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John Miska

 

With the Eyes of John Miska: Glimpses into Hungarian-Canadian Culture and Literature
reviewed by Mária Palla

Carol Wootton’s Out of Hungary,
reviewed by John Miska

Hungarica Canadiana - (A Summary of Archival Sources) by John Miska,

Review of Second-generation Hungarian Canadian Authors
by John Miska

John Miska is a librarian, but he is also known for his books of stories, essays, anthologies and translations published in Hungarian and English. His three-volume bibliography, Canadian Studies on Hungarians, is a major source of information in Canadian Hungarology. His other bibliography, Ethnic and Native Canadian Literature, published by the University of Toronto Press in 1990, is one of the most comprehensive works on the subject.

 

He was born in 1932 in Nyírbéltek, Hungary, and received his elementary education in his hometown. In 1953 he graduated from the Bocskai István Gimnázium in Hajdúböszörmény, and continued his studies at the Eötvös Loránd University, majoring in comparative literature and journalism. His studies were disrupted by the defeat of the 1956 Revolution. He escaped the country and arrived in Canada in 1957 and continued his education at McMaster University, Hamilton, majoring in History and Philosophy, graduating in 1961. Also attended the University of Toronto Library School and graduated in 1962.

 

He held positions at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, as head of the Engineering Library, and worked for 25 years for Agriculture Canada in Ottawa, as head of the Acquisitions Department, and area coordinator and regional director of libraries in Alberta and Central Canada, respectively. He was involved in converting the traditional manual library practices to automated systems. He has published 22 book-length bibliographies in the fields of the agricultural sciences and the humanities. After serving the profession for 30 years, John took early retirement, relocated to Victoria, B.C. in 1992, and has lived there with his wife, Marie, ever since.

 

Bookcover In addition to his professional work, over the years he has retained contact with literature and Hungarian studies. Founder of the Hungarian-Canadian Authors’ Association, he is regarded as one of the prime movers of Hungarian literature in Canada. He has published a series of anthologies, and authored some essays  on the accomplishments of Hungarian-Canadian research scientists, scholars, artists and writers. His collections of stories, literary studies and essays will appear in chronological order at the end of this website.

 

For his literary and professional accomplishments John has received numerous acknowledgements, including more than a dozen grants from such institutions as the University of Manitoba, the Secretary of State (Heritage Canada), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. The latter was in the amount of $75,000 that assisted him in the compilation of the ethnic and native Canadian bibliography. He is also a recepient of several awards, including the Queen’s Jubilee Medal (1977), an Alberta Achievement Award for Excellence in Literature (1978), and a silver and gold medal from the Cleveland-based Árpád Academy, for his books of stories and essays. Perhaps the highest honour received was in 2004, when he was inducted into the Hungarian Academy of Scienes. In 2005 his hometown named him   an honourary citizen, and payed homage to his native son by organizing a series of literary evenings (2007), based on his short stories, autobiographies and essays; writings pertaining to such old-time practices as baking bread in outside ovens heated with agricultural fuels (straw, corn and sunflower stalks), and Christmas plays preserved by John as performed by children and adolescent youngsters. At the first program (October 3, 2007), entitled "Author Meets His Readers," Professor Ágoston Székelyhidi, a scholar and literary historian, represented the Hungarian Authors' Association.

 

John MiskaIn his retirement he has edited for five years the Vancouver-based monthly periodical Tárogató. He has also edited the bimonthly paper Szigeti Magyarság and is at work on a biographical novel, The Way We Lived.

 

Victoria, May 2006

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Second-generation Hungarian-Canadian Authors

 

A Review by John Miska

Hungarian literature in Canada has reached its zenith in the second half of the last century. Within a few decades more than one hundred books, novels and collections of poetry and short stories have appeared in the Magyar language. By the turn of the century this great productivity has started to decline, owing to an aging first-generation writes and a diminishing public interest in matters of ethnicity. It is a delightful occurrence that of late, a group of second-generation authors has come forward and is showing a renaissance in literary output in English. In the previous issue we have introduced Ibi Kaslik, a first novelist, upon her publication of Skinny, a novel about a Hungarian-Canadian medical student, Giselle Vasco, a functioning anorexic. The novel was a finalist for last year’s Amazon.ca / Books in Canada First Novel Award. Today we are proud to represent three other authors, Éva Tihanyi, George Payerle and Tamás Dobozy, who recently have published collections of poetry and fiction to critical acclaim.

 

Éva Tihanyi (b.1956) was born in Budapest and came to Canada as a child and, therefore, can be regarded as a second-generation author. She lives in Welland, Ontario, where she is a Professor of English at the Niagara College. She has published five collections of poetry, including A Sequence of Blood (1982), Prophesies Near the Speed of Light (1984), Saved by the Telling (1995), Restoring the Wickedness (2000). Her fifth collection, Wresting the Grace of the World, was published by Firefly Books in 2005. The 91-page collection is about trying to find grace in the world of everyday life. It is divided into three parts. The first, “Sacred Disasters” is a quest for a spiritual dimension and how the upheavals in personal relationship can hinder this quest but eventually aid it too. The second, “The Burrs of Paradise,” is a long poem depicting the disintegration of a marriage. The third, “The Persistence of Vision,” uses photography as its central metaphor to explore the experience of erotic love. One of the qualities that set Éva above some of her contemporaries is her personal approach to creative writing. According to Ellen Jaffe, she gives the reader exquisite glimpses into the world, encourages us to take the risk of love with the veils off, our eyes open. Her poems are a pleasure to read.
 
George Payerle (b.1945) was born of Hungarian parents in Vancouver. He spoke only Hungarian until he entered the school system, and considers himself a “native D.P.” He published poems, short stories and translations from Hungarian into English, as well as novels (The Afterpeople, 1970, Wolfbane Fane, 1977, and Unknown Soldier, 1987), and a book of poetry, The Last Trip to Oregon, 2002. The latter is a collection of poems dedicated to the memory of Charles Lillard, an author who had passed away a few years ago in Victoria, B.C. George’s most recent book of poetry, alterations (Signature Editions, 2004) is a celebration of the author’s new life after he and his family relocated from Vancouver to Roberts Creek, B.C., a paradise, “where the mountains fall into sea as waves of rainforest, a coast of shadow weather, where the light of everyday is a Turner painting suffused with spirit.” The reviewer Paul Vermeersch has this to say about alterations: “It is a fine act of literary juggling to write poetry that speaks with a voice of worldly experience but still manages to keep hold of those sensations of awe and wonder that spark the imagination…”

 

Tamas Dobozy, a fiction writer, was born in Nanaimo. Received his Ph.D. from the University of British Columbia and taught English literature at the Memorial University and Laurier University.  Tamas has spent some time in his parents’ patria and has managed to retain their cultural traditions. His short stories published in a collection entitled When X Equals Marylou, and his novel Doggone, are saturated with Hungarian characters. Tamas’ new collection, Last Notes and Other Stories, was published by Harper and Collins in 2004. The book contains ten short stories, some of them about Hungarians residing in Canada. I use the term “residing” purposely, as most of this author’s Hungarian heroes – and this characterization is commonly accepted by many anglophone and francophone authors – find it hard to adjust to their new environment, let alone to integrate or assimilate into the main stream of Canadian society. Tamás is a born storyteller. The present collection is a welcome addition to his repertoire. In these stories, as his reviewers suggest, he has managed to touch upon several aspects of modern-day life.

 

It gives us great pleasure to introduce these talented authors. Although their creative language is English, we consider them as members of Hungarian-Canadian literature.  I have included them, and many other equally talented ones writing in English, in The Sound of Time (1974) and Blessed Harbours (2002), two anthologies of Hungarian-Canadian authors, and have written about their works in essays and reviews in Hungarian and English. They are proud to be of Hungarian descent. We should be grateful for that.

 

(In: Szigeti Magyarság, 2005)

To read more by John Miska, please visit his website: http://www.johnmiska.com.

 

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