Péter Hajdu Institute of Literary Studies, Hungarian Academy of Sciences Ménesi út 11-13 Budapest 1118 Hungary

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József Lengyel (1896–1975), a Hungarian short story writer, could compare European and other landscapes based on personal experience, since he had to spend 18 years in Siberia in Stalin’s Gulag. He wrote a short story cycle, in which the relation of man and nature, the experience of an extreme climate, and the peculiarities of the Siberian landscape are central themes. What people were doing there, was a struggle, partly for survival, partly for the transformation of nature into something “useful” to man, or at least suitable for human life. This authentic representation of a non-European environment, which is unique in Hungarian literature, will be compared in this paper with the short stories by István Tömörkény (1866–1917), who in some hundreds of ethnographic short stories described the life of miserable peasants on the Great Hungarian Plain, i.e., activities that Lengyel described as “beautifying the land.” In both oeuvres nature tends to appear as an enemy, which is sometimes indomitable, sometimes to be defeated by all means. The representation of indomitable nature performs the environmental sublime, while fighting nature appears as an attitude, which is highly problematic in retrospect. The ethos of environmental devastation makes such literature uncomfortable reading in an age of possible global environmental catastrophes; but the continuous fight with nature means a continuous coexistence with nature at the same time, i.e., a continuous realization of the dependence of human existence on the environment, a realization that can be useful now, when human beings try to live in the illusion of a possible separation from nature.

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Founder Akadémiai Kiadó
H-1117 Budapest, Hungary 1516 Budapest, PO Box 245.
Publisher Akadémiai Kiadó
Springer Nature Switzerland AG
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Chief Executive Officer, Akadémiai Kiadó
ISSN 0324-4652 (Print)
ISSN 1588-2810 (Online)

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