István Kemény entered university to study law, but switched to Hungarian literature and history, graduating in these subjects in 1993. In his early poetry collections he continued the prevailing trends of decadence and symbolism. He won two literary prizes while still in his twenties.
Kemény also writes short prose pieces in which he addresses moral questions in a sober style: human indifference, environmental pollution, God's thoughts about the world.
Kemény has published an experimental novel, The Art of the Enemy, a light-hearted account of how a group of people touring Budapest get involved in all sorts of commonplace, yet bizarre situations.
In the later poetry collections, the lyrical subject is engaged in a frantic search for the Other, trying to get his attention, while doing his utmost to remain hidden from view.