Zsolt, Béla

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ZSOLT, BÉLA (1895–1949), Hungarian novelist, poet, and journalist. Zsolt, who was born at Komárom, joined the editorial board of the radical Budapest newspaper Világ in 1921 and later worked for Magyar Hírlap and, from 1933, for Újság. In addition, he was editor in chief of the radical weekly A Toll. In his editorials, Zsolt subjected his press rivals to merciless attack, especially for their ignorance and corruption, their hatred of European culture and, above all, their virulent antisemitism. During the Nazi era he was sent to a labor camp in the Ukraine and when the Hungarian army chief ordered his release, the command was not obeyed. Finally, as a member of the *Kasztner Group, he was dispatched to Switzerland from Bergen-Belsen. After the war, Zsolt returned to Hungary, where he founded the radical weekly called Haladás. In the free elections of 1947, he was elected to parliament on the radical party list.

Zsolt made his name as a novelist and poet. His prose writing, though carelessly constructed, shows great talent for artistic and accurate description, and his bourgeois and petit bourgeois Jews are characters out of real life. Zsolt's attitude toward the Jewish bourgeoisie in his fiction contrasts with his defense of the Jews as a journalist. In his stories, he exposed their corruption and degeneration no less devotedly than he fought for their political and economic rights. Zsolt's verse includes the collection Zsolt Béla verseskönyve ("The Book of Poems by Béla Zsolt," 1915). Outstanding among his novels were Házassággal végződik (1926; It Ends in Marriage, 1931); Gerson és neje ("Gerson and his Wife," 1930), on the theme of mixed marriage; Bellegarde (1932); Villámcsapás ("Thunderbolt" 1937); and Kakasviadal ("Cockfight," 1939). He also wrote plays, including Oktogon (1932). Kilenc Koffer ("Nine Cases." 1947) was a book of memoirs and Kőért kenyér ("Bred for Stones," 1939), a collection of articles. Zsolt was continually preoccupied with the problem of the relationship between Jews and non-Jews. This reached a head in the novel Kínos ügy ("Distressing Affair," 1935), which showed his descriptive powers at their best. His ambivalence would seem to stem from his own unstable attitude to Judaism: he converted to Christianity, but later reverted to Judaism. Zsolt was the last chronicler of the Hungarian-Jewish assimilated bourgeoisie, and his precise descriptions perpetuated their memory.


Magyar Irodalmi Lexikon, 3 (1965), 611–3.

[Baruch Yaron]