06. 16. 2009. 20:35

Table Music (excerpt from a play)

"GYŐZŐ: Pest, the big smoke, is full of labouring proles, / Juicy with gossip about us on the hill. / Down there the streets are cordoned off. Cops know / They need not cordon streets off up in Buda.
KÁLMÁN: I’m faintly aware of a sickening distant buzz: / Here we go again: they’re burning cars. / Here we go again: uproot that call-box. / Here we go again: the piercing sirens. / Here we go again: streets full of teargas."

1st Movement: Allegro, Scene 8
 
(Roland and Kálmán sit on bar-stools, Győző stands at the window, making a call on his mobile phone but we can’t hear his words)
 
GYŐZŐ (puts away the phone and raises his voice)
 We went on various trips with grandmother.
 We’d get on the bus at Joliot-Curie Square,
 And head for Virágvölgy or on to where
 The leaves turn red at Csillebérc, and beyond,
 Past houses, to the meadow, a floral meadow
 Full of people flying kites in summer;
 But there was nothing magical down here:
 The corner grocery, dust, tobacconists.
 The square not derelict, just gradually emptied,
 Grew soft and tired, like an abandoned lover,
 No fountain there, no waterfalls, no rapids,
 Not even a place where we could queue for pancakes;
 Above all, no bronze statue, no Miraculous Stag,
 No Turul bird, just a cinema, the Ugocsa,
 Exhausted Sunday afternoons, the walls
  Flaking loose plaster, a heavy dose of boredom.
 
KÁLMÁN
 And yet the place retained a kind of charm,
 A real hill-fortress feel, the air of something
 Unmistakably protected, locked away.
 
GYŐZŐ
 An oasis of calm, you might say… It still is calm,
 Though now there is the White Box on the corner.
 And I am here too so it’s just granny missing.
 All else is changed. The girls in the Tora-Bora
 Opposite us have done their big game hunting,
 And now pursue the nearest Alpha male;
 The boys at the bar, the kiddies, are convinced 
 That, Buda hills being closer set to heaven,
 Living there makes them citizens of the world.
 Hills offer us the celestial perspective:
 One’s always looking down from the high crags,
 While those below must look up here to see us.
 Naturally, we love the plain below
 Without the plain we’re nothing very much.
 Occasionally we make a sally there
 And even strike the odd deal with the natives.
 We love the flat plain, love its manners, at least
 From a distance; cool breeze, the panorama!
 We can relax while keeping our ears open:
 You don’t get the loud street racket up here.
 
KÁLMÁN
 We peer out of our glass aquarium.
 That’s not the vanity of living on a hillside,
 It’s simply curiosity, that’s all.
 
GYŐZŐ
 Pest, the big smoke, is full of labouring proles,
 Juicy with gossip about us on the hill.
 Down there the streets are cordoned off. Cops know
 They need not cordon streets off up in Buda.
 
KÁLMÁN
 I’m faintly aware of a sickening distant buzz:
 Here we go again: they’re burning cars.
 Here we go again: uproot that call-box.
 Here we go again: the piercing sirens.
 Here we go again: streets full of teargas.

GYŐZŐ
 The White Box wouldn’t even notice it.
 They wouldn’t notice it if half the city
 Were to be wiped clean off the face of the earth.
 Should Pest be full of corpses, should Buda itself
 Just vegetate, they’d go on vegetating,
 If the whole city were nothing but a graveyard
 The White Box would still welcome visitors.
 
ROLAND (to Győző)
 Ah what a year, what a year that was!
 
KÁLMÁN (to Roland)
 Do you remember Pest? Remember when
 The Number 2 tram ran right along the cordon?
 
GYŐZŐ
 It’s not a country worth wasting your breath on.
 Its mind is gone, don’t waste good breath on it.
 Accountants, incumbents, presidents, residents,
 Of any hue, at any time you choose…
 
KÁLMÁN
 It’s not a year to waste one single breath on.
 
ROLAND
 A whole era not worth wasting breath on. (He goes)
 
GYŐZŐ (glancing up at the chandelier)
 A whole sky up there not worth wasting breath on.
 A whole sky-nation not worth wasting breath on,
 And down below – romantic Budapest.
 
  
Previously on HLO
A review on Table Music

Translated by: George Szirtes

Tags: János Térey