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The Tragedy of Man

4.19  ·  Rating details ·  1,741 ratings  ·  42 reviews
A literary work by the Hungarian author Imre Madách, first published in 1861. A play composed in verse, it is today a staple of Hungarian theater and has been translated and adapted into many languages and media. The play follows Adam and Eve as they appear in various guises in episodes throughout history and grow in self-awareness and wisdom.
Paperback, 272 pages
Published September 28th 1998 by Corvina Books (first published 1860)
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Average rating 4.19  · 
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 ·  1,741 ratings  ·  42 reviews

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Nov 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Although considered one of the hallmarks of Hungarian literature, Imre Madách's The Tragedy of Man is virtually unknown in the West (or the East for that matter). Imagine a work resembling Milton's Paradise Lost and Goethe's and Marlowe's recounting of the Faust legend. Adam and Eve have been cast out of Paradise. Instead of slinking away as he does in Genesis, Lucifer takes Adam through different periods of history, and even into a Fourierist future in which everyone lives in Phalansteries run ...more

So after all these trials you still believe
That these new battles may not be so useless?
That you will reach your goal? Only humanity
Could remain so incorrigibly childish.


I'm quite untempted by that foolish prospect,
I know that I will fail and fail again
And I don't care. What other goal is there?
It is the end of an honourable contest,
The goal is death, but life consists of struggle,
The struggle in itself must be the goal.

Chiek Er
Jul 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Perhaps the greatest poem ever written. Steep in theology, history and philosophy, this beautiful poem is my first book by an Hungarian author. Thanks to my colleague Attila for introducing this piece of priceless literature. The breath and scope of the tale stretches from Alpha to Omega, planet earth to outer space. With God, Lucifer, Adam and Eve as the central characters in the book, To get a taste of the future, Lucifer, Adam and Eve would travel through time to different epochs of history, ...more
Biblio Curious
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Love, love, love this one ^.^ It's every thing that Milton's Paradise Lost is not & provides a unique twist on the Faust legend. Hmm... could this be my favourite Faust adaptation?? The philosophy, theology, journey through time & reincarnation elements could make me favour this over the others.

The poetic lines are steeped in meaning that resonates more with each glance. Basically, this little drama is by a Hungarian author. Madach took Adam & Eve on a journey through all of human
Jun 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"This false fancy does not tempt by all means,
I know, the aim I shall hundred times not reach.
That is nothing. Really, what's the aim?
Aim is always the break of heroic fight,
Death is the aim and life is the struggle,
And man's aim has been this struggle itself."
Jan 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: mofos in 9th grade, suicidal emo kids, Barack Obama
Recommended to Balazs by: Lucifer
This book is about a man with manic-depressive disorder and severe schizophrenia. He wants to commit suicide, but his wife is pregnant and he decides not to. God is a douche. Lucifer is a total bro.
Jc Er
May 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Magnificent poetry from Hungarian's most famous 19th century poet, Imre Madach. This is heavy literature is steep in theology, history and philosophy. God, Adam, Satan and Eve are the main characters. After the fall of Adam and Eve when they ate the apple, Satan took Adam on a time travel to visit men's future (our history now) to see what will come to be. Instead of being a bystander, Adam took on important historical figures like a pharaoh in Egypt, a Roman General, a knight crusader, Kepler ...more
Mar 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am not sure what language I should write this review, but since most people understand english, english it is.

I've read this book in high school for Hungarian literature class. In short it fallows Adam's path through big events of history to present and future, accompanied by Lucifer. Lucifer tries to prove Adam that life has no purpose, everyone will eventually die and no-one can make a difference. Lucifer shows Adam how great ideas are born, implemented in practice and become the opposite of
Miloš Petrik
Sep 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
An epic tale in a book of verse
Compounded. Forbidden fruit incited
Morning Star to tell histories diverse
Of pending doom, wrongs resting unrighted.
Is Man's will free or ruled by cruel hap?
To Imre Madach one must doff one's cap.
Feb 21, 2017 added it
One of my favourite books that I had to read at school. Lucifer is an all-time love for me.
May 07, 2017 rated it liked it
When I think back to living in Hungary versus living in America, there is an odd reflection on the major theme in my life. The former place gave solution and the latter gives the problem to me.
Andre Piucci
Dec 05, 2018 rated it liked it

#-#-# TO READ #-#-#

Olívia Kazár
Dec 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
evergreen, must reread in every 2 years
Liz Quack
Aug 29, 2016 rated it it was ok
Spoiler Alert

First I'll say what I enjoyed about this book. I quite liked Lucifer, he was funny and clever. He was the one voice of reason in this story. That being said, I had trouble keeping with it when Lucifer's parts were minimal, Adam was a drag, and Eve was silenced just as much as any woman coming out of a book from this time. I enjoyed the imagery and was excited when I thought that Adam had died while floating in Space, unfortunately he was revived and able to drive the final nail into
Feb 05, 2010 rated it liked it
A Hungarian Paradise Lost. Quite thought-provoking!

From a critique at the end of the work by Mihaly Szegedy-Maszak:
"The message of Madach [seems to be:] that unqualified faith in any system of ideas is self-destructive. . . . Unless we are content with existing on the level of animals or automata, we must strive to be independent of the ruling opinions of the time and should not fear to enter into the most hostile relationship with the existing order, because fate will never take us from the
David Koblos
Dec 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
In this monumental play Madách takes his protagonist Adam from the Fall through all the major epochs and settings of history, including Egypt, Athens, Constantinople, Prague, and London all the way to futuristic utopias, to experience the major philosophical, social, political and existential struggles of humanity. While each surrounding situation presents different types of challenges, the constant struggle is always based on the ever present conflict of the human experience. A true ...more
Apr 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: society, poetry, classics
One of the few set texts I read for school. A powerful and monumental play, somewhat similar to Milton's Paradise Lost. Adam and Eve, cast out from Paradise, are led by Lucifer through various moments of humanity's history, to learn whether human existence has a meaning and purpose. While their hopes are crushed in each scene, they never cease dreaming about and fighting for a better future.
Judit Rayman
The storyline was hard to follow and it was so challenging to read. I didn't understand most of the things, even though it was written in my native tongue. If it was written in a lighter form i probably would have enjoyed it a bit more. I'm glad i read it though, because it's considered as one of the greatest poems of hungarian history.
Sep 12, 2011 marked it as to-read
This was mentioned in The Making of the Atomic Bomb, and because, somewhere hidden in these piles of math books, and papers to grade, and laundry, there is a degree in comparative literature (specializing in long poems no one else has read), I have decided that I simply must read this.
laura z.
Dec 07, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Can't believe I finished this and have time to read the Diviners
Jan 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Only read the Hungarian version but that is brilliant!
Vivien Kurucz
Oct 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2015
Probably for the first time in my life am I proud of the Hungarian literature.
Aug 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful journey through philosophy and history. Questioning mankind's purpose in the world, and actually answering it. Madách is a genius, I loved this book.
Eszter Pálinkás
Mestermű <3
Oct 10, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
i would advise to read it in hungarian original.
Andrew Lavin
Feb 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
"Lucifer - Your punishment though, which will be eternal,
Is ever to look on, and see your schemes
Of ruination turn into the seeds
Of all that is most beautiful and noble."
Jan 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Although I had to read this for school it is a good read.
Jan 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
The Tragedy of Man is a poeme d'humanité, a grandiose play that asks questions about humanity, philosophy and morality, packaged in a religious mise en scène. It tells the story of human history in the form of Hegel's dialectics, as the neverending triad of thesis, antithesis, synthesis, with canonical characters such as Adam and Eve, and Lucifer the devil. A masterpiece of Madách worthy of worldwide fame. My only criticism is that the second half of the play, especially at the end, seems a bit ...more
Chuck LoPresti
Oct 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Stunning epic poem. Not difficult but dense and well executed. More soon...
Szani Petrik
Apr 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
One word: AMAZING. One of my favourites!
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Imre Madách de Sztregova et de Kelecsény was a Hungarian writer, poet, lawyer and politician. His major work is The Tragedy of Man (Az ember tragédiája, 1861). It is a dramatic poem approximately 4000 lines long, which elaborates on ideas comparable to Goethe's Faust. The author was encouraged and advised by János Arany, one of the most famous of 19th century Hungarian poets.

He was born in
“Let me see no more of my harsh fate: this useless struggle.” 5 likes
“You reason like a well-fed man, while your comrade's philosophy comes from an empty stomach. With reason you won't vanquish one another. You would agree at once if either you were hungry or he were full. The animal is always first in you and only when it is appeased, Man becomes conscious and in his great pride, despises his real nature.” 0 likes
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