János Kemény (writer)


October 25, 2021

Baron János István Kemény of the Hungarian Monastery (Pittsburgh, USA, September 5, 1903 - Târgu Mureş, October 13, 1971) is a writer, poet, theater director, patron and founder of the Helikon Writing Community in Târgu Mureş (1926).


The baron of ancient noble origin is a descendant of the Kemény family of the Hungarian Győr monastery. He came from the family that gave not only the memorial prince, but also Zsigmond Kemény to Hungarian literature. On the other hand, he is a descendant of Lázár Káli Nagy, the founding director of the first Hungarian-language stone theater in Cluj-Napoca. The double attachment of his ancestors to literature and acting determined his interest and the development of his life. His father, Baron István Kemény (1863–1904), Cs. and kir. embassy official in Washington, D.C., whose mother was Ida Berenice Mitchell (1871–1956), an American. His paternal grandparents were Baron Ödön Kemény (1837–1921), a landowner, and Gizella Nagy Káli (1839–1898). Baron János Kemény had two daughters: Baroness Gizella Kemény (1898–1943), who died single, and Baron Berenice Kemény (1900–1981), whose husband, Count Balázs Bethlen (1901–1981) from Bethlehem. His father, István Kemény, emigrated to America with his family at a young age, without property. Here he took him from manual labor to office, and when he died, he left behind three children with whom his widow, Ida Mitchel, moved to Transylvania. János Kemény was barely one year old at the time. Until the age of ten, she grew up with her grandfather in Alsójára, and her mother was a nurse and socialist with various Transylvanian magnate families. In Nagyenyed, he spent quite a few summers of his childhood in one of the street-side outbuildings of the Kemény – Zeyk mansion (Burg) during this period: with his mother and siblings: “ to the so-called “chocolate house”. It would be unfair to say that we had a bad thing in Nagyenyed… I have many beautiful memories of Nagyenyed. First of all, I am thinking of the three or four weeks when I had to be separated from my sisters because of my illness, and that is why the people of Burgel happily welcomed me into their homes, ”the writer recalls in his book The Cuckoos. He completed his secondary school studies in Cluj-Napoca, first studying in the class of the Reformed College that edited Hope, the college's self-education journal, where his first poem, My Memory, was published in 1921. After graduating from the Unitarian College in Cluj-Napoca (1921), he started a literary journal entitled Forward. His colleagues include Ferenc Balázs, Béla Jancsó and Sándor Kacsó. At the request of his family, he enrolled in the autumn of 1921 in the Faculty of Forest Engineering at the University of Vienna. Due to scarce financial conditions, he lived with little financial support at home in the Austrian capital, where he also came into contact with artists and writers living in exile. In 1923 he appeared in the Anthology of the Eleven with his writing. His university studies were unexpectedly interrupted: one of his childless relatives died and he inherited his property along with the castle of Marosvécs. Returning to Transylvania in 1923, he married Augusta Paton, the daughter of William Roger Paton, an English archaeologist and translator living in Greece. From their marriage six children were born; between the two world wars the family lived mainly in Marosvécs and Cluj. The couple travels several times on trips to Greece, England and Scotland. After the war they settled in Târgu Mureş. In the summer of 1926, he invited for the first time to his home in Marosvécs the Hungarian writers from Romania, from whom the Helicon works later

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