Ádám Makkai passed away
Outstanding polyglot linguist, poet, literary translator and regular member of HAA, Ádám Makkai passed away on 18 January 2020 aged 84. HAA regards his passing as losing one of its own.
Ádám Makkai was born in Budapest on 16 December 1935 into a Transylvanian family of writers, judges, and ministers of the Hungarian Reformed Church. He received his first two years of schooling in German before the war, while after the war he also learned Russian and French. At university, after a brief period studying law, he was for two years a French major but his studies were disrupted by the Revolution and he escaped to the West in 1956. He arrived in the U.S. on 1 Jan 1957 and was promptly admitted to Harvard University, where the following year he received his B. A. cum laude as a Russian major and French minor. From 1958 Makkai spent two years in Hawaii, where he was a teacher of German, Russian, French, and Latin. Subsequently he received a fellowship to Yale University, where he received his M.A. and Ph.D. in General Linguistic, writing his Ph.D. dissertation on English idiom structure. He spent the bulk of his academic career at the University of Illinois in Chicago, but with a number of fellowships and visiting academic appointments elsewhere, including in Singapore and Hong Kong. In 2003 Makkai published his unusually constructed autobiography, entitled Az erő: szabálytalan életrajz versben és prózában (The Force: Irregular Autobiography in Verse and Prose). Within the world of linguistics Makkai was one of the world's major experts on idiom structure of English idioms. But in addition to that Makkai's first and most lasting love was poetry with his first verses published in Hungary in l954. He wrote original poetry in both Hungarian and English, and he was a translator to and from several languages of his own poetry and that of others, and much of his theoretical work was also written about poetry. In Hungarian he wrote hundreds of poems and published two volumes of original Hungarian poetry in the U.S. (1966, 1971) and also contributed to several anthologies and published a collection in Hungary (1991). Makkai was the most renowned as the editor and major contributing translator of In Quest of the Miracle Stag (1996), a huge anthology of Hungarian poetry in English translation. The collection is the only such large scale anthology of Hungarian verse, and includes the work of 78 authors and a selection of folk poetry and verse by anonymous writers. The Nobel Prize winning Irish poet, Seamus Heaney in The Times Literary Supplement (in 1997) judged the anthology "a revelation, an inundation…an education in a great corpus of poetry insufficiently known in English. "In his last years Makkai moved to Budapest, Hungary from Hawaii with his wife, Ágnes Arany, a writer. He was the recipient of the Kossuth Award (2011) as well as the Kossuth Grand Award (2016) and numerous other awards, including the Order of Saint Stephen Award (2016).
February 10, 2020