05. 01. 2006. 12:23

Campaign Silence

Between the two rounds of the parliamentary elections in Hungary, HLO's sister site, Litera asked eleven writers to write a short note in which they describe their feelings about the political atmosphere in the country. A jury composed of five students from various Hungarian universities chose the best from the "national eleven". 

The students said it was very important for them to award a writer who shows that it is possible to write about politics - or rather, about the way politics enters our lives - without actually taking a stand in favour of a particular political trend or party. Their choice was the following text by László Garaczi.

When, after a number of noisy months, the period of campaign silence arrives – that vacuous, matterless Saturday – the papers, trembling with withdrawal symptoms, mutter over the cultural news; there is a politician who, having nothing left to do, steps over to the window and looks out at the rooftops; a vexed gust of wind flips a scrap of paper up into the air, is it a government or opposition flyer? – and who is the wind angry with, whom does it favour? – does it want change? – a cat ambles by, treading softly, right, left – if it goes over to the chimney, thinks the politician, then tomorrow we will win; yes, this Saturday is like the calm before the storm, the headsman’s raised broadsword, the motionless eye of the hurricane – but then maybe that cat, for example, up there on the roof, doesn’t want to make the fur fly by thinking about the parliamentary elections, as it would rather think about a tasty morsel of mouse or a flirtish little tabby down in the cellar of the neighbouring house, or about how it had used up eight of its nine lives (in this it resembles certain politicians), and how it was going to take more care with the one still left; the telephone rings, or more precisely it flashes, as it has been muted – the campaign director phones the politician every hour with the public opinion survey results, but he doesn’t feel like picking up, his secret little rebellion feels good after the relentless scramble; after all, it’s the period of campaign silence, and that is like the seventh day, and the Lord shall rest; yes, campaign silence is a poetic and incomprehensible thing, a fruit which you smell in the bustle of the marketplace, a sense of deep absorption as you gaze upon the face of your sleeping sweetheart and imagine what she might be dreaming about – and although it is difficult to prove, campaign silence is similar to a blob of black mascara stuck to an eyelash, an errant rhyme, the rustle of leaf-litter, a worn tattoo, the wooden rap of a nut – in the meantime the telephone flashes once more, and the cat loses its footing just before it reaches the chimney, but no one sees this as the politician steps away from the window, reason triumphs, he raises his mobile to his ear – the cat skilfully clings onto the snow guard next to the deflated football, kicked there back in summer by kids in the courtyard, and just before it disappears into the attic beyond a broken roof tile, it looks back one more time, for at precisely that moment the whirling, white scrap of paper falls down to the ground.

Translated by: Philip Barker

Tags: László Garaczi