Gergely Nagy: Angst: The handbook of the urban guerilla
The generation which came of age intellectually in the late 1980’s, early 90’s (today in their 30’s) were socialized in a free world and had no experience of state socialism and the aggressive way in which it had shaped people’s lives. They grew into a nascent, forming and storming market economy, into a chaotic set of circumstances which allowed for an independent lifestyle. Today, however, they are forced to experience a period when the new order, regulated by business, solidifies into a closed, tightly organized structure and shuts away not only the narrow fissures of unlawfulness where a little bit of money could formerly be made but also the way to realizing innovative ideas. The new system forces masses of young people to follow the lifestyle of their parents, to become integrated into the social order and create the high degree of control which dictatorship once exercised, where only the means of control are different. This is precisely the form of aggression the protagonist of Angst suffers. The world that is emerging around him eradicates his freedom step by step and shapes him into an obedient worker. His tragedy is precisely that he nevertheless remains unable to accept the agenda imposed upon his life, while breaking out is no option either, as there is nowhere to break out to. His self-image is destroyed, his personality disintegrates and he is overcome by mental disease.
Nagy has hit upon what might be the most important dramatic focus point of contemporary Hungary. Through individual lives and specific tragedies he presents a universally valid and unavoidable conflict. All the while he manages to steer clear of becoming journalistic, refraining from doling out great truths and justice. He shows and interprets what he sees and experiences but (most fortunately from an aesthetic point of view) falls short of ‘understanding’ everything. The narrator’s voice is made more nuanced by confusion, doubts and questions.
Angst is constructed of readable, clear, simple sentences. What makes the structure nevertheless exciting is the narrator’s essayistic presence. One in every two or three scenes runs into a line of thought valid in its own right, articulating the author’s life experience and pumping a huge wealth of knowledge into the book. These quasi-essays fit organically into the text – instead of protruding they seem to grow naturally out of the world of Angst, allowing us to glimpse into the development of the underground music world, the way in which work is organized within large multinational corporations (the author works as columnist for an economic journal), we are offered an account of the culture of public baths, an entertaining story about the Bekhtasi dervish Gül Baba and a critical analysis of the textual habits of the authors of metal magazines.
Previously on HLO