Born in 1877 in a small village that is now in Romania, Ady was a radical progressive both in his journalism and his poetry. At a time when Hungarian poetry hovered between heroic nationalism and the pastoral, he was thoroughly modern and iconoclastic. While he liked to see himself as a lone revolutionary, the majority of his peers actually held him in great esteem.
In the year leading to the 100th anniversary of his death – he died on January 27th, 1919 at the age of 41 – the Hungarian was embroiled in a furious social media debate about his legacy, political views and life. On the day of the anniversary, at least two dozen articles emerged that struggled to define his place in national literary heritage.
Conservative news site Pesti Srácok – which since its inception had a heading borrowed from one of his poems, “Magyar ugar” (Hungarian fallow lands) – praised him as a poet but also pointed out the he was a Freemason promoting the interests of the global financial elite.
In another column, opinion portal Mandiner – again praising his poetry – also mentioned his debauchery and visceral opposition to the traditional Hungarian (especially aristocratic) lifestyle.
At a commemoration held at his grave in Budapest, László L. Simon – award-winning poet and one of the leading figures of the ruling Fidesz party’s cultural policy – said “it is pointless to criticize his opinions when his poetry stands as an example for posterity”.
Title image: portrait of Endre Ady by Aladár Székely, cca. 1915.