Endre Ady was born November 22, 1877 in Érmindszent, Transylvania (also known today by its Romanian name, Mecentiu) into an impoverished, Calvinist, noble family. Though he is not remembered as having particularly strong religious feelings, he wrote some of the most beautiful and simple prayers to God. Here is an example “The arrival of the Lord” translated into English by contemporary Hungarian writer, Balázs Bozóky:
The arrival of the Lord
When they left me,
When my soul was jammed,
Quietly and unexpectedly
God hugged me.
Not with trumpet,
But he came with a silent, true embrace,
He did not arrive on a beautiful, fiery day
But war at night instead.
And they got blinded
My selfish eyes. My youth has died,
But he, the great, the light,
Stays visible forever and alive.
In 1908, the first issue of a new periodical called Nyugat (The West) was published in Nagyvárad (Oradea) and included a poem and an essay by Ady. He embarked on the venture to work for Nyugat for several years, serving as its editor from 1912.
In 1908 he founded a literary circle called A Holnap (Tomorrow) with some other young writers in Nagyvárad. The circle published an anthology of poems by Ady and others including Mihály Babits and Gyula Juhász. Yet, this anthology faced a good deal of criticism. Some even denounced it for containing erotic poems. Others criticized Ady for what they perceived to be unpatriotic feelings. Fact is, though, he loved to be Hungarian and to write exclusively in Hungarian.
In 1915, he married Berta Boncza, with whom he had corresponded via letters for years and to whom he would refer in his writings by a nickname, “Csinszka”. According to literary analyses he wrote the most tender love poems to her and not to Léda, who having been the muse of Ady for long years previously, supported him while traveling to Paris.
The married couple moved into an estate in Csúcsa (Ciucea). Today it is called the estate of Octavian Goga, a Romanian poet to whom Ady sold this house with towers. However, in the cellar of the building that now serves as a museum, there are still some the Hungarian poet’s effects.
Endre Ady wrote formidable, influential poems thus becoming a central figure in Hungarian literature of the twentieth century.
If you visit Nagyvárad today, you can see one of Ady’s favorite places, a building that stands next to the theater and once housed the renowned EMKE cafe, the site where the poet founded his literary circle A Holnap.