12 Best Hungarian Authors of All Time

To expand your literary repertoire, explore some engaging Hungarian literature. Take a look at some of the best Hungarian authors and writers of all time!

Hungary has a rich history. Much of it is reflected in the works published by Hungarian authors. Many of the works in Hungarian literature have to do with faith and struggle, and some of them are a reflection of the tremendous strife the country went through in the 19th and 20th centuries. In particular, numerous works have been published on the holocaust during World War II, including the experiences of some at Auschwitz. If you want to dive into Hungarian literature, take a look at some of the best Hungarian authors of all time. And if you enjoy learning about the best Hungarian authors and want to discover the best authors from different countries, you might be interested in reading our guide on the best Romanian authors.

Best Hungarian Authors

1. Sandor Petofi, 1823 – 1849

Sandor Petofi
Sandor Petofi via Wikipedia, Public Domain

If you ask anyone who the greatest Hungarian author is of all time, you will probably have a lot of people say Sandor Petofi. He is considered to be the national poet of Hungary, and his poetry is second to none in Hungary.

In particular, his “National Song” became the ballad of the revolution that took place in 1848, which happened when Hungarian citizens decided to throw off the chains of the ruling Habsburgs. While Petofi was killed during one of the last battles of the Hungarian Revolution, this only added to his legend. Today, there are numerous bridges, schools, streets, and squares that are named after him.

If you want to dive into the work of Sandor Petofi, take a closer look at his National Song and other poems. 

Selections From Poems;
  • Hardcover Book
  • Petofi, Sándor (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 42 Pages - 08/12/2015 (Publication Date) - Andesite Press (Publisher)

2. Imre Ketersz, 1929 – 2016

Imre Ketersz
Imre Ketersz via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Imre Ketersz is one of the greatest Hungarian writers of all time. For a long time, many of his books were required reading throughout Hungarian schools. Furthermore, Imre Ketersz is the only Hungarian writer to receive the Nobel Prize for literature, which he received for Fatelessness.

This is not only one of the most popular books in all of Hungarybut also one of the most popular books in the world. The story tells the struggle of Ketersz as he tried to survive concentration camps during World War II. He spent a lot of WWII living in Buchenwald and Auschwitz, struggling to survive as he watched other people die around him.

Throughout the story, he talks about not only his own experiences but also how Hungary did not do enough to try to stop the Nazi regime from oppressing people throughout Eastern Europe, including those in Hungary. If you want to dive into the dark tale of the Holocaust of World War 2, consider picking up a copy of Fatelessness.

  • Kertész, Imre (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 272 Pages - 12/07/2004 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

3. Peter Esterhazy, 1950 – 2016

Peter Esterhazy
Peter Esterhazy via Wikipedia, Public Domain

One of the most famous Hungarian writers of the twentieth century is Peter Esterhazy. He does an exceptional job of taking a look at the history of Hungary, breaking it up into smaller chunks that people can understand. Even though some Hungarian leaders have found his work controversial, he remains one of the most popular Hungarian writers of all time.

In particular, his most popular work is titled Celestial Harmonies. He weaves his own family history into the complicated history of Hungary, giving both Hungarian citizens and outsiders an opportunity to better understand how Hungary got to where it is today. Take a closer look at Celestial Harmonies.

Celestial Harmonies: A Novel
  • Hardcover Book
  • Esterhazy, Peter (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 864 Pages - 03/02/2004 (Publication Date) - Ecco (Publisher)

4. Laszlo Krasznahorkai, Born 1954

Laszlo Krasznahorkai
Laszlo Krasznahorkai via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Krasznahorkai is known for his skillful narratives. As you read his work, it feels like every word has its place and it does its job well. During the past few years, he has developed almost a cult-like following. It only got bigger for him when he won the Man Booker International Prize in 2015. He has been referred to as the Leviathan of Hungary, and his work is a reflection of that.

If you want to take a look at one of his most famous works, you may want to explore Satantango. This book was also turned into a movie of the same name, but you should definitely start with the book. You can pick up a copy of Satantango.

  • Krasznahorkai, László (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 288 Pages - 12/10/2013 (Publication Date) - New Directions (Publisher)

5. Peter Nadas, Born 1942

Peter Nadas
Peter Nadas via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Peter Nadas is one of the most popular Hungarian writers of the modern era. During the past few decades, his work has received a lot of praise because of the deep dive he does into European history. In particular, many of his works have received favorable comparisons to Russian writers during the 19th century, including Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky.

Peter Nadas has received a tremendous amount of praise because he is able to weave philosophical and moral dilemmas into his stories. Even though he has been compared to writers of prior generations, he still reflects the modern era. A lot of his content is a reflection of the shifting political situations in Eastern Europe.

If you want to explore Peter Nadas for yourself, consider reading Parallel Stories, which starts with the fall of the Berlin Wall and gradually works backward in European history. You can pick up a copy of Parallel Stories.

Parallel Stories: A Novel
  • Hardcover Book
  • Nádas, Péter (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 1152 Pages - 10/25/2011 (Publication Date) - Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Publisher)

6. Gyorgy Konrad, 1933 – 2019

Gyorgy Konrad
Gyorgy Konrad via Wikipedia, Public Domain

“George” Konrad is arguably the most accomplished modern writer in Hungarian history. He has a reputation for discussing political events with aplomb, and his work is famously easy to read. He was born to a Jewish family in Budapestbut was able to escape spending time in a concentration camp because he fled to the countryside as a young adult. It is his experience living outside of concentration camps but under the Nazi thumb during World War II that inspires a lot of his writing.

Even though he has a wide variety of works that have received massive critical acclaim, one of his most popular stories is his own personal memoir. It is titled A Guest in My Own Country: A Hungarian Life, and it talks about the feeling of betrayal and alienation he experienced at the end of WWII. He would later play a significant role in Hungary’s rebelling against the Soviet Union.

If you want to read his Memoir.

A Guest in My Own Country: A Hungarian Life
  • George Konrad (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 303 Pages - 04/17/2007 (Publication Date) - Other Press (Publisher)

7. Magda Szabo, 1917 – 2007

Magda Szabo
Magda Szabo via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Magda Szabo is arguably the most popular Hungarian female writer of the 20th century. Even though her career was limited because the communist ruling powers did not allow her to print her work, she still had a significant impact as a teacher. She taught elementary school children for most of her life. Eventually, her work reached a wider audience, and she received critical acclaim during the latter stages of her life. 

One of her most popular books is called Abigel, which is a schoolgirl adventure that takes place during the middle of the 20th century. This show would go on to be made into a popular television series.

If you want to take a look at her work for yourself, you should consider reading Abigel. If you enjoyed our round-up of the best Hungarian authors, we have many more articles on the best authors from around the globe. You might want to check out our list of the best German authors. Or use the search bar at the top right of the page to search for authors in a country or region you are interested in.

Abigail (New York Review Books Classics)
  • Szabo, Magda (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 352 Pages - 01/21/2020 (Publication Date) - NYRB Classics (Publisher)

8. Antal Szerb, 1901 – 1945

Antal Szerb
Antal Szerb via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Antal Szerb is a popular scholar and fiction writer. He was born in Budapest at the beginning of the twentieth century and has a talent for taking dense subjects and making them easier to interpret. His works always target the emotions of the reader, and he is incredibly precise with every word he chooses. A lot of his work straddles the line between comedy and satire, as he talks about a lot of social norms from the beginning of the twentieth century that have long since disappeared from Hungary.

One of his most popular works is titled Journey by Moonlight, which shines a light on what middle-class life was like in Hungary at the beginning of the 20th century. If you want to explore Moonlight.

Journey by Moonlight (NYRB Classics)
  • Szerb, Antal (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 320 Pages - 10/07/2014 (Publication Date) - NYRB Classics (Publisher)

9. Sandor Marai, 1900 – 1989

Sandor Marai
Sandor Marai via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Sandor Marai is one of the most popular Hungarian writers of the 20th century. He was a prominent critic of ruling Hungarian powers in the middle of the twentieth century, and he was forced to flee the country in 1948. For a long time, he struggled to make a name for himself and ultimately committed suicide while living in San Diego in 1949.

It was only after his death that his work became as popular as it is today. He is considered one of the Masters of European fiction, and he is celebrated as much as writers such as Bruno Schulz and Thomas Mann. His most popular work is Embers, which tells the story of two men who did not speak to each other for 40 years before running into each other again in the Carpathian mountains. If you would like to explore Embers, you can find it.

  • Fiction
  • Classics
  • Sándor Márai (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages - 08/13/2002 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

10. Gyula Krudy, 1878 – 1933

Gyula Krudy
Gyula Krudy via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Krudy is one of the most popular Hungarian modernist writers of the twentieth century. Even though he was relatively unknown during his life, he has become popular during the past few decades. He has been compared to James Joyce, and some of his books are required in Hungarian schools. He liked to shine a light on some of the issues in Hungary during the 20th century, and many of his works provide a window into this period of history, giving everyone an opportunity to learn.

One of his most popular works is The Adventures of Sinbad, which discusses the alter ego of Krudy himself. The book was even made into a popular movie. Explore the amazing adventures of Sinbad.

The Adventures of Sindbad (New York Review Books Classics)
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Krudy, Gyula (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 240 Pages - 11/08/2011 (Publication Date) - NYRB Classics (Publisher)

11. Attila Jozsef, 1905 – 1937

Attila Jozsef
Attila Jozsef via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Jozsef is one of the most popular writers from the early 20th century in Hungary. He is still an influential writer in Hungaryand is an icon of Hungarian literature. Even though he was relatively unknown during most of his life, he became more popular at the end of World War II because the Communist Party deemed him an important poet, even though he passed away in 1937. This increased his popularity and shined a light on his work.

Many of his works are about Hungarian pride, and a lot of his books focus on the history of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. There is nothing quite like learning about the late 19th and early 20th centuries in this part of the world. You can take a closer look at his poems in this collection.

Suburban Night and Other Poems
  • Jozsef, Attila (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 94 Pages - 12/15/2016 (Publication Date) - CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (Publisher)

12. Miklos Radnoti, 1909 – 1944

Miklos Radnoti
Miklos Radnoti via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Radnoti is a Hungarian writer with a Jewish Heritage. During the Second World War, he spent a lot of time as a forced laborer during the German occupation. He recorded a lot of his experiences in stories and poems, which have become incredibly popular throughout Hungary and across all of Europe. He was also forced to take part in one of the numerous death marches executed by the Nazi regime as he was moved from camp to camp during World War II.

Eventually, he was too exhausted to keep walking during one of these marches. As a result, he was murdered by his German captors. Fortunately, his experiences have survived, and countless people have benefited from reading about his experiences living under the Nazi occupation. Now, you can read about his amazing experiences. If you are Hungary for more, check out our roundup of the best 20th-century authors

Miklos Radnoti: The Complete Poetry in Hungarian and English
  • Radnóti, Miklós (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 272 Pages - 06/12/2014 (Publication Date) - McFarland & Company (Publisher)

  • Bryan Collins is the owner of Become a Writer Today. He's an author from Ireland who helps writers build authority and earn a living from their creative work. He's also a former Forbes columnist and his work has appeared in publications like Lifehacker and Fast Company.