Hungarian Literature Special: Memory is a writer's mission

author:Beijing News

Hungary is a small country, but its literary achievements are quite impressive, and since the mid-20th century alone, a large number of world-class writers have emerged. These writers who lived in the same era shared the same collective memories, including World War II, the concentration camps for the persecution of Jews, Hungary during the Cold War, and later the upheavals in Eastern Europe, but they chose a different literary approach to present it and make it into an allegory that reflects history.

In recent years, many Hungarian writers have a very large number of readers in China, such as Malloy Shandor who depicts the life of citizens in an elegant and calm style, Kertess Imler, who wrote about the pain of war and won the Nobel Prize, Yagota Christoph, who wrote about human nature from a child's perspective, Krasnoholkaj Lászlo, who constructed the human dilemma with iconic long sentences, etc., and in addition to them, there were Nadoš Peter, Esterhaz Peter and other writers still have masterpieces that have not yet been Chinese editions, and writers such as Saab Magda who were once popular but slightly forgotten. For literary readers, Hungary is a country rich in treasures, and the literary imagination is scattered in each writer, who scatters brilliant brilliance with different literary styles.

Hungarian literature today has such a large audience in China, thanks to the work of Hungarian literary translator Yu Zemin, who has translated the works of many classic Hungarian writers and maintains friendship and close ties with contemporary Hungarian writers. In this article, he will give readers a comprehensive introduction to three important Hungarian writers: Malloy Shandor, Kertes Imle and Nadausz Peter. In the coming days, we will continue to publish other articles on this topic, providing readers with an equally detailed interpretation of the lives and works of four writers, Saab Magda, Krasnokholay Laszho, Esterhaz Peter, and Mariash Bella.

Hungarian Literature Special: Memory is a writer's mission

This article is from B02-B03 of the August 26 feature "Gray Memories and Colored Fragments: A Special Collection of Hungarian Literature" in the August 26 issue of the Beijing News Book Review Weekly.

B01 "Theme" Gray Memories and Colorful Fragments: A Special Collection of Hungarian Literature

B02-B03 "Theme" Sunset and Night: Historical Memories of Three Hungarian Writers

B04-B05 "Theme" tender and cruel novelist

B06-B07 "Theme" Different perspectives of different identities

B08 "Interview" Interview with Wu Hung: How to "re-understand" the history of Chinese painting?

Written by|Yu Zemin

Malloy Sandor

Record the twilight of the empire and the fall of the kingdom

One day in mid-August 1940, in an old manor in the Hungarian mountain countryside, General Henrik, a widow of Austria-Hungary, finally waited for his former friend of Cam Ranh and the man who had betrayed him - Conrad. Hungarian writer Malloy Shandor's (1900-1989) well-known novel "Candle Ember" is about a night of conversation between two old men after a long absence. From lighting candles after dark to extinguishing before dawn, they guard the fireplace and reminisce about their childhood acquaintances, including friendship and love, commitment and betrayal, and the rise and fall of family and empire. With poetic language and noble romance that is difficult to find in today's society, this novel tells the trivial memories of the old man.

Malloy is a master of memory, and words throughout his life are about memory. Not long ago, Yi Lin Gang launched the "Confessions of a Citizen" autobiographical trilogy, which is like a camera delicately and truthfully recording the environment, process, world he has traveled and the ups and downs he has experienced, showing us the growth history of a European and an Eastern European citizen class intellectual from physiology to psychology, from life to spirit. The first, The Kausau Years, 1900-1914, chronicles the author's childhood and adolescence. He described his family this way, "I walk among the dead and must speak quietly. Several of the dead are dead to me, and others live in my words and minds, controlled whether I smoke, have sex, or taste a certain food. In fact, Malloy is like the general in "Candle Ember", a descendant of a nobleman, originally surnamed Groschmid, and "Malloy" is a surname given by the king.

In the first part, Malloy recounts in detail his parents' two branches, dozens of relatives near and far, and various friends from his youth, recalling life in a church school and increasingly daring escapes. Because of his frank and serious manner, and profound and sharp analysis, his publication caused dissatisfaction among relatives and friends, and he disagreed with some of the family details he disclosed. In 1936, Malloy was also involved in a lawsuit, when a theology teacher took him to court for "defamation", and under pressure from all sides, Malloy was forced to destroy the first edition, lose a large amount of money to the priest, delete about three chapters, especially the ambiguous life of the boys in the church boarding school and the secrets of the lives of several relatives, and then repeatedly reprinted all abridged versions, until the end of 2013, the whole book was rediscovered, nearly eighty years have passed, Chinese the new edition is unabridged.

Hungarian Literature Special: Memory is a writer's mission

Malloy Sandor.

The second part, "Under the European Firmament, 1919-1928", mainly recalls his ten years of travel. During this decade, he was a traveler, writer and journalist, rationally examining the interwar European continent, seeing the twilight of civilization through the façade of prosperity and premoniting the threat of Nazism. Not only did he write a column for the Frankfurter Zeitung with Thomas Mann, but he was also deeply influenced by him intellectually, sketching and sketching yesterday's Europe with a searing, sincere and rational pen, as he put it: "Today's writers probably only want to bear witness to the era behind them, to the fact that there was such an era, who lived for generations, who defied instinct, sang the triumph of reason, who believed in the resilience of the spirit..."

"I'm like a narrator who survived a fiasco, saying in a heavy tone: I want to remember, I want silence." This is the end of the second part, and he wrote this line in 1934.

Of all Malloy's works, the third "I Wanted to Be Silent, 1938-1945" is the most special, according to his diary, he began planning in 1944, and said that he could not die without finishing the third part of "Confessions of a Citizen", and by the time it was completed on April 5, 1949, he had been in exile in the West for half a year. The book began with the German-Austrian merger on March 13, 1938, and ended with the liberation of Budapest by the Soviet Red Army in 1945, but after writing it he pressed the manuscript to the bottom of the box and never showed it to anyone. In the late 90s, ten years after Malloy's suicide, a researcher at the Petofi Literary Museum in Budapest, while sorting through Malloy's relics, stumbled upon it in a file bag and the manuscript began with the words: "I wanted to be silent." But then, I couldn't resist the call of time, and I knew I couldn't be silent. ”

Since Malloy could not be silent, since he wrote this memoir, why did he decide to hide it? He explained in his diary: "My confessions are not suitable for foreigners to read, nor for Hungarians in exile. They should not be allowed to come and cry for this people at such a distance, they should not be allowed to hate her and become cold to her ... I can only make this part public if it can be published by Hungarian publishing houses for Hungarians. However, his book was banned in his hometown at the time, which shows the sadness of his writing of this book, because if the first two parts of "Confessions of a Citizen" are memories and elegy for the civic lifestyle, the third is to record and analyze the fall and demise of this class.

"I Wanted to Be Silent" begins on the night of the German-Austrian merger, when the countrymen are rejoicing and expecting the reconquest of lost territory, and only a few sober-minded elites like Malloy foresee the crisis facing the nation and see Hitler's murderous intention hidden behind good intentions. In I Wanted to Be Silent, Malloy records that history in detail, as well as what he saw, thought, and witnessed up close how a people collectively lost its mind and walked on the blade. In addition to faithfully documenting his complex and profound spiritual life, he also focused on three political figures closely linked to the fate of Hungary and three prime ministers.

Testtelán István (1874-1946) served as prime minister for ten years after the signing of the Treaty of Trianon in 1921, stabilizing and consolidating Hungary's politics and economy on the one hand, and missing out on social reform by perpetuating the old system of manor rule. He was later wanted by Hitler for his staunch opposition to the Nazis. After World War II, he was taken to the Soviet Union under house arrest and died of illness in a foreign land, which is embarrassing. Telej Parr (1879–1941), an honest and rational politician who served as prime minister from 1939 to 1941, struggled to remain neutral in the face of German pressure and did not want Hungary to repeat the mistakes of World War I, but was alone and unable to return, and shot himself in Buda Castle on April 3, 1941 in protest. After Telegi's death, Baldohi Laszló (1890-1946) took over as Prime Minister. In Malloy's eyes, he was originally a well-bred and well-mannered diplomat, but later became a fanatical populist pro-German. On June 26, 1941, he declared war on the Soviet Union on behalf of the Hungarian government without authorization, and then declared war on the United States under the pressure of Germany and Italy, completely dragging Hungary into the war. He was shot as a war criminal after World War II.

Hungarian Literature Special: Memory is a writer's mission

Malloy and Thomas Mann meet in Buda Castle, 1935.

All three figures are outstanding civic elites, and Malloy not only grew up in the same social class as them, but also interacted directly with them, and because of this, his insight into their destinies is clearer and deeper. Through the different tragic fates of these three men, Malloy not only saw the complete demise of this class in Hungary, but also sadly saw the responsibility of the civic elite for this national catastrophe. Malloy's text is a testimony to the downfall of the civic class and to the national tragedy of Hungary.

Malloy believes that memory is the mission of a writer, looking back on his debut novel published at the age of 18, the poetry collection "Memory Book", and later in his writing career of more than half a century, he has always been a recorder, in addition to dozens of novels, poetry collections and travelogues, he also left more than a dozen volumes of diaries, written until the last moment of his life, so that words become a lasting memory of time and history, leaving a testimony for the era after him. If "Candle Ember" records the twilight of Austria-Hungary, then "I Want to Be Silent" records the sunset of the Kingdom of Hungary, the end of World War II, and the end of the kingdom for nearly fifteen hundred years. To make personal memory a national memory, Malloy is truly great, and if there is a "perfect writer", he must be counted as one.

Hungarian Literature Special: Memory is a writer's mission

Confessions of a Citizen III: I Wanted to Be Silent by (Hungary) Malloy Shandor, translated by Yu Zemin Edition: Yilin Publishing House, January 2023.

Keltes: Imlay

Endure survival with writing and bear witness to it

In Hungary, Malloy Shandor is known as the "nurturer of the national spirit" and has influenced almost all the best writers of our time, just look at the list of good writers, from Keltes, Esterhaz, Nadosh, Krasnokholaj to Baltis, Dragumán, all of whom have won the Malloy Prize. In particular, Nobel laureate Kertess Imle (1929-2016), who not only quoted Malloy many times in his diary, but also spent his entire life like Malloy to recall, record, and be a witness to history.

As a survivor of Auschwitz, concentration camps were his creative motif. In 1944, at the age of 14, he was taken to a Nazi concentration camp because of his Jewish ancestry, where he was imprisoned in Auschwitz and then in Buchenwald. In that hellish year, Keltess deliberately reported an extra year in order to have a little more chance to survive, so that he could appear to be more useful; To overcome despair and fear, he watches maggots compete with each other for food in their festering wounds; In order not to starve to death, he kept his fellow inmates who had been breathing for several days to sleep so that he could receive an extra bowl of rice soup when he was served. In his debut novel "Impermanent Fate", Keltess records these inhuman sufferings and surviving "tricks" from a teenager's perspective - even if they are ants, they do not give up the possibility of survival. At the end of the novel, the protagonist returns to Budapest from the concentration camp, looks around the once familiar streets and squares, feels a life force gathering in him, and secretly resolves, "I will continue my life that I simply cannot continue." Later, Keltess wrote "A Crying for an Unborn Child", explaining why he decided not to have children, because after examining his own existence and experience, he came to the conclusion that "I can never be the father of another person", because he could not bear to let his child be born in a world where he was born without freedom and could be deprived of his destiny.

Some readers may ask, in 1990, when the writer wrote "Crying Prayer", not only the end of World War II, but also the end of the Cold War, and the concentration camps have long become history, why should he be so paranoid? Why can't you "let it pass"? Why not accept that "time is the best healing"? Why can't you be a smart person who "looks forward"? I think the reason is that he chose to write. In real life, selective forgetting is indeed the simplest and most practical way for people to cope with disasters and protect themselves, but Keltess is not, he actively chooses not to forget, chooses to record, and chooses to witness. In his Diary of a Boatman, he said: "Every aspect of my existence is terrifying, except for the part of writing: writing, writing, just to endure my own survival and, more importantly, to bear witness to my own survival." The writer's words clearly indicate why he writes, and he also sets a strict definition of the writer he thinks. Referring to his definition, I am afraid that most writers are not qualified.

Hungarian Literature Special: Memory is a writer's mission

Keltes Imlay.

Undoubtedly, Keltess is one of the most important writers of 20th-century witness literature, and his works can be compared to Paul Celan's "Death Fugue", Eli Wiesel's "Night", Primo Levy's "If This Is a Man", and of course in this group of writers, there are also Manstam, Shalamov and Solzhenitsyn, as well as the Czech writer Giří Weil who wrote "Living with a Star" and the French writer Lusai who wrote "Concentration Camp World". However, when I read and translated more of Keltess's work, I found that he was different from most writers of witness literature, witnessing not only for the past, but also for the present and tomorrow, and even to human history.

In 1995, Keltess wrote an essay entitled "The Unfortunate Twentieth Century", and later in 2008 he included the article in his anthology "The Repressive Heritage of Europe" under the category "Motherland, Hometown, Country", the title of which itself is also the title of an article, a lecture he gave at the auditorium of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences at his eightieth birthday. If we look at these two titles together, we can see the writer's attitude towards European history in the 20th century: from World War I, World War II to the Cold War, and then to the drastic changes in Eastern Europe, Europe has experienced too much suffering in this century, and even after the upheaval, it is intertwined with excitement and pain, hope and dazedness, and an uncertain future.

From this point of view, Keltess is not optimistic about the future, otherwise how could he ask such a question: "Why is it that in our time, even those transformations full of joy are covered with a layer of ominous color?" Why did it immediately release a fierce black force? Why are so many burdensome, unsolvable puzzles piling up high on the horizon, even in the best of circumstances? And then, while most of his compatriots were basking in the euphoria of the end of the Cold War, Keltess was worried, with an anachronistic frustration, as he saw the new predicament facing Eastern Europeans.

Keltess pointed out: "When the Third Reich collapsed, the world was not only able to gain a foothold, but also to embark on a series of political, economic, and even spiritual innovations, or to reach a spiritual consensus that at least seemed effective. But now, when another empire also collapsed, Europe was enveloped in a disgusting hangover, a feeling of collapse, perversity, powerlessness dominating everything, as if waking up on a gray morning to find that it had been replaced by a solipsistic reality, a world of money worship, capitalism, pragmatic non-theorists, a world without choice, absolutely no transcendence, Whoever wants to fall into a cursed hell or ascend to a heaven full of promises cannot find a way out of this world. This kind of prediction of Keltess can also find clues in the work.

Hungarian Literature Special: Memory is a writer's mission

"The Boatman's Diary" by (Hungary) Kertess Imlay, translated by Yu Zemin Edition: Ideal Republic|Guangxi Normal University Press, February 2015.

It is true that Auschwitz is the motif of Keltess's work, but what he writes about Auschwitz is not just the concentration camp in the narrow sense that began construction in 1940 and was destroyed in 1945, but the broader and more metaphorical "Auschwitz". In his novella "The English Flag", he says that people have built a peaceful ruins on the rubble of war ruins; In his diary essay "The Other Man," he says that although the camp with barbed wire was destroyed, people built a larger camp without barbed wire and voluntarily imprisoned themselves. In Keltess's view, the history of human society is the process of designing and building concentration camps for itself again and again, "Auschwitz is just an art form played by human beings", concentration camps will coexist with human history, which is the same meaning as his "Holocaust is a human culture", massacre - peace - slaughter again - peace - slaughter again - slaughter again, this is the doomed cycle of human history, just like the tango dance of Satan Devil in Krasnoholka.

When I went to Berlin in the summer of 2006 to deliver a book to Keltess, I was hesitant to ask him to sign because I saw his shaking hands from Parkinson's disease, and the old man did offer to ask me to write a sentence on the title page of the Chinese page, so I wrote: Thank you for bearing witness to the fall of humanity.

Nadosh Peter

Enter history through physical memory

Among the Hungarian writers I translated, there is also a successor to Malloy, the memory of European history in the 20th century, he is Nadausz Peter (1942-), who, together with Malloy, Keltes, Esterhaz, Krasnoholkaj and the female writer Saab Magda, forms the most spectacular landscape of Hungarian literature. Coincidentally, he also wrote A Book of Memory (1986), but unlike Malloy's poetry, he fictionally recorded the parallel memories of several people and opened up the potential of physical memory. After that, he continued to use this parallel approach, writing his most important trilogy, "Parallel Stories".

This series of books, consisting of "The Dumb Zone", "Deep in the Night" and "Breathe Free", was published in 2005, and my translation has been published in Taiwan. Written from World War I to the upheavals of Eastern Europe, this nearly 2,000-page magnum opus spans almost the entire 20th century in Europe, with hundreds of intricate characters covering all levels of society, from maids to aristocrats, from workers to professors, from spies to high-ranking officials, from tailors to forensic doctors, from Nazis to revolutionaries, from Magyars, Jews, Gypsies to Germans. The locations are also complex, spanning Hungary, Germany, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, and even fictional cities. The novel involves almost all the major historical events in this changing century, different stories are not separated, but interspersed together, different stories occur in different time and space, not in chronological order or plot association with each other, some plots continue to be told after many chapters, some have no beginning and no end at all, and some two stories of different time and space develop in parallel in one chapter. In addition, the themes of many stories are also completely different, if subdivided, they can also be divided into family novels, coming-of-age novels, crime novels, mystery novels, historical novels, romance novels, psychological novels... Therefore, the content of the book cannot be summarized in the traditional outline way.

After the publication of "Parallel Story", it caused an uproar in the literary circles, some people praised it as a "masterpiece of world literature", others ridiculed it as "the master's miss", praised and complained, the reason is because of this "parallel". The reader feels like reading a suspense novel, but is maddened by the inability to put together the countless threads held in his hand. He has two countermeasures to skeptical voices: one is used against ordinary readers, he says that "the world itself is chaotic, I just record it"; The other is against critics, who say that his greatest wish is to "write a novel characterized by no end and no outcome", breaking with the 19th-century novel-writing tradition, not to passively listen to the author's story, but to force the reader to think, to fill a larger space with imagination, he called this self-created structure "chaotic structure".

Hungarian Literature Special: Memory is a writer's mission

Nadosh Peter.

What is parallel? Parallel means never crossing, but intersecting at infinity. Nadosh said he chose this open structure to show the stories of people who may have never met, or who have only met in general or passed by, but who have had an impact on the lives of the other party. In life, we have the experience that many seemingly unrelated people or things may have hidden connections in a certain time and space, and "this secret, implicit relationship cannot find its place in the closed narrative structure." This shows that not only can I abandon closed structures, but also go back to the most primordial chaos theory of ancient Greece. ”

In fact, no matter how open the structure is, no matter how chaotic it is, the author also gives the reader a grip, a secret passage, a mount, that is, the body—all kinds of bodies, all kinds of bodies and the special relationship between the body. Everyone in the novel has a different destiny, each person carries different memories in their bodies, and the relationships between each person are revealed through their bodies, far beyond their bodies. Nadosh strung together many separate and unrelated stories in such unimaginable ways that no realistic literary apparatus could achieve. Let's just say that the novel tells the grand story of mutual influence, mutual seduction, mutual longing and mutual cherishing of memories of people's flesh.

Body memory is the path that leads us into the literary world of Nadosh, and what we see through words is a physical temple that projects history. American writer Adam Lange wrote in The New York Times: "This novel with great ambition, amazing ingenuity, and often maddensely dense deliberately blurs the boundaries of history, geography, literature, and structure. Parallel Stories doesn't really try to tell how these stories interact with each other. They converge, diverge, overlap, intersect, cycle or return to each other, making it a challenging, non-linear novel that attempts to accomplish the daunting task of recreating the torn and high-pressure experience of Hungarians in the 20th century. ”

Earlier this year, I translated one of Nadosh's books, his debut novel, The End of a Family Story. The novel is not very thick, but the content is as thick as a history book, and its core is also memory—both individual and collective, everyday and historical. The author condenses the entire history of the Jewish by telling the story of a Jewish family that has reproduced, wandered, and survived for generations.

Nadosh also has a special book about memory, completely documentary, about himself. Published in 2004, the book, titled "My Own Death," meticulously recounts his memories before and after the onset of a heart attack ten years ago.

"When I woke up, I felt that there was something uncomfortable in my body, but I had a lot of things to do in the city, and I went into the city. Those days, the weather warmed up without transition, and summer suddenly arrived. This is the first sentence in the book.

"For a long time, I didn't dare to leave the house because it was very difficult to take things seriously. I asked my wife to buy ten hangers, and I asked her to pick the best, the best-looking, the most expensive, and then send them to the hospital to find the big woman. At least they don't have to look for hangers anymore. This is the last sentence at the end.

In the middle of these two sentences, the author devotes 287 pages to 163 photographic works. Nadosh said he was inspired to write the book either by photographs he took every day for a year of an old pear tree in his yard, and secondly, in the 3 and a half minutes between his recovery from the clinical death island in March 1993, in which he recorded those 3 and a half minutes and what happened before and after, peacefully, objectively, and truthfully. In the book, the author tries to overcome the fear of death. The Swedish daily newspaper has a book review titled "Nadosh Reminds Us of the Loneliness of Death." Nadaush's friend and writer Esterhaz also wrote a book about disease, "Pancreas Diary", but Esterhaz's book is a record before death, and Nadaush is a memory of death after resurrection.

Hungarian Literature Special: Memory is a writer's mission

A memorial sculpture in Malloy's hometown.

Throughout human history, there have always been more tragedies than comedies, and for all living beings, joy is easy to remember, sadness is easy to forget, not to mention those who deliberately erase history for various purposes. Imagine that without the resilient and self-conscious writers of Malloy, Keltes, Nadow, and Esterhaz, both the grief and euphoria of human tragedy would have quietly disappeared. As long as the earth does not explode, history will not end, and to borrow the words of Keltess, "it will continue to devour mankind, prevent them from reaching the natural territory, prevent them from entering the cosmic stage of their own destiny, degradation and rise, and in addition, it will always provide mankind with complete forgetting, complete amnesia and dissolution without leaving a trace throughout history, in the long river of history." ”

How can humans resist forgetfulness and forgetfulness? There is no doubt that literature is an effective way, so literature is important. The writer writes, I translate, the reader reads, and thus we form an alliance through words, and even if the result is quixotic, meaning is already born in process. Recently, AI writing has become a hot topic, but I really don't think so, because the wealth of real writers is their own experience and memory ability, compared with Malloy, AI can at most be a cook who stir-fry back the pot meat, no matter how strong the technology of intelligent computers is, it stops at processing and imitating, processing other people's memories, imitating other people's styles. Therefore, the writers who are worried about being replaced by AI are just people who do not have their own memory.

Written by/Yu Zemin

Editor/Miyako, Liu Yaguang

Proofreader/Xue Jingning

Read on