: Corvina, 2009, ISBN 9789631358148
  • A láthatatlan légió (The Invisible Legion)
  • Az ellopott futár (The Stolen Courier)
  • Texas Bill, a fenegyerek (Texas Bill, the Daredevil)
  • Pokol a hegyek között (Hell among the Hills)
  • Megyek Párizsba ahol még nem haldokoltam (I'll go to Paris, where I've never been dying)


  1. ^ Daily News Hungary website
  2. ^ "Pen name: P. Howard. Jenő Rejtő died 70 years ago". Hungarian Literature Online. 1 January 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2013.
  3. ^ "Pen name: P. Howard. Jenő Rejtő died 70 years ago". Hungarian Literature Online. 1 January 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2013.
  4. ^ "Pen name: P. Howard. Jenő Rejtő died 70 years ago". - Hungarian Literature Online. Retrieved 27 May 2023.
  5. ^ Daily News Hungary website
  6. ^ a b Tibor Hámori: Piszkos Fred és a többiek... Történetek Rejtő Jenő életéből. [Dirty Fred and the rest of the bunch... Stories from the life of Jenő Rejtő] Ságvári Endre Könyvszerkesztőség, Budapest, 1982. ISBN 9634225020.
  7. ^ a b János Bús, Péter Szabó: Béke Poraikra. [May They Rest in Peace]; p. 658. Varietas ’93 Kft, Budapest, 1999. ISBN 963-03-8934-7
  8. ^ Hegedűs Géza: Rejtő Jenő
  9. ^ Pál Korcsmáros’s comic book adaptations include Az elátkozott part (9632101677), A három testőr Afrikában (ISBN 9632123751), and Az előretolt helyőrség (ISBN 9632162919). External Link:
  10. ^ "Life of Rejtő Jenő" (in magyar). Retrieved 18 June 2009.
  11. ^ "Pictures of Rejto street". Retrieved 18 June 2009.
  12. ^ "The Museum of Literature Petőfi". Retrieved 18 June 2009.
  13. ^ Retrieved 18 June 2009