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.