Renowned poet Géza Sőocs, holder of the Kossuth and József Attila prizes and president of the Hungarian PEN Club, has died at the age of 67, PEN said. Born in Romania’s Târgu Mureș (Marosvásárhely) in 1953, Szőcs became an important voice in Romanian Hungarian literature in the 1970s. As an editor of “Counterpoints” (Ellenpontok), a samizdat paper in the 1980’s, he fought to counter growing censorship against Hungarian literature. He penned two petitions to the Romanian government on the hardships of ethnic Hungarians in Romania, and alerted the UN to the situation. He lived in Switzerland between 1986 and 1990, to escape persecution in communist Romania. After the fall of the regime, he became one of the leaders of Romania’s ethnic Hungarian RMDSZ party and served in the Senate as the party’s group leader. He worked as a state secretary for culture in Hungary’s Human Resources Ministry between 2010 and 2012, and as an advisor in cultural affairs since. He was awarded the József Attila and Kossuth state prizes in 1993 and 2015, respectively.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán marked Szőcs’s passing in a Facebook post, reciting the poet’s Millenium Ode (Millenniumi óda), adding, “Farewell, Géza!”. The cabinet office issued a statement saying Szőcs was “a prominent figure in Hungarian culture and literature, determined to help the government’s work in protecting and promoting Hungarian culture as a commissioner, a top advisor and earlier as state secretary”. “His message, poetry, personality and humour stays with us. We deeply respect of his life and work. May he rest in peace.” Budapest Mayor Gergely Karácsony praised Szőcs as “an extraordinary man and a great poet. We are mourning one of the greats of Transylvanian Hungarian literature,” he said in a Facebook post.