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Frigyes Karinthy

Frigyes Karinthy
Portrait by József Rippl-Rónai
Born (1887-06-25)25 June 1887
Budapest, Hungary
Died 29 August 1938(1938-08-29) (aged 51)
Siófok, Hungary
Nationality Hungarian
Occupation author, playwright, poet, journalist, and translator
Known for originating the six degrees of separation concept

Frigyes Karinthy (Hungarian pronunciation: ; 25 June 1887 – 29 August 1938) was a Hungarian author, playwright, poet, journalist, and translator. He was the first proponent of the six degrees of separation concept, in his 1929 short story, Chains (Láncszemek). Karinthy remains one of the most popular Hungarian writers. He was the father of poet Gábor Karinthy and writer Ferenc Karinthy.

Among the English translations of Karinthy's works are two science fiction novellas that continue the adventures of Swift's character Gulliver. Voyage to Faremido is an early examination of artificial intelligence, with a pacifist theme,[1] while Capillaria is a polished and darkly humorous satire on the 'battle of the sexes'.[1]


  • Life and work 1
  • Private life 2
  • Selected filmography 3
  • Works in English translation 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Life and work

Karinthy was born into a bourgeois family in Budapest. His family was originally Jewish, but they had changed religions shortly before he was born. He started his writing career as a journalist and remained a writer of short, humorous blurbs until his death. He rose to instant fame in 1912 with the publication of his literary parodies called That's How YOU Write (Így írtok ti). He expanded the collection continuously during the following years. Among his early works, his collection of short stories from school life, Please Sir! (Tanár úr, kérem, 1916)[2] also stands out for its grasp of the trials and tribulations of the average schoolboy. Karinthy was an admirer of H.G. Wells. In addition to translating Wells' "The Country of the Blind" and The Sea Lady into Hungarian, Karinthy's own fiction was influenced by Wells.[3] Another popular highlight is his translation of A. A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh, that made it a cult book in Hungary.

From the First World War, his writing became more serious and engaged, though never leaving a satirical bent. Karinthy cited Jonathan Swift as a major influence: from this arose the novel Voyage to Faremido (Utazás Faremidóba, 1916) and its sequel, Capillaria (1921). Many of his novels and stories also deal with the difficulties of relationships between men and women, partly due to his unhappy second marriage.

Karinthy had a brain tumor for which he was operated upon in Stockholm in 1936. He describes this experience in his autobiographical novel, Journey Round my Skull, (Utazás a koponyám körül), originally published in 1939; a reissue appeared as a NYRB Classic in 2008 with an introduction by neurologist Oliver Sacks. He died two years later, during a holiday at Lake Balaton.

Private life

Karinthy was married twice. He married the actress Etel Judik in 1913. The marriage was serene and happy and they had a son called Gábor. Tragically, Etel died very young during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1919. In 1920, he married the psychiatrist Aranka Böhm, with whom he had another son, the writer Ferenc Karinthy. Although he did not speak the language, Karinthy was an ardent supporter of Esperanto, attending Esperanto congresses,[4] and even became president of the Hungarian Esperanto Society in 1932.[5]

He is well known for his dry sense of humor, as he himself noted: "In humor I know no jokes." Just one example of it was his advertising slogan for his book Journey Round my Skull: The Newest Novel of the Famed Tumorist.

Selected filmography

Works in English translation

  • Drama:A Farce-Satire in One Act (1925)
  • Refund : a farce in one act adapted, from the Hungarian, by Percival Wilde.
  • A Journey Round My Skull (1939) translated from the Hungarian by Vernon Duckworth Barker.
  • Voyage to Faremido & Capillaria (1966) Introduced and translated by Paul Tabori.
  • Please Sir! (1968) Translated by István Farkas. The foreword translated by Mary Kuttna.
  • Grave and gay : selections from his work (1973) Frigyes Karinthy ; selected by István Kerékgyártó ; afterword by Károly Szalay.


  1. ^ a b E. F. Bleiler and Richard Bleiler. Science-Fiction: The Early Years. Kent State University Press, 1990. (pp. 400–401). ISBN 9780873384162.
  2. ^ Please Sir! – the complete translation
  3. ^ Katalin Csala, "The Puzzling Connection between H.G. Wells and Frigyes Karinthy." The Reception of H.G. Wells in Europe, edited by Patrick Parrinder and John S. Partington. Continuum, 2005. ISBN 0826462537 (pp.195–204)
  4. ^ Biography of Frigyes Karinthy
  5. ^ Esperanto WorldHeritage


  • Please Sir! – the complete translation
  • The Circus – a short story with an introduction
  • Struggle for Life – a poem, and two other short quotations
  • A Journey Round My Skull, First American Edition published by Harper and Brothers, New York, 1939 (repr 2008) ISBN 978-1-59017-258-2
  • Famous Hungarian Jews: Frigyes Karinthy

External links

  • Works by Frigyes Karinthy at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by or about Frigyes Karinthy at Internet Archive
  • Biography, quotes, publications compiled for the Frankfurt Book Fair
  • Biography at the website of the secondary school named after him
  • The Grotesque: Frigyes Karinthy. In: Lóránt Czigány: A History of Hungarian Literature, chapter XIX.
  • Hungarian authors – A bibliographical handbookKarinthy's entry in Albert Tezla:
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