MAKAI (Fischer), EMIL (1870–1901), Hungarian poet and playwright. Born in Mako, Makai was the son of Rabbi Enoch Fischer. In 1884 he entered the Budapest rabbinical seminary, but during his years there he spent much of his time writing. Finally, in 1893, after much heart searching and with the encouragement of the great Jewish poet József *Kiss, he decided to give up his rabbinical studies and devote himself entirely to writing.
Makai began the first, exclusively Jewish phase of his literary career with a collection of lyric verse, Vallásos énekek ("Religious Hymns," 1888). This was followed by a biblical drama, Absalon (1891), and Zsidó költők ("Jewish Poets," 1892), translations from the works of leading Hebrew writers in medieval Spain. These had an epoch-making effect on Hungarian literature, and established Makai's reputation as a poet. In 1893, his paraphrase of the Song of Songs (Énekek éneke) was published. Unlike almost all his contemporaries, Makai was an "urban poet," a type virtually unknown in Hungarian literature.
In his second, "worldly" phase of creative writing, Makai wrote primarily about love, notably in the collection Margit (1895). His plays include the three-act verse comedy Tudós professzor Hatvani ("The Learned Professor Hatvani," 1900), depicting the life of a humorous Faustian character. From 1892 Makai translated more than 100 operettas which, by reason of his masterly metrical technique, established the style of the Hungarian operetta. They included Abraham *Golfaden's Sulamit and Bar Kochba, the former a major success on the Hungarian stage. A two-volume selection of Makai's writings was published in 1904.
Magyar Zsidó Lexikon (1929), S.V.; Magyar Irodalmi Lexikon, 2 (1965), 178; F. Ványi (ed.), Magyar Irodalmi Lexikon (1926), S.V.; N. Várkonyi, A modern magyar irodalóm 1880–1920 (1928), index; K. Sebestyén, Makai Emil (Hung., 1923); Makai Emil munkái (1904), introd. by G. Molnár; Révai nagy lexikona, 13 (1915), S.V.; Mezey, in: IMIT (1912), 158–69.