Night blue

I got this simple little book printed on foldout cardboard from my mother at the age of three, and I was very impressed. The deep colors reaching into each other led towards deep secrets, and the mixture of unknown and quite familiar elements rendered natural the passage between the world of home and that of books. Of course I have been able to formulate this only decades later; at that time I just gratefully absorbed text and image alike. One becomes a reader well before the knowledge of letters.

I have no copy of the first edition, but the number of copies of the second and third edition of 1974 and 1980 – 57 800 and 70 000, respectively – suggest that many other children may have read it. It is strange how many ugly editions of this same Lullaby were published after this really well-shaped one.

Nowadays, when I sometimes see it in a second-hand bookshop, I buy it for a gift.

The Lullaby is known by most kindergarten-age children, as the author of the little poem was Attila József, one of the most important Hungarian poets. (The twentieth century otherwise abounds in most important Hungarian poets.) The drawings are by Ádám Würtz. It has a number of English translations (1, 2, with a glossary); the one you can read when moving the mouse over the Hungarian verses is by Edwin Morgan. Here you can also listen to a famous sung version of it by Zsuzsa Koncz, one of the most popular singers of the same period, the 70s and 80s.

Attila József: Lullaby, music and song: Zsuzsa Koncz