Kányádi Sándor: Biography

Sándor Kányádi (Nagygalambfalva, 10 May 1929 – Budapest, 20 June 2018)

Kossuth Prize-winning poet, Artist of the Nation. Founding member of the Digital Literature Academy from 1998 until his death.


Born on 10 May 1929 in Nagygalambfalva, Romania (Harghita County) to a Székely family. His father Miklós Kányádi was a farmer. Sándor lost his mother, Julianna László, at an early age (she died over Christmas 1940). He completed five grades of primary school in his home village. Afterwards, he studied in Odorheiu Secuiesc: from 1941 to 1944 at the Reformed College, then from 1944–1945 at the Roman Catholic High School, and finally from 1946–1950 at the Secondary School of Metal and Electrical Engineering.

He was discovered as a poet by Géza Páskándi, who published his first poem in 1950 in the Bucharest newspaper Ifjúmunkás, and later in Cluj-Napoca’s Utunk. From 1950, Kányádi studied for six months at the Szentgyörgyi István College of Drama, then at the Faculty of Language and Literature of the Bolyai University, where he graduated as a teacher of Hungarian literature in 1954. His first book of poetry, The Cherry Tree in Bloom (Virágzik a cseresznyefa), was published in 1955.

In 1951–1952, he was assistant editor of the Literary Almanac, and for a few months also worked for Utunk. Between 1955 and 1960, he was editor of the Dolgozó Nő, and from 1960 until his retirement in 1990, he edited the children’s magazine Napsugár.

In 1958 he married his wife, teacher and editor Mária Magdolna Tichy. They had two children, Sándor Zoltán (1962) and András László (1971).

In October-November 1956, he travelled to the Soviet Union as a delegate of the Romanian Writers’ Association, visiting Leningrad, Moscow, and Armenia. During this journey he crossed the Romanian–Hungarian border for the first time, but only passed through Hungary. In 1967, he travelled to Western Europe for the first time, giving a lecture in Vienna, and in 1969 he attended the Bolzano Free University. In 1971, at the invitation of the PEN Club, he travelled to Norway and Sweden. In 1973, he visited the USA and Canada. In 1984, he took part in a longer lecture tour in North America (Canada, USA) and South America (Argentina, Brazil). In 1992, he presented his translation of Transylvanian Yiddish folk poetry in Israel.

In 1987, he was invited to the International Poetry Meeting in Rotterdam, but he was refused his passport and thus, in protest, he resigned from the Romanian Writers’ Association.

He was a member of the Hungarian Academy of Arts. Since 2009 he was an honorary citizen of the 1st district of Budapest.

He died on 20 June 2018 in Budapest.


The biography was written by Györgyi Pécsi, translated by Benedek Totth and Austin Wagner.