The Siege of Sziget
In 1566, Croatian Count Miklós Zrínyi defended the Fortress of Szigetvár against an overwhelming Ottoman siege for 33 days. In the end, with troops and supplies exhausted, he led the remainder of his men in a last charge into the enemy lines, killing thousands before being killed themselves. Almost a hundred years later in 1651, Zrínyi's great-grandson, also Miklós Zrínyi and himself a famed general, composed an epic poem of some 1,500 stanzas recalling in vivid and often fantastic detail the events of the siege, the heroes on both sides, and the climactic final sortie that led to defeat for the Hungarians and painfully empty victory for the Turks.
The epic, written in the fashion of Homer and Tasso, does not content itself with just a historical retelling, however. Written when the Ottoman threat was again looming large over all of Europe, the poet sought to marshal his countrymen, and indeed all Christians, against the cause of the overwhelming forces from the East. He framed his story, therefore, in the larger context of God's burning anger against the apostasy of his followers, which he uses the Turkish invasion to punish. It is only with a return to piety that the Christians can restore God's favor, but if they do — woe to their invaders! The hero, Zrínyi, is one such believer, who is as likely to give a moving speech on the righteousness and supremacy of God's will as he is to massacre those who would assault his home. God rewards him with a martyr's death, but not before giving him the glory of finishing off Sultan Suleiman himself, as the demons summoned by the Sultan's wizard battle the angels who have come to claim the defenders' souls.
Part chronicle of war, part theological treatise, the poem also has episodes of romance and adventure, as each side is at once humanized and made larger than life. The work is today considered to be one of the cornerstones of Hungarian literature, and one of most important works of the seventeenth century of any language, but has been virtually unknown and entirely inaccessible outside of Hungary — until now.
ABOUT THE TRANSLATOR:
Laszlo Korossy completed his undergraduate and graduate degrees at the Catholic University of America and is pursuing a Ph.D. in public policy at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
PRAISE FOR THE BOOK:
"The Siege of Sziget is a timeless testimony to the Hungarian-Turkish wars and the 150 years of Turkish occupation of Hungary. It is an authentic description of sixteenth-century warfare, military operations, and the soldier's way of life, which in itself is of value apart from the merit of the work as poetry. The combination of the two—its intrinsic value as poetry and as history—makes it one the finest of European epics. László Kőrössy's remarkable translation opens the treasures of one of the cornerstones of Hungarian classic literature."—Béla Gedeon, Cultural Attaché, Embassy of Hungary
"Count Miklós Zrínyi was a brilliant soldier and statesman renowned throughout seventeenth-century Europe, though in Hungary he is revered above all as the author of the last great European epic. Kőrössy is to be congratulated for making this remarkable work available in fluent yet nuanced modern English, thus revealing a Hungarian classic as not only a gem in the crown of the European Baroque but a vital and profoundly human document of the continent's engagement in the contest between Christendom and Islam."—Peter Sherwood, László Birinyi, Sr., Distinguished Professor of Hungarian Language and Culture, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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