Austro-Hungarian journalist Leopold Weiss was a descendant of rabbis and ran away from home in his teens, taking up odd jobs, before finally becoming a journalist in Germany. His work took him to the Middle East, where he converted to Islam and adopted the name Muhammad Asad.
Apart from being a political economist, Karl Polanyi was also a prominent Hungarian political leader. The Great Transformation remains his best-known work. He taught at institutes such as the Columbia University and is known for proposing the idea of a cultural version of economics known as substantivism.
Hungarian-American psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, who spent most of life teaching at the State University of New York Health Science Center, was known for his controversial claim that mental illnesses aren’t illnesses at all. Part of the anti-psychiatry movement, he penned books such as The Myth of Mental Illness.
Arthur Koestler was a Hungarian-British journalist and author. He achieved international fame in 1940 when he published an anti-totalitarian novel titled Darkness at Noon. He was honored with the prestigious Sonning Prize in 1968. In 1972, he was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire for his contributions to the field of journalism.
A renowned international affairs strategist and geopolitical forecaster, George Friedman is also a New York Times bestselling author, having penned works such as The Storm Before the Calm and The Next 100 Years. He has also headed Stratfor as its CEO and has worked with various US military and government organizations.
Acclaimed Hungarian novelist and screenwriter Laszlo Krasznahorkai is known for his dystopian themes. Though he initially studied law, he later turned to full-time writing. Director Béla Tarr has turned many of his novels, such as Satantango, into films. Krasznahorkai also became the first Hungarian writer to win the Man Booker International Prize.
Hungarian Jewish poet and SOE member Hannah Szenes went down in history for voluntarily parachuting into occupied Europe during World War II to assist the Allied forces and the armed resistance against the Nazis. Captured at the Hungarian border, she was eventually tortured and executed by a firing squad.
New York Times bestselling Hungarian-American author Kati Marton was born to reporter parents who had survived the Holocaust. She has previously been an award-winning correspondent for NPR and the bureau chief of ABC News in Germany. Her best-known works include True Believer and Enemies of the People.
Hungarian poet and revolutionary Sándor Petőfi is remembered as one of the pillars of the 1848 Hungarian Revolution, and his song Talpra Magyar became an anthem of the revolution. While he was initially part of the army, ill health got him dismissed soon. He also penned the epic fairy tale János vitéz.
Hungarian Jewish doctor and forensic pathologist Miklós Nyiszli was sent to Auschwitz along with his family. He survived the concentration camp to tell the tale in his iconic book Auschwitz: A Doctor’s Eyewitness Account. Though he escaped death, he was forced to conduct experiments on fellow inmates under Dr. Josef Mengele.
12 Geza Rohrig
Best known for his performance as Saul Ausländer in the Academy Award-winning movie Son of Saul, Hungarian actor Geza Rohrig grew up in foster care and was initially interested in music. He is also a talented poet, who has dealt with themes such as the Holocaust in his works.
13 Imre Kertész
Nobel Prize-winning Hungarian author Imre Kertész is best remembered for his Holocaust-themed writings. Sent to Auschwitz at 14 and then to Buchenwald, he was eventually freed in 1945, following which he became a journalist. His best-known work remains Fatelessness, a semi-autobiographical account of the Nazi terror.
14 Felix Salten
Best known for penning the children’s classic Bambi, Felix Salten was forced to flee Vienna during the Nazi regime and eventually settled in Switzerland. His books were banned in Austria after Germany annexed the country, but that didn’t dent his popularity as an author. He was a skilled hunter, too.
Known for his short stories and plays reflecting the life in Budapest, author Ferenc Molnár never identified with any particular literary movement. His best-known works include the short story anthology Muzsika and the novel The Paul Street Boys. Initially an aspiring lawyer, he later worked as a war correspondent.
16 Sándor Márai
A descendant of a Hungarian noble family, Sándor Márai grew up to become a celebrated journalist. He was the first to review the works of Franz Kafka. He neither liked the Nazis nor the Communists. His best-known works include the novel Embers, which was later made into a stage play.
17 Emma Orczy
Best known for her historical novel The Scarlet Pimpernel, Hungarian-British novelist Emma Orczy was the only child of noted composer Baron Felix Orczy. While she initially studied art, she later took to writing. Apart from the Pimpernel sequels, she also penned several collections of detective stories, such as Lady Molly of Scotland Yard.
18 László Nemes
Best known for his Academy Award-winning debut film Son of Saul, Hungarian director László Nemes is the son of director András Jeles. A Sorbonne alumnus, he later assisted director Béla Tarr. His other notable projects include Napszállta, or Sunset, and the short film With a Little Patience.
Hungarian Catholic clergyman József Mindszenty was arrested more than once for opposing totalitarian governments. Eventually made the archbishop of Esztergom and a cardinal, he was later imprisoned by the communist government for refusing to secularize Catholic schools. Later freed, he underwent a 15-year voluntary confinement at the Hungarian US embassy.
20 Olga Lengyel
The author of Five Chimneys, an autobiographical account of her time as a prisoner at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Olga Lengyel was eventually the only survivor from her family. A physician’s assistant, she later moved to the US and formed the Memorial Library there, which now raises awareness about the Holocaust.
One of the greatest 20th-century Hungarian poets, Attila József was a washerwoman’s son and had begun writing poems since age 17 but soared to fame only after his death. He was also a co-founder of the literary journal Szép Szó, or Beautiful Word. He later showed signs of mental illnesses.
Sándor Ferenczi is best remembered for his research on free association and the psychoanalytic theory. Initially an army doctor, he specialized in subjects such as neuropathology and hypnosis. He was also close to Sigmund Freud and later taught at the University of Budapest. He also established the Hungarian Psychoanalytic Society.
23 Max Nordau
Hungarian physician and author Max Nordau was the son of a rabbi. After practicing medicine in Budapest for a while, he went to Paris and began writing for Neue Freie Presse. A major figure behind the Zionist Organization, he penned The Conventional Lies of Our Civilization, which was banned in several countries.
Hungarian author Frigyes Karinthy was the first to state the concept of six degrees of separation, in his short story Chains. Initially a journalist, he later mastered the short story format and also penned novels such as Voyage to Faremido. He also wrote the script for the film The Stork Caliph.
25 Endre Ady
Endre Ady was a Hungarian poet and journalist. Widely regarded as the 20th century's greatest Hungarian poet, Ady is credited with introducing a new, modern style of poetry, breaking away from the folksy style of Sándor Petőfi, which was widely followed by Hungarian poets at that time. In 1947, a postage stamp featuring Ady's likeness was issued by Hungary.
26 Magda Szabó
Known as an eccentric thinker, Wolfgang von Kempelen is best remembered for his automatic chess-playing machine The Turk and his speaking machine. The Turk eventually turned out to be a hoax, designed by Kempelen to impress Maria Theresa, the Austrian Empress, and had human chess players operating it.
Born to an Austro-Hungarian diplomat, Ödön von Horváth grew up studying in Hungarian but later became one of the finest writers of German literature. The writer of iconic plays such as Italian Night and Tales from the Vienna Woods, he was a significant anti-fascist playwright. He died in a thunderstorm.
29 Arpad Goncz
The first democratic president of Hungary, Arpad Goncz had been part of the anti-Nazi resistance and also the anti-Soviet Hungarian Revolution of 1956, and was jailed for the latter. A father figure in Hungary, he earned the nickname Uncle Arpi. Post-retirement, he devoted himself to charitable causes.
30 John Lukacs
Iconoclastic Hungarian-American historian and scholar John Lukacs spent most of his career teaching at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia. Known for his books such as The Hitler of History, he was a staunch anti-Communist and propagated liberal democracy. He headed the American Catholic Historical Association as its president.
32 Janos Arany
Hungarian poet Janos Arany is regarded by many as the Shakespeare of ballads. Best known for his iconic epic poem Toldi, which was part of a trilogy, he had also been associated with the Hungarian Academy. He had initially been part of the Hungarian Revolution and later also taught for a while.
Regarded as one of the greatest 20th-century Hungarian poets, Miklos Radnoti initially worked in his family textile business and then switched to literature, writing for various little magazines. Sent to a forced labor camp, he was eventually murdered by the Hungarian Guards and dumped in a mass grave during the Holocaust.
34 Franz Jalics
35 Ivan Tors
Besides being an author and a songwriter, Zsuzsanna Emese Mokcsay, a.k.a. Zsuzsanna Budapest, is also known for her Goddess-oriented witchcraft, Dianic Wicca, which she established in LA. She also founded the first women-only witches’ coven. She was initially married, and had 2 sons, but divorced after realizing she was a lesbian.
37 Béla Balázs
Hungarian author Béla Balázs, known for his Symbolist poems, also made pathbreaking studies in formalist film theory. He later established the Film Studies Institute of Hungary and also contributed to films such as The 3 Penny Opera. The Béla Balázs Prize, named after him, now honors talented cinematographers.
Hungarian-British producer and dramatist Martin Julius Esslin is best known for introducing the term "the theatre of the absurd” in his 1961 book of the same name. Apart from being a BBC scriptwriter and producer, he also taught at institutes such as Stanford. He died after a long struggle with Parkinson's disease.
40 Mór Jókai
Miklós Zrínyi was an able military leader of Hungary, who was determined to drive the Turks out of his country. He also authored Hungary’s first epic poem, The Peril of Sziget. Unfortunately, he was killed by a wild boar during a hunting expedition, though rumors suggest he was assassinated.
Hungarian author Dezső Kosztolányi brought in futurism to Hungarian literature and wrote everything from plays to plays. Known for his novels such as Skylark and The Golden Kite, he also translated works of legends such as Shakespeare and Rilke. He was a lifelong journalist, too.
44 Egon Ronay
Born in Hungary, gourmet food critic Egon Ronay is best remembered for his guide books on British and Irish restaurants. The son of a restaurateur, he was part of the Hungarian Army and later moved to England. His Egon Ronay's Guide to British Eateries sold 30,000 copies and revolutionized food writing.
Though born into a noble family, Mihály Vörösmarty had to face poverty from an early age and also sustained by tutoring. A trained lawyer, he later devoted himself to reforming Hungarian literature by removing all its classical influences. The play Csongor és Tünde remains one of his best-known works.
47 Péter Nádas
Hungarian pianist Gyorgy Sandor initially gained fame as a concert pianist and later became an American citizen, even serving the US Army Signal Corps. Apart from being a student of composer Béla Bartók, he was one of the few in his inner circle. He also at Juilliard and the University of Michigan.
While he initially gained fame as a novelist, Fritz Mauthner later became one of the finest Austrian theater critics. His work also involved philosophy of languages. He believed that though words have social value, they reflect imperfect sense experiences and showcase distorted reality, as they are used subjectively by people.
50 August Šenoa
Author August Šenoa is credited with leading Croatian literature from Romanticism to Realism. Also considered the "father of the Croatian novel," he studied law but later deviated to writing. He introduced the genre of the historical novel in Croatia and penned iconic works such as Pirates of Senj.