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KISS, JOSEPH:

Hungarian poet; born Nov. 8, 1843, at Mezöcsat. Being obliged by the death of his mother and financial ruin of his father to give up his college studies, he engaged in teaching. As tutor in the country he had an opportunity to become acquainted with the village Jews and the peasants; and this experience furnished him with the material for his poems. In 1868 he went to Budapest, as corrector in a printing-office; and in the same year he published a volume of poems, "Zsidó Dalok," or "Jewish Songs." Between 1870 and 1873 he edited a literary journal, "Képes Világ." This was suspended shortly after his marriage (April 28, 1873), and Kiss, desperately in need of money, wrote a sensational story, "Budapesti Rejtelmek," or "Secrets of Budapest," in eight volumes, under the pen-name "Szentesi Rudolf." Kiss's fortunes changed in 1875, when his ballad "Simon Judith" fell into the hands of the art critic and historian Franz Toldy, who introduced the unknown poet to the public. This poem marks the beginning of his popularity throughout the country.

From 1876 to 1882 Kiss was secretary of the Jewish community at Temesvár; then he accepted a position with the Hungarian-French Insurance Company, and on its failure, in 1889, he founded the popular literary periodical "A Héet" ("The Week"). His collected poems and his longer poetic tales have passed through numerous editions. Many of his poems have also been translated into German by Neugebauer, Albert Sturm, and especially by Joseph Steinbach, a physician at Franzensbad, who has issued two volumes of them, "Das Lied von der Nähmaschine" (Leipsic, 1884), and "Gedichte von Joseph Kiss" (Vienna, 1886, dedicated to Crown Prince Rudolph).

In his most important ballads Kiss deals chiefly with types of the Jewish and Hungarian people. The poem that Kiss wrote on the strong anti-Semitic movement in 1882, "Az ár Ellen" ("Against the Stream"), created such a sensation that it was translated by Max Falk into German, and found its way in a Hebrew translation into Russia, where it was sung even in many synagogues. Kiss's ballad "Jehova" also attracted unusual attention, being recited in 1893 by the actress Marie Jászai in thirty-five cities of Hungary.

Bibliography:
  • Pallas Lex.
S. L. V.
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