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Hungarian writer and former dissident Gyorgy Konrad dies at 86

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Internationally acclaimed Hungarian writer Gyorgy Konrad, a leading figure in the dissident movement under communist rule, died on Friday at the age of 86 after a long illness, state news ageny MTI reported, citing his family.

Konrad, who was born into a Jewish family and survived the Holocaust, wrote his first novel, “The Case Worker”, in 1969. It was soon translated into 13 languages, according to his website.

In 1965, he undertook research in urban sociology and his experiences provided material for his next novel, “The City Builder”.

In an interview for Die Zeit in 1974, Konrad said: “I write what I write; the state publishing houses in Hungary publish of my work what they will, while I publish as much of it as I can.”

In the last decades of communism until the collapse of the regime in 1989 Konrad was a forbidden author in Hungary.

He was one of the key voices in the democratic opposition, with his works published in samizdat journals, in clandestine distribution of literature banned by the state.

From 1989 onwards, Konrad was one of the thinkers who paved the way for the transition to democracy in Hungary.

He was an outspoken critic of right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has been in power since 2010, for what he said was an erosion of democratic values.

“My homeland is beginning to resemble the post-Soviet dictatorships of Central Asia; some are even calling it Orbanistan. A number of young Hungarians are planning to leave, many for Western Europe,” Konrad wrote in a piece in the New York Times in 2012.

From 1997 to 2003, Konrad was elected President of Berlin’s Akademie der Künste for two terms and in this role he contributed to the intellectual rapprochement between the East and West of Europe and helped introduce writers and other creative figures from Central Europe to the West.

His book “A guest in my own country: A Hungarian life” won the National Jewish Book Award in the category of memoir and autobiography. It traced his life as a Hungarian child during the Holocaust and later as a student during the 1956 revolution against Soviet rule.

Konrad was President of the International P.E.N. Club in the early 1990s. He also received the Herder Prize, the Charles Veillon Prize, and the Goethe Medal among others.

Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Gareth Jones