02. 09. 2012. 12:07

Playwright and right-wing politician István Csurka dies at 77

Born in Budapest in 1934, István Csurka was a writer active from the 1960s, as well as a politician with extreme rightist views, the founder of a radical nationalist party and a right-wing magazine.

After his studies, Csurka became a freelance writer, writing short stories, novels, radio plays and film scripts besides plays. In the 1956 revolution he led a college militia and was consequently interned for six months. During his internment he was recruited as a secret police agent which he admitted after the change of regime but claimed that he had never written any reports.

His political activity dates from the years before the 1989 regime change. He was a founding member of the Hungarian Democratic Forum, the centre-right party that won the first free elections in 1990. However, he quickly radicalized, and after he was expelled from the party in 1993, he founded the extreme right MIÉP (Hungarian Truth and Life Party).

Recently Csurka’s name hit headlines when the newly appointed director of a Budapest theatre, Új Színház (New Theatre), nominated him superintendant, a decision which created a great scandal both in Hungary and abroad because of Csurka’s openly anti-Semitic views, and thus was later withdrawn.

Csurka’s best plays, written in the 1960s and 70s, are variations on the same topic: the dilemmas of individuals—typically intellectuals—seen in their historical dimensions. Many of them are scathing satires on the Hungary of the Kádár regime. His best known plays are Ki lesz a bálanya (Who Will Be the Lady-Patroness, 1962), Deficit (1971), Döglött aknák (Dead Mines, 1971) and Házmestersirató (Mourning the Janitor, 1980).

Because of his political activity, Csurka’s career as a playwright was stalled for decades. However, in 2011 he wrote two plays, both on extremely controversial topics: A hatodik koporsó (The Sixth Coffin) is about the Trianon Treaty which forced Hungary to give up two-thirds of its territory after World War I, whereas Írószövetségek harca (The Struggle of Writers’ Associations) focuses on the role of intellectuals in contemporary Hungarian society. Currently only one of his plays, Eredeti helyszín (Original Spot) is performed in Budapest’s Karinthy Theatre, a venue directed by Márton Karinthy, Frigyes Karinthy’s grandson and Ferenc Karinthy’s son. The new director of New Theatre has announced his intention to stage Csurka’s new plays.

Tags: István Csurka