11. 22. 2012. 10:37

Confrontations and interactions

With its objects and its environment, St Stephen's Park in Budapest encapsulates the ways in which recent history was monumentalised in Hungary by various ideologies. - This introductory essay is a fitting hors d'oeuvre to the essays revolving around cultural memory, edited by a team of scholars at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest.

In the very busy thirteenth district of Budapest there is a park with a playground called Szent István park (St. Stephen’s Park) that seems to be immune to the incessant flow of cars, buses, trolley-buses outside its gates. The park is very popular with young parents in the area because of its spaciousness, and the ideal combination it offers of freedom for spontaneous movement and order: nearly geometrical, it radiates a pleasurable sense of security within the cast-iron fences. It is a perfect “cultural space” which as a national lieu de mémoire contains the sediment of time. Cultural spaces often have topographical reality; we encounter them in our everyday lives but seldom if ever do we become conscious of their complex reference to our shared histories. The park actually encapsulates the several ways in which recent history as a sequence of events recollected is monumentalised and memorialised, thus it also anticipates most of the main arguments of the essays which follow. Several myths, developed from the historical records by the cultural memories of various communities or disseminated by political power groups, manifest themselves in the objects of the park and its environment. As ideologies – wishful images of the future and nostalgic reveries of the past – have succeeded each other, emblems of intentional remembering have been placed in the park over the past sixty-three years, and, something quite exceptional in Budapest, have been left to stand where they are.

Walking from north to south one first encounters a stone statue in the typical socialist realist style, the Stevedore by Zoltán Borbereki Kovács, erected in 1948. It was shaped both by the local demand for art representing the ethos of the working people and by the memory of Meunier’s eponymous bronze statue which is housed in the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest. Next there is a monument in limestone by Ferenc Kovács from 1970 which is dedicated to Szir, the partisan “who together with his group fought heroically against the German occupation and its local accomplices”. Further south there stands a statue in bronze, the Serpent Slayer, an athletic naked male with one hand holding the throat of a snake, the other high up in the air ready to smite it with a stick while one of his legs pins down its body. The statue is dedicated to the memory of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat and humanitarian who saved the lives of tens of thousands of Jews between June 1944 and February 1945 in Budapest. The buildings, established as Swedish territory, in which a hiding place was found by a great number of Jewish Hungarians, were scattered through the nearby streets. The area around the park is permeated by the memory and the presence of Jewish cultural traditions. Wallenberg was taken into detention by the Soviet army after they entered Budapest and the circumstances of his death remain unknown. A few months after the liberation of Budapest – when nothing was known about his whereabouts – a Wallenberg Committee was established, which commissioned Pál Pátzay, one of the leading artists of the time, to design a monument as a token of the city’s gratitude to the Swedish diplomat. When, however, the statue had already been erected in St. Stephen’s Park and the date of the ceremony of its unveiling was set for 17 January 1949, on the instruction of the Communists (who, after merging with the Social Democrats in June 1948, were soon to take full control of the political life of the country) it was dismantled under cover of the preceding night, and later moved to Debrecen to stand in front of a pharmacology factory where it was resemanticised: Pátzay himself had defined it as symbolic “of the victory over fascism”, but in its new milieu it was seen as a fi gural representation of the victory of medical sciences over sickness. In 1999 the Metropolitan Council of Budapest erected a new pedestal – this time designed by László Rajk Jr., the son of László Rajk, the Communist politician executed in October 1949 after Rákosi’s most dramatic show trial – and placed a replica of Pátzay’s statue on it. Not far from the Serpent Slayer there stands a larger than life-size statue in bronze of György Lukács, whose involvement in the political history of preand post-war Hungary is one of the most intriguing questions of twentieth-century Hungarian intellectual history. The statue, which was erected on the site in 1985, is the work of Imre Varga, who had been a student of Pátzay, and whose own monument in honour of Wallenberg, commissioned by an American diplomat, and unveiled, after lengthy negotiations with Kádár, in 1987 in the second district, evokes the memory of the Serpent Slayer. Varga’s figure of Wallenberg stands between two huge granite blocks which display the outline of the statue on their inner sides: thus it is a monument of disjuncture which commemorates remembering and forgetting simultaneously. At the end of our walk we reach András Sándor Kocsis’s bust of Ferenc Fejtő erected in 2008. The political philosopher, historian and literary critic, Fejtő contributed to the journal Nyugat and co-edited with the poet Attila József the anti-fascist literary journal Szép Szó. In 1938, following a sentence of six months in prison for an article criticising the pro-German stance of the government, he left Hungary for France. During the Second World War, he took part in the French Resistance. After the trial and death of his friend László Rajk, he severed his ties with Hungary to return only after 1989 for short visits as a welcome guest. After his death in Paris he was buried in the National Pantheon in Budapest.

Close to Fejtő’s bust you can s ee several hundred small rose plots with roses developed by a Hungarian floriculturist, Gergely Márk, who has defined his roses by a nomenclature that was apparently devised to create a text of memory which can be read as a narrative of all the different individual ambitions and collective endeavours that have made up the history of the country. The name tags attached to the plots carry topographical, historical, literary and religious names. Most of the appellations have very intensive emotional associations, like the name of the Transylvanian town in Romania, Kolozsvár/Cluj, and – connected with the history of the town – the name of the Renaissance king Matthias Corvinus, an easily available source of national pride. The nineteenth-century poets, János Arany and Sándor Petőfi have their own roses. Arany’s present stance in the critical consciousness is the result of heated debates initiated by the journal Nyugat, the main intellectual force that created modern Hungarian literature; whereas Petőfi is very deeply imbedded in the Hungarian mind as the poet who laid down his life in the name of what he called, using a typically nineteenth-century term, “the liberty of the world”. A small plaque in one of the plots carries the name of the actress Róza Laborfalvy, celebrated leading lady of the National Theatre. She was the wife of the novelist Jókai, whose historical novels are probably still defi nitive in terms of what Hungarian means for a lot of people. Another plaque evokes the memory of the actress Éva Ruttkai, the most popular icon of femininity in the 1970s. Her relationship with the actor Zoltán Latinovits – who figured famously in multicultural events, like innovative post-1956 fi lms and poetry readings that attempted to sensitise the public to the necessity, indeed the ethical imperative, of doubt and self-quest – is one of the legends of the modern Hungarian theatre. A new species of rose is dedicated to Antal Szerb’s memory who was a novelist, essayist, literary historian and a representative of the transnational values of the journal Nyugat. Late in 1944 he was deported to a concentration camp, and was beaten to death there in January 1945. And there is another new species bearing the name of the disturbingly popular Transylvanian author, Albert Wass, whose work conveys a belief in Hungarian cultural supremacy and instigates nostalgia for the pre-Trianon boundaries of Hungary. Wass was sentenced to death in absentia for war crimes by the Romanian People’s Tribunal in 1945.

On three sides it is the façades of buildings erected in the 1930s, the most vigorous period of the urbanisation of this part of the district, that serve as backdrop to the park. The fourth side of it flanks the Danube: from the park benches you can see the international liners cradled by the waves. For centuries the Danube corridor has mediated the encounter of the different cultures in the Danubian basin; it has been submitted to both the idealisations of the multicultural character of the area, and to one-sided lamentations of national wounds. In the Hungarian literary memory the river is associated first and foremost with Attila József, who, in one of the greatest poems of remembrance in twentieth century Hungarian poetry, “By the Danube”, looks at the river as a memento of history. In his contemplation, private and collective memories are fused, and in the final stanza he reaches out towards the hope that through creative work and a realistic assessment of the traumas of the past, the antagonisms between the nations of the region, “the miseries of the small Eastern European states” as István Bibó called them, might be pacified in the collective memory. At the same time, in a desperate effort, he conquers “the hopeless sadness within him”, to use the words of one of the Proust essays of Walter Benjamin, and psychological equilibrium is attained:

The Danube, which is past, present and future
entwines its waves in tender friendly clasps.
Out of the blood our fathers shed at battles
flows peace, through our remembrance and regard…

(Translated by Peter Zollman)

Although this vision of peace still seems utopian, recently the park has been the venue of demonstrations of reconciliation: in February this year the liberation of Budapest from the Nazi occupation was commemorated here, and in May a mass rally organised on Facebook was held in the park to protest against racial ideologies, and to demonstrate solidarity with the Roma.

The two concepts, Confrontation and Interaction, are collocated in the title of the present volume to create the intellectual context in which each of the individual essays in the collection can find its place. In 2007 The New York Times published a profile of the novelist, dramatist and essayist Péter Nádas under the title “A Writer Who Always Sees History in the Present Tense”, in which Nádas is defined as a writer and thinker who has been concerned with the obligation of the writer as well as the political citizen to confront the consequences of their own compromised morality, and is quoted as claiming that this confrontation is exactly what Hungarians, among others, have not done. Some of the essays published here are concerned with “what amounts to trans-generational haunting”; with the moral conundrums of private and collective memory, with the duty to mourn. The traumas of the twentieth century “need, as in the relationship between patient and analyst, to be worked through by acts of talking and of listening, acts of writing and reading” (Alistair Davies).

Confrontation is also used with reference to the boundary between different cultures, which can be crossed in the bold act of translation, transposition or allusion: the translator or borrower has to confront what Percy Shelley called “the burthen of the curse of Babel”. The transposition of literary items is recreation “according to another cultural heritage […] from a new perspective, hence, with a difference” (Péter Dávidházi). This difference generates a productive interaction between the two cultures, in other words, a semantic enrichment of the original and the target tradition at the same time.

And finally confrontation also describes the attitude of innovators in all fields of culture who are aware of the needs of the consumers of culture and create spaces of collective contemplation where knowledge can be possessed or repossessed, tradition can be assessed and redefined, or tradition can actually be established. The new paradigm emerges in an interaction between the memory of the past and the pressures of the present, it is the outcome of “an act of recovery and an act that marks a decisive rupture with the past” (Richard Cronin).

The term cultural memory in the title is used in what is proposed by Astrid Erll as a provisional definition: “the interplay of present and past in socio-cultural contexts.” Such an understanding of the term has allowed the inclusion of a broad spectrum of studies ranging from essays on the historical processes of transmission, reception, appropriation, i.e. the problem of cultural border-crossings through which traditions on both sides have been altered; on monuments of collective remembering which face or replace each other as collective truth has been asserted or subverted over the years; and on texts of national memory with its invented traditions, which are often rooted in trauma. Most of the articles are the outcome of discussions triggered by their authors’ presentation of their material and hypotheses at a conference organised by the Department of English Studies at Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, in September 2010. The response elicited by the questions raised at the conference, as well as editorial comments in a later phase in the development of what constitutes the contents of this volume, have resulted in a degree of intertextual restructuring so that eventually the individual essays cohere into more or less congruent arguments in five overarching themes.

Contents

Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

1. Pathos formulae of memory
- the rhetoric of emotional intensity
Alistair Davies: British culture and the memory of the First World War. . 21
Katalin G. Kállay: “Memory believes before knowing remembers” . . . . 35
László Munteán: Under the urban skin: Counter-monumental
configurations of the bombing of Budapest in the Second World War. . . 43
János Kenyeres: 1956 in cultural memory: The testimony of literature . . . 59

2. Cultural border-crossings: intertextuality and translation
Elinor Shaffer: Affinities and antagonisms: The processes of reception . . 71
Péter Dávidházi: “Can these bones live?”: “The Waste Land,”
Ezekiel and Hungarian Poetry. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 87
Gabriella Hartvig: Shandean originality and humour
in Ferenc Kölcsey’s “Foreword” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123
Géza Kállay: A stain of blood as cultural transmission: Lady Macbeth
and János Arany’s Goodwife Agnes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 135
Benedek Péter Tóta: “the cud of memory”: British literature
and cultural memory in Seamus Heaney’s poetry . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147
Veronika Ruttkay: In other tongues: “Tam o’ Shanter”
and translatability . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 163
Éva Péteri: “Older than the rocks”: On Lajos Gulácsy’s Lady Playing on
an Ancient Instrument and Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s La Ghirlandata
and Lady Lilith . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 179

3. Social framework of memory: the ideology of remembering
Ágnes Péter: The Romantic myth of Milton in Hungary:
Mór Jókai’s Milton . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 191
Géza Maráczi: László Cs. Szabó on Dickens: A case study
on a “Western Hungarian” perspective. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 213
Zsolt Czigányik: Readers’ responsibility: Literature and censorship
in the Kádár era in Hungary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 223
Natália Pikli: Teenagers in focus – classic/popular Shakespeare?:
A case study of present-day Hungarian reception . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 235

4. Multimedia constructions as sites of remembering:
stages, maps, cemeteries
John Drakakis: Acts of memory and forgetting in Shakespeare’s Hamlet . 259
Eglantina Remport: Re-imagining Shakespeare at the beginning of
the 20th century: Edward Gordon Craig, Sándor Hevesi, and
William Butler Yeats . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 279
Máté Vince: ‘The one single story falls to 1956 pieces’: Papp & Térey’s
Kazamaták and the memories of the Revolution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 295
Andrea Hübner: The role of medieval maps in the interpretation of
the New World . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 317
Andrea Velich: The cemetery as a space of remembering and forgetting:
The pollution of burial grounds in England and Hungary . . . . . . . . . 327

5. Psychology, aesthetics and the sociology of memory
Richard Cronin: The ‘history-ful’ and the ‘history-less’:
Deep and shallow time in the Regency . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 341
Zsolt Komáromy: Memory and the “Pleasures of Imagination”: Problems
in eighteenth-century aesthetics demonstrated by Akenside’s poem . . . 353
Andrea Timár: The poetics and politics of memory
in the Romantic period . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 365
Veronika Végh: Reinventing Romanticism: Postmodern Byrons . . . . . 383
Andrea Kirchknopf: Post-Victorian narratives of the Crystal Palace:
The case of Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 393

 

Confrontations and Interactions. Essays on Cultural Memory
Edited by Bálint Gárdos, Ágnes Péter, Natália Pikli and Máté Vince
L'Harmattan: Budapest, 2011

Bálint Gárdos, Ágnes Péter, Natália Pikli, Máté Vince eds.