04. 21. 2012. 07:24

One minute stories (excerpts)

"What I was able to create... a couple of novels of various lengths, five or six volumes of short stories and two plays, I created more or less in secret, and I did so in the precious few hours I was able to wrench from the inexorable march of history. Perhaps this is why I have always striven for economy and precision, looking for the essence, often in haste."

one minute biography

When I was born, I was such a beautiful baby the doctor swept me up in his arms and going from room to room, showed me off to the entire hospital. I even smiled, they say, which made the mothers of the other babies sigh with envy.
   This happened in 1912, shortly before the outbreak of the First World War, and it was my only uncontested success, I think. From then on my life has been one of continual decline. Not only did I lose much of my extreme good looks, but some of my hair and a few of my teeth as well. What’s more, I haven't been able to live up to what the world has expected of me.
    I could not carry my plans into effect, nor make full use of my talent. Though I had always wanted to be a writer, my father, who was a pharmacist, insisted I follow in his footsteps. However, even that did not satisfy him. He took it into his head that I should have a better life than his own. So after I became a pharmacist, he sent me back to college to make a chemical engineer of me. This meant another four and a half years of delay before I could indulge my passion for writing.
    I had hardly put pen to paper when the war broke out. Hungary declared war on the Soviet Union, and I was taken to the front. Here, our army was made short shrift of and I found myself a prisoner of the Russians, a POW. This took another four and a half years out of my life. And when I returned home I was faced with yet further trials which did nothing to ease my way towards a career in writing.
    From this it will be seen that what I was able to create under the circumstances, a couple of novels of various lengths, five or six volumes of short stories and two plays, I created more or less in secret, and I did so in the precious few hours I was able to wrench from the inexorable march of history. Perhaps this is why I have always striven for economy and precision, looking for the essence, often in haste. Startled by every ringing of the door bell, I had no reason, ever, to expect anything good either from the mailman or from any other arrival.
    This also explains why, though as a new-born infant I may have attained to a perfection of sorts, from that time on I began to lose my luster, to slip and falter and despite the circumstance that I became better at my trade and gained more and more self-knowledge, I have always been painfully aware of the impossibility of living up to my full potential.

(1968)


memoirs of a puddle


On March 22, 1972, it rained all day, and I found myself comfortably settled in front of the house at Dráva utca 7, in Budapest’s 13th district, where there’s a dent in the sidewalk. People kept stepping in me, then cursing and berating me over their shoulder, calling me names I blush to repeat. I was a puddle for two whole days, but never once did I bristle at the insults.

Then as we know, on the 24th of the month the sun came out from behind the clouds. Oh, how paradoxical is life, to have to dry up just as the weather brightens!

What else can I say? Did I live up to expectations? Did I fail to do so? Should I have behaved differently in the dent in front of Dráva utca 7? Though it makes no difference now I’d still like to know, because there will be other puddles there after me. Our lives are short, our days numbered, and while I was down there a new generation has sprung up, potential puddles ready for action, idealistic, ambitious, and they’re looking to me for an answer, nagging, wanting to know what they are to expect down there in that promising dent in the sidewalk.

But I was a puddle for just two days, and so all I can say is this: though the tone is drastic and Dráva utca is windy and the sun keeps coming out at the most inopportune of moments, at least I didn’t have to flow down a sewer. Oh, what holes and dents! What bursting water mains! What potholes! It’s nothing to scoff at these days! So youth of the nation, listen to me. Keep your eyes peeled on the future, and head straight for Dráva utca 7.

(1972)
 
 
has anyone seen…?

At 5:30 p.m. on the 7th of this month, Mrs. K. Fehér, née Márta Flügl, went to the movies and hasn’t been seen since. Mrs. Fehér, 41, a resident of Budapest, has been described as tall or short, prone to gain weight, or lean and lanky. Her eyes are blue or green, possibly black. Her hair color could be anything. Her winter coat is dark blue or rust brown, though possibly gray, with fur trimming. (Correction: the trim is not fur but velvet, though the coat may have no trimming at all.) Special distinctive marks: female.

Any leads will be greatly appreciated by:

her worried husband


message found afloat in a bottle

(fished out of the pacific ocean)

“Here, at latitude 17 south, longitude 151 west, from approximately the height of the Otahiti Islands, amidst highly unfavorable weather conditions, in the thick of night, in whipping winds, torrential rain, tossed about by horrendous waves, after the other Hungarians, noble sailors to the last man, have gone under, I realized quite by accident that if I thrust my two arms forward and then pulled them back as if I were rowing while I kick my legs apart like leaping frogs, then, instead of going under like the others and drowning, I can keep myself afloat. My fellow countrymen from Felsőpáhok! Could this be possible? Did you know? And if you did, why didn’t you say so? If I can hold out for just ten more minutes maybe a ship will pass by, spot me and save me. But if this is not going to happen, I hereby want all my beloved countrymen to know the following. I am Benedek Becze! Hungarians! Ha-ho! Listen! Listen to what I have to say, and if you get into a similar fix, thrash about with arms and legs so the waves won’t overpower you. My regards to my daughter-in-law and my son, and may God save our beloved Hungary!”

(1979)
 

so much to keep in mind

Valid for travel within two prepaid zones within one hour of initial embarkation with a maximum of four transfers on the shortest route between your starting point and final destination. Transfer is permitted only at crossings, junctures and line terminals, and is restricted to cars, trains, buses and trolleys whose route is not identical to the routes already taken. Only one Danube bridge may be crossed en route, and each station may be visited only once. Attention: No detours or breaks in your journey permitted.

(1963)

 
incident

A paraffin cork that was just like any other paraffin cork (he said his name was Alexander G. Hirr, Jr., but what’s in a name?) fell into the water. For some time it just bopped up and down on the surface. But then a strange thing happened. Gradually, almost imperceptibly, it began to sink until it reached the bottom and was never heard from again. No explanation for the baffling incident has ever been offered.
 

we’re a small nation

Executioner’s Wife:  This cheese soufflé is delicious.
Executioner: Light as a feather.
Condemned Man’s Wife: You must try the cup cake too.
Executioner’s Wife: I’ve never tasted cup cake quite so     mouthwatering before.
Condemned Man: We should get together more often.
Executioner’s Wife: It’s the only way to learn about each other.
Executioner: Every meeting brings new understanding.
Condemned Man’s Wife: We’re a small nation. We should
     stick  together.
Condemned Man:  Sticking together is what we do best.
Executioner:  Shouldn’t we be on a first name basis, friends?
Condemned Man:  Don’t you remember? We already are.
Executioner:  I’d like to get to know you better.
Condemned Man:  I’ll drink to that!
Executioner:  To your very good health!
Condemned Man:  And to yours, Comrade!
 

public opinion survey

The Hungarian Public Opinion Research Office has just conducted its first survey, the results of which have recently been made public. The question asked was: How do people see the past, present, and future of the nation? In order to insure credible results, the bureau sent out questionnaires to 2,975 citizens of various social standings, ranks, professions and religious persuations.

The questions were as follows:
1. Your opinion of the present regime is:
    a) favourable
    b) unfavourable
    c) neither favourable nor unfavourable
    but a little improvement  wouldn’t hurt
    d) I want to move to Vienna.

2. Do you feel alienated?
    a) I feel completely alienated
    b) I feel almost completely alienated
    c) I am, so to speak, pretty thoroughly alienated
    d) from time to time I manage to talk to the Party Secretary.

3. What are your cultural interests?
    a) I go to the movies, ball games and bars
    b) from time to time I look out the window
    c) I do not even look out the window
    d) I disapprove of Mao Tse Tung’s Little Red Book.

4. Your philosophical orientation tends toward:
    a) Marxism
    b) anti-Marxism
    c) science fiction
    d) alcoholism.

The results of the survey indicate that the people of Hungary hold the following views in common:
1. During the past twenty years, Hungary has been a paradise on  earth.
2. Hungary is still a paradise on earth, except bus No. 9 tends to run behind schedule.
3. Hungary’s future will be even brighter provided they add more buses to line No. 9.

Translated by: Judith Sollosy

Tags: István Örkény