BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungarian writer Peter Esterhazy, whose postmodern novels chronicled life under communism and its aftermath, died on Thursday aged 66, weeks after publishing a book about his pancreatic cancer.
One of Central Europe’s best known contemporary authors, Esterhazy came from what was once one of the continent’s richest families whose wealth through the centuries sometimes exceeded that of the Austrian-Hungarian rulers.
Composer Joseph Haydn was a conductor for an Esterhazy court orchestra in the 18th century and Peter’s grandfather was prime minister of Hungary in 1917, but the Esterhazys lost their property and standing under communist rule.
Peter, a mathematician, began writing in the 1970s, with his works eventually translated into 24 languages and winning awards at home and in countries including France, Germany and Austria.
Employing a stop-and-go rhythm, his writing concentrated on twists and surprises rather than straight narrative lines, combining personal experiences with references, quotes and all shades of jokes from sarcasm to toilet humor, sometimes including texts of other authors.
In 2000, a few days after finishing “Celestial Harmonies”, a novel inspired by the history of his family, Esterhazy was shocked to learn that his father, who died in 1998, had been a secret police informer under the communist regime.
His search for how and why that happened became the subject of his next novel, “Corrected Version”.
“Pancreas Diary”, his last work, begins as a journal of biological facts before discussing the writer’s relationship with the diseased organ, questioning whether it is a separate entity with a will of its own.
“Then those natural reflexes come: trying to flatter it, to win its goodwill,” he said in an interview with website konyves.blog.hu just weeks before his death.
Esterhazy’s death was reported by the Hungarian news agency MTI, citing a statement from the family.
Reporting by Sandor Peto and Marton Dunai; Editing by Robin Pomeroy