Author, essayist and sociologist György Konrád died on Friday afternoon, his family said. Konrád died after a long illness at the age of 86. He was one of the best-known representatives of Hungarian prose around the world, with works translated into many languages.
Born in Debrecen in 1933, Konrád survived the Holocaust in a safe house in Budapest. He graduated as a teacher from Budapest’s Eötvös Loránd University in 1956. After serving in the National Guard during the 1956 revolution, he made his living through ad hoc jobs for a few years. In 1959 he got full-time state employment, working as a children’s welfare supervisor until 1965. The experience amassed during this time served as the basis for his first novel The Case Worker.
He was working closely with urban sociologist Iván Szelényi with whom he wrote a book on the sociological problems of new housing estates. Citing political reasons, the communist authorities banned the publication of his second novel, The City Builder.
After losing his job in 1973, Konrád, together with Szelényi, wrote The Intellectuals on the Road to Class Power, a sociological analysis of political history questioning workers’ rule in then Hungary. The political police, however, confiscated the manuscript and arrested the authors for incitement against the state. They were informed that they would be permitted to emigrate with their families. Szelényi accepted the offer, while Konrád remained in Hungary, choosing internal emigration.
He published in Hungarian samizdat and through western publishing houses. Virtually from this period until 1989, Konrád was a forbidden author in Hungary, deprived of all legal income. In 1987-88 he taught world literature at Colorado College in Colorado Springs. In the 1980s Konrád was member of the Democratic Opposition and in 1988 became a founder of the liberal Alliance of Free Democrats.
In 1990 he was elected president of PEN International, holding the post full time until 1993. Between 1997 and 2003, Konrád was twice elected president of Berlin-Brandenburg’s Akademie der Künste.
His long list of awards included the Kossuth Prize (1990), the peace prize of PEN International (1991), the French Legion of Honour (1996), the Charlemagne Prize (2001), the Hungarian Republic’s Order of Merit Middle Cross with Star (2003), the honorary citizenship of Budapest (2004) and the Franz Werfel Human Rights Award (2007).