in and now rediscovered to international acclaim, this taut and exquisitely structured novel by the Hungarian master Sandor Marai download the Ebook. ABSTRACT This short novel by the writer Sándor Márai, regarded by many as WWII, Márai was persecuted by Hungary's Communist regime, his books were. PDF | Márai, Sándor. The Withering World (trans. John M. Ridland and Peter V. Czipott). Richmond, Surrey, UK: Alma Books. pp.
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Download Embers By Sandor Marai Book PDF Full Pages. Title.: Embers By Sandor Marai. File Ready.: PDF Format. Rating.: Powered by TCPDF. Sandor-Marai-Memoir-of-Hungarypdf - Ebook download as PDF File .pdf), Text File .txt) or read book online. Read "Embers" by Sandor Marai available from Rakuten Kobo. Sign up today and get $5 off your first download. Originally published in and now.
By throwing aw ay everything we have accumulated, p ro tected and carried, by still hearing the sounds o f the world but with h a lf closed eyes, like someone who has com e to rest at a foreign inn, sounds o f the city with which you are no longer really con cerned and whose jo y s and despairs, lechery and morality, legal system and interdictions no longer touch you, the transient, the foreigner Radical political changes sw ept away the condi tions that Mrai had imposed on permission for the publication o f his works in Hungary.
In , Mikhail Gorbachev appeared on the world stage to loosen the Soviet U nions grip on the foreign and dom estic affairs o f the East European nations and, in time, to remove all armed forces from within their borders. Soviet inter vention no longer threatening them, progressive ele ments in Hungary inside and outside the Communist Party seized the opportunity to initiate the m any demo cratic reforms that by the fall o f culminated in a multi-party system and open elections monitored, as Mrai had demanded, by trustworthy foreign obser vers.
Today his name is known to the latest gener ations in Hungary, and, once w ritten out o f the na tions memory, his works are now being reassessed by critics and literary historians. H e w as elected member o f the Hungarian Academ y o f Sciences on September 7, Academ ician Jzsef jfalussy said on that ceremonial occasion: This rehabilitation, as in other cases, represents more than a sim ple declaration; it also repre sents a hom ecom ing This hom ecom ing means that Sndor M rai can again be present at home, in the com mon consciousness o f the pu b lic, in the consciousness o f intellectuals, and in the circulation o f books.
In the same year, he was also awarded the nations high est recognition for literature, the Kossuth Prize. And in an edition of his collected works began to appear. H is forty-two-year odyssey had ended. A n d the world shrinks back as the war Unleashes its leaden throated roar A n d brute atrocities scorch all here On each front door the sign appears In blood o f Christian, Jew and European They have destroyed the worthy we believed in A ll the things worth living for.
Odium A carcass in you r bed, a fetid cave you r home. B oth the lock and their faith in the skinners fist The gates have been opened to the Apocalypse A n d ritual slaughter shrieks down on the world. The one who kisses me today, tomorrow m e inters The one I em brace today, tomorrow will be sepulchred. Who rocks me asleep tonight will at dawn prove traitor. Christmas Nam e days in Hungary have always been con sidered convivial, hospitable tribal holidays. And so, as the Gregorian calendar ordained, this year, too - , on Sndor day, M arch 18 - w e invited several relatives to dinner to celebrate the occasion.
A s wartim e shortages dictated, the dinner was modest. But this year, too, friends living on the shores o f Lake Balaton sent us several bottles o f full-bodied wine produced by the fiery volcanic soil.
The early spring night was crisp, cold, and it was pleasant to have not only the m eagerly stoked tile stoves heating the room s but also the serious spirits o f the wine warm ing our guests. W e were sitting in the old house in Buda, in the flat which had been m y hom e for nearly two decades. There are days when persons live w ith an intui tive certainty, as i f they have heard som e news or w ord that will directly intervene in individual lives.
One cannot tell w h at it is, bu t a m om ent has arrived, there is a sm ell to it. The nam e-day gathering had this kind o f sm ell in m id-M arch W e did not know anything for certain, but everyone scented that a fun damental, decisive change w as brewing, indeed was close at hand.
A t this time, in the blacked-out city, at the time o f Voronezh and other w ar tragedies, its inhabitants, who had till then been relatively spared, were not lead ing the social life they form erly had. Still, on this par ticular evening m y w ife arranged the nam e-day dinner ju st as she had in tim es when lye saw to our guests in peacetime.
Our household had dug out o f the bottoms o f cupboards the fam ilys M eissen china w ith the onion pattern, set the table w ith the old silver, and lavishly lighted the table w ith candles in French candelabra in 24 place o f electricity. Eleven o f us sat around the oval table. After that evening, these eleven beings never again sat down together at the same table. N ow it is no longer possible for them to do so again, for several o f them have died. The intimate, ominous flickering o f candlelight illuminated the faces, the bourgeois interior, the old furniture.
I never bought any furniture; everything we owned was inherited from the estates o f our two families, from two households in U pper Hungary. We didnt have any art treasures, but we didnt have a single piece o f store-bought furniture either. The tastes and habits o f our ancestors had selected every thing arranged in our rooms. The doors stood open between the rooms.
Now, as 1 think back on this scene om inously lighted by the flickering candleflames, it all strikes m e as i f w e, the bouigeois progeny o f U pper Hungary and Buda, had re prised for ourselves the life o f our fathers for one last time. On this night, everything that form ed the props and scenery o f those bygone days cam e to life again.
Conversation began perfunctorily, but the wine and the fam ily chatter o f old acquaintances helped us through the initial stiffness. After dinner w e remained at the table, o f course, and following H ungarian cus tom, we began chatting over wine and demitasse.
Inevitably the m om ent arrived when the guests and hosts began to discuss politics w ith a passion. This evening was special and it rem ained m em orable both in light o f the events that occurred afterwards the se quel was nothing less than the total destruction and ex tinction o f an entire way o f life - and in another way as well: the mom ent had once again com e when human beings sensed their fate w ith their instincts at least as much as with their intellects and w ith inform a tion.
Our guests, all relatives, w ith a single exception, were unequivocally anti-Nazis. But they all feared the end o f the war, and their w ary conjectures w ere de 25 livered in worried tones about w hat the immediate fu ture w ould be like, w hat the chilly spring would bring, how the m ilitary situation would work out, and how Hungary w ould fare in the cataclysm. The m ajority o f the disputants shared the con cern that w e could expect nothing good.
But before long the relative w ho w as a friend o f the Nazis brought up the m yth o f m iracle w eapons. A t the time, the country w as full o f such tales; people were talking about a weapon that would freeze the enem y and about airplanes that flew w ith the speed o f lightning so that pilots had to be plastered into their cockpits to keep them from falling out.
W e quickly dismissed such nonsense w ith a wave o f the hand. W hat could not be disposed o f so readily was fear, fear o f the reality that the final outcome o f the war w as near. W hen I stated that we must accept re sponsibility for the consequences and break w ith the Germans, m ost o f the guests agreed, though rather dif fidently but not the relative who had befriended the Nazis.
H e now flared up. Tipsy, he pounded the table and repeated the preachments o f holding out and loyalty to the alliance appearing in editorials. W hen 1 took issue w ith him, he gave a surpris ing reply. I am a National Socialist, he shouted. You he pointed at m e cant understand this because you are talented. But Tm not, and that is w hy I need Na tional Socialism. The passionate words died away; the hotblooded relative had declared the truth o f his life, and, breathing a sigh o f relief, he now stared straight ahead.
Several began to laugh; but the laughter was bitter, som ehow nobody was really in the mood to iaugb- W hen we suddenly caught the drift o f what he said, I answered that I dont put m uch trust in m y tal ent it is the kind o f talent that m ust be proven newly every day but I would not be a follower o f the 26 ideals o f National Socialism even i f I had no talent, which is not beyond question.
The relative shook his head gravely. You cant possibly understand, he repeated mechanically and struck his chest.
Now its about us, the untalented, he said, with strange self-confession, like the hero in a Russian novel. Our time has com e! Now we began laughing w ith relief and talked about other matters. Toward m idnight our guests said goodbye, for in the darkened city the streetcars ran only during cer tain hours o f the night.
W hen I accom panied the last o f them to the vestibule, the telephone rang. I recog nized the voice o f a friend, a civil servant in the prime ministers office.
He never phoned at night. For this reason I asked warily: W hats up? The Germ ans occupied H ungary tonight. H e said this in a very calm , natural voice, as if he were passing on a bit o f social news. He was an out standing, disciplined official. W e were silent for a time.
I asked: W here are they? The Germ ans? Here, on Castle Hill. They are advancing in tanks. Im watching them from a w in dow Where are you now? A t the ministry. Can you make it down to m y place? Thats impossible now, he calm ly said. They w ont let m e pass between the tanks. But tomorrow, if they havent arrested m e yet, m aybe Ill com e down. Good night, I said, feeling w hat I w as saying was stupid.
Good night, he answered gravely. He put down the phone. H e w asnt arrested on 27 the next day but on the third, and he was immediately taken away to a German internm ent camp. The m aid came in and began clearing the table, w earing w hite gloves, as she did when serving, because this was also one o f the rules o f the house.
I went to m y room and sat down at the old desk. Before the windows, the city was silent in the spring night. Only occasionally did a tank rumble on its way to Castle Hill, carrying mem bers o f the Gestapo to oc cupy the offices. I listened to the clattering tanks and sm oked cigarettes. The room was pleasantly luke warm. I looked absent-m indedly at the books lining the w alls, the six thousand volumes I had gathered together in various places in the world.
H ere was that Marcus Aurelius I bought from a second-hand dealer on the banks o f the Seine, Eckermanns Conversations, and an old H ungarian edition o f the Bible. And six thousand more books. From a w all m y father, grand father, and deceased relatives looked down at me. I encountered m y first Russian soldier several months later, on the second day o f Christmas He was a young man, a W hite Russian, I believe; he had a typically Slavic face, with wide cheekbones, and blond hair, with a lock sticking out from under a fur cap pointed like a helm et and m arked by the Soviet star.
H e galloped into the courtyard o f the villages parish hall, a submachine gun in his hand; in his wake rode two older, bearded, som ber-faced privates. H e leveled his weapon at m e and asked: W ho are you? A writer, I told him. W e stood in the snow, the horses exhaling their fatigue from their lungs in steamy puffs. Like Russian soldiers generally, this one rode m agnificently but did not spare his horse; when galloping, the Russian horseman does not raise his 28 body in the saddle, the entire w eight o f his upper body bears down on the horse, cleaving alm ost immovably to his mount.
After galloping, the horses cam e to a dead stop, neighed and snorted. The young soldier didnt understand m y reply and repeated the question. Now - more distinctly, breaking the w ord into syl lables - I said: "pisatiel. I didnt know any Russian, but I had learned this word because the rum or was that the Russians do not harm writers, A nd, in fact, the youth did break into a smile. T he sm ile brightened up his young, proud, boyishly angry, ruddy-cheeked face.
H e jum ped o ff his horse and rushed toward the parish hall. I understood he had dism issed m e and I could go home. His comrades paid no attention to me. I hurried across the snow-covered yard and started out on the highway for the village house on the edge o f a forest where I had been living for eight months. The house stood in a sort o f no-m ans land, in a large gar den, on the border o f a settlement m ade up o f ha If-vil lage and half-summer places.
I lived with escapees and refugees throughout these eight months. The lodg ings on the forests edge proved to be a proper choice. A t this time, the Germans no m ore stuck their noses here than did the H ungarian Nazis and mem bers o f the new Arrow-Cross squads trained to conduct m an hunts.
I hurried along the Danubes bank back to the abandoned house. The Danube w as full o f drifting ice floes. Two days earlier the Germ ans had withdrawn from the village and the entire area, unseen and un heard. On this day, the Russians had not yet com pletely encircled Budapest, and m odern weapons o f every type battled at the Danubes upper bend around Esztergom and then directly across on the other side o f the rivers bank.
Russian artillery dubbed Stalin pipe organs and extraordinary and very effective mortars 29 poured out a torrent o f fire night and day. But it was relatively quiet on the right side o f the river. Occa sionally we caught a grenade, and sometimes a bomb, dropped absent-m indedly or m istakenly from some lost airplane, would dem olish a house in the village.
The Russians had occupied the island in the middle o f the river days before. We observed them from the bank as they crawled around in the snow, building military positions, but on th e second day of Christmas not a single Soviet patrol had blundered into our village.
On the m orning o f this day, rumor had it that a Russian outpost had - at a majors com mand moved several kilom eters farther on and occu pied a form er diplom ats house in the vicinity o f a little town nearby.
The villagers thought it w ould be a good idea for a delegation to go to the regular Russian army - w ith poppy seed and nut brioche and brandy - and ask the major to station a professional military patrol in our village, too; perhaps this way we could avoid abuses at the hands o f loitering, looting bands o f sol diers. The major promised to dispatch a patrol by nightfall, and he ordered the delegation to gather up all the weapons in the village. I was in the act o f tak ing a hunting rifle to the parish hall when I en countered m y first Russian soldier.
I trudged along the Danubes bank. It was grow ing dark. On the other bank o f the river, in the dusk, blue, red, yellow and green flares crackled up high, like skyrockets on a special national holiday - the sig nals o f the Russian infantry slowly advancing toward Pest w ith which they requested shellfire to cover their forward positions. The shellfire sounded close, and oc casionally a rifle bullet whizzed past m y ear. This whiz zing sound w as strange and unmistakable, but I had heard so m any o f them by this time that I paid no at tention to it.
Village acquaintances passed by m e in the dark; they recognized and greeted m e in perturbed 30 tones. In this locality w ere strangely mingled the most impoverished peasantry w ho barely survived doing cot ters work and the sum m er residences o f well-to-do big city dwellers. On the hillside huts stood in rows; along the Danube, summer houses built after the First W orld W ar by the thriving middle class according to their diffuse tastes and in an odd hodge-podge o f styles m ade a resplendent display, like some eccentric am use m ent park.
H ere were found Tyrolean houses, mansion-like summer villas constructed in gentry-empire style, imitations o f Normandy castles, and even Span ish garden homes rem iniscent o f South Am erican ha ciendas. Few persons lived in the houses o f the gentry; m ost o f the owners had gone to the big city for the siege, because conventional wisdom held that Buda pest will fall in a few days and in the city the in habitants will face field m arshals, w hile in the village corporals will govern, and that will be m ore dan gerous.
In reality, one situation was ju st as dangerous as the other, but those who crowded into Budapest at the time o f the siege shriveled and baked in the cellars o f the beleaguered city and experienced every horror o f a large citys destruction.
Many residents o f the mano rial houses in the village escaped to the W est, and their homes were the first to be ransacked by the Rus sians, ju st as they had been by the locals. Each and every person greeting m e confusedly in the dark belonged to the villages proletariat. Their confusion suggested that the great change, the histori cal moment did not evoke the experience o f libera tion in their souls.
A people that had already lived in servitude for so long seemed to know that their lot was not going to change: the old masters had left, and the new masters had arrived, and they would remain slaves as before. The local shoemaker, who even for som e time past had the reputation o f being a Communist, hurried after me breathing heavily and began an emotional, 31 confused discourse.
The fat man stood without an over coat in the biting cold and explained agitatedly to me that when the Russians m arched in and caught sight o f him at the edge o f the village, they shouted, Bour geois, bourgeois! They thought I was a bourgeois, he explained in a w him pering voice, because I am fat and have a leather coat. And I w as w aiting for th em This was the first time I heard the voice o f disappointment.
The house was dark. W e had been without elec tricity for tw o days, and soon it wouldnt be available for months on end. W e still had some firewood; we had flour, fifteen kilos. I had buried lard in bottles in the vineyard, twelve o f them, and we still had soap and also some coffee.
Extra clothing still turned up; I had hidden our rem aining m oney, four thousand pengds, in the attic under a m ain beam, in a flat Lucky Strike tin box so mice would not nibble them; at the time, this money was enough for tw o months. On that day I even had some cigarettes. The household w ent to bed. I brewed some cof fee and sat alone in the dark room before the slowly dying fire in the stove. I rem em ber this night sharply, more vividly and powerfully than many things that happened later.
Som ething had ended, an impossible situation had dissolved into a new, equally dangerous but entirely different state o f affairs. The Russian sol dier w ho entered m y life today was, naturally, som e one other than a ruddy-cheeked Slav youth from som e where on the Volga.
This Russian soldier - I had to think o f this - entered not ju st m y life this afternoon 32 with every consequence, but that o f all Europe as well. W e didnt know about Yalta yet. W hat we did know was that the Russians were here, the Germ ans had withdrawn, and the war w ould soon be over.
I under stood this much about w hat had happened. And I also understood that we m ust now answer a question. I couldnt put the question into words, but on this particular night, when a warrior from the East entered a dark H ungarian village we understand only w hat we see and touch I felt in my bones that this young Soviet soldier had-brou gh t a question to Europe w ith him.
A t the time, the world for nearly thirty years had pondered, loudly and silently, what Communism was, what its m eaning was. Those who replied gave very different answers, depending on interest, convic tion, political creed, great pow er positions.
M any lied, exaggerated. But then I spoke w ith those who didnt lie and read books which - the authors person furnish ing the p roof - did not exaggerate. In any case, I lived in an atmosphere in which Communism was con sidered one o f the Seven Deadly Sins.
This was w hy I. A t the moment when in the snowy, dark courtyard o f the parish house I first en countered a Soviet soldier, there also began in m y life personally the great examination, the process o f ques tion and answer, the assessment o f the Communist and non-Communist worlds; but this examination com menced simultaneously in the W estern world as well. A power had appeared in Europe, and the Red Army was only the military expression o f this power.
W hat was this power? W hat was Communism? The Slavs? The East? In the night, m uttering m en walked aroim d the house, came and left. The night loiterers spoke a foreign language. I sat in the dark room and decided 33 that, to the extent hum anly possible, I would purge m y judgm ent o f every bias and try to look at the Commun ists without any residual m em ories of m y readings and conversations, without any o f the preconceptions o f offi cial anti-Bolshevist propaganda.
That afternoon I had personally undergone an event w hich the so-called intellectual had lived through as a sim ilar experience in Europe only twice up to then: in the ninth century, when the Arabs sud denly broke through to Autun and Poitiers, and in the sixteenth century, when the Turks transmigrated to Gy dr and Erlau. The Easterners were not allowed to advance farther into Europe then either. The m araud ings and conquests o f the Genghis Khans, the Timur Lenks, and the Attilas in the European plains were tragic but fleeting interludes, and one day, without so much as stopping to think, these hordes scurried home from Europe at some magical sign o f some Asiatic trib al calamity.
The Arabs, on the other hand, launched an attack w ith an ideological, racial, and spiritual con sciousness against another ideological, racial and spiri tual consciousness, against Christianity, and when Charles Martel, the bastard, defeated them at Autun for good, they left in Europe not ju st the memory o f their looting but also the great questions o f Arab civi lization that dem anded answers.
They brought with them not only astronomy, navigation, m edical science, new kinds o f ornamentation and the Eastern view o f nature, but also a num erical system that made techni cal thought possible when it banished the complex and cumbersome num bers o f the Greek and Roman numeri cal systems. They brought w ith them the self-con sciousness o f H ellenism , which by then was barely flick ering in the dim cells and encapsulated souls o f the M e dieval scholastics, when, finally, Gerhard o f Cremona translated several dozen Greek learned and literary works into Latin, including nearly all o f Aristotle.
To this barbarian, to this first Eastern question, the 34 Christian world would give a good answer at Autun; it answered not only w ith cannon but with the Renais sance and Humanism, which would, perhaps, not have emitted sparks in the soul o f M edieval m an for cen turies without the impetus o f Arab civilizations H el lenistic, Aristotelian self-consciousness.
The Renaissance was, in any event, a response to the first massive Eastern ideological invasion. On the occasion o f the second Eastern assault, at the powerful onslaught o f the Osman world concept and Eastern imperialism, the Christian world would again reply not only with weapons but w ith a great attempt at renewal, the Reformation.
How w ill m y world, the W estern world, respond to this young Russian soldier who today arrived from the East and asked me, an un known European writer: W ho are you? I sat in the darkness, in this very strange dark ness, listening to the cannon-fire rum bling in the night with the monotony o f factory gear and destroying everything that, a few kilom eters away, was for m e not long ago still a home and a world concept; and I tried to figure out the tone o f the question that the healthy blond Slavic soldier w earing a quilted Chinese coat would address to m y world.
I did not think about the answer, because I knew that such answers cannot be determined. The humanists didnt determine the Renaissance either, nor did Luther determine the Re formation; such answers ju st happen somehow.
N one theless, I tried to figure out w hat the Russian soldier really wanted o f me. H e w ill, o f course, carry o ff the pigs, the wheat, the oil, the coal and the m achines; there w as no doubt about that. At the time I didnt suspect he would take people away, too.
But w hat does he w ant besides the pigs, w heat and oil? Does he w ant m y soul and thus m y personality, too? N ot much tim e passed before this question resounded very pow erfully not ju st within m e in the night and in the secluded village house. We 35 came to know that he w anted to take away all these things and, on top o f it all, he wanted our souls, our personalities.
W hen w e becam e aware o f this, the en counter took on a different meaning, one that ex tended beyond the fate o f a nation to that o f the whole world. V ast empires w ither away more quickly than tropical forests; history is replete with the skeletons of such mammoth hulks as the Seleucian, Nubian and Lib yan Em pires - they bloom ed for a few historical m o ments, then dust buried them all without a trace. Only a lunatic could believe that the fate o f thousand-yearold H ungary has any significance for the large masses o f peoples.
I f H ungary stands in the way, they will trample it underfoot, without anger, indifferently. If they can make use o f Hungary for a moment, they will sign it on in som e sort o f subordinate role, ju st as the Germans signed it on yesterday, as the Russians will sign it on tom orrow.
This is destiny, and a small na tion can do very little against it. But to the question that the young Russian Bolshevist brought into m y life - into the lives o f everyone raised in the life forms o f W estern civilization - one must answer without prejudgm ent and bias. I imagined I saw the strange, impassive young face in the darkness. It wasnt repug nant, but it w as frightfully strange. A t this m om ent, in this phase o f the war, I wasnt the only one to reflect anxiously on the Rus sians: a bourgeois H ungarian w riter in a house in a H ungarian village.
The English, French and A m eri cans were also eyeing them w ith dubious expecta tions. A t the cost o f terrible sacrifices at Stalingrad, a great people turned around the wagon shaft o f world history, and I had this very day encountered an em bodim ent o f this great power.
T o m any, to those perse cuted by the Nazis, this young Russian brought along a kind o f liberation, an escape from the N azi terror. A t the tim e, this was not yet widely known. For two weeks they came random ly and sporadi cally, singly or in pairs. They generally asked for som e thing; wine, food, som etimes ju st for a glass o f water. After the initial anxiety, these encounters sometimes took place in a human voice, true, in a som ewhat theat rical and studied voice. Once the rudiments o f greet ings and communications were clarified, only scant conversational possibilities rem ained to us.
Staying in the house w as a young wom an w ho com pleted her university degree in Prague and spoke the Czech idiom fluently.
She w as our interpreter, and the Rus sians understood her for the m ost part. They entered the house night and day without ringing or knocking. During the first days and nights, we were sometimes taken aback when, at the m ost un expected moment, a Russian with a submachine gun stood before our bed or beside our table.
But we be came used to that quickly, too. M ost o f them stayed for only a short time. Once three o f them arrived, two officer types, or kapitanoSy and a private.
As we later learned, the of ficer rank started with majors in the Russian army; they had already com pleted the m ilitary academ y and had orderlies, and m ost o f them knew a little German. But below the rank o f major, the officer types w ith sev eral stars were not real officers. Also present were other ranks and relations between superiors and subor dinates that a foreigner could understand only w ith dif ficulty. The momentum o f the Russian attack also stalled on two battlefronts: It was then I learned that need is m ore powerful than gold.
A ll their behavior showed this unpredictable quality. N ot the meaning o f the words — I could barely speak to them even with the help o f an interpreter —it w as rather the tone only. It was fine gold. I found the village Shylock. The m iller understood not only flour but gold as well. The trust presented in advance. I w ent hom e emptyhanded. A good many o f exceptions cropped up.
I very generally got along w ith the Russians who called on us. M ore often than not. H e sighed and handed it back with a scornful gesture. In this moment I came to understand something about the gravity o f the life lived by ancient bourgeois pioneers. I reflected on the strange life situation I found m yself in. After such scenes. I spoke abruptly. The cultured old wom an.
And since the Russian arm y was assembled from exceptionally numerous races. During these weeks. I felt like a dom pteur after a successfully executed lion act.
There were m any types: Tartars and Mongols. They were m ainly full o f surprises. There were Cossacks. An old lady. I would go into the vestibule and quite frequently find horses there peacefully looking around.
E ven to this day I cannot distinguish accurately between a W hite Russian and a Ukrainian. Humans are resilient creatures.. The night passed quietly. One o f her ancestors fought against Napoleon at the side o f Kutuzov.
In fact. She read Chartreuse de Par me and received friends there regally and pleasantly in the mornings. She ranked among the self-possessed. Once again. In the first days o f the Russian occupation. The colonel heard her out. The old lady did so. In the morning. Since I could not do anything else anyway. N ot long ago I read over these notes. I decided to keep at my profession. W hen I com e face to face w ith som eone from the W est.
The Russians walked w ith piercing looks among us. I can only repeat w hat I set down on several occasions at the time: Then he left. I shall sim ply establish what it is. But a Russian always turned up w ho looked at me with respectful. M y name was on the title page. H e gripped his submachine gun and shouted unintelligible words in a threatening One night toward dawn.
I had already noticed that the Russians generally were not telling the truth when they boasted o f being widely read. D uring our literary conversations at this time.
I was glad to find a French edition o f one o f m y books in the small reference library o f the owners o f the house. This m an. I wrote this book. But the Russian was suspicious. H e turned and left the room. Here is m y name. Then he flung out his arms. The situation was turning hostile. I turned the book over. W e watched one another closely. I stared after him with m y mouth open. H e bent over the book w ith the w eapon in his hand.
F or they were different. Or was the Russian simply someone who. I was acquainted with some Russian prisoners o f war — officers. In the First W orld W ar. O f course.
W hat w as going on here. Since I am speaking about the Russians. The Russians had everything required to wage w ar. They would pass through the village in m otor vehicles.
O r m ore simply.
This traveling circus was. It is possible that Soviet industrial experimentation elicited this feeling for time. Their com ing and going. It was as i f a monstrous. But seemingly. The warfare o f the ancient Magyars and Huns m ay have been like this. I had m any dealings w ith the I distinctly felt. These Russians were closer to nature than the soldiers in the Western armies: Scythian patrols galloped like tiiis.
Their intelligence network. Sometimes officers showed up w ith whom we Russians then and som etim es later as well. H e does not so m uch as glance at his surroundings. And i f I called on them to fulfill the promise. They are singing and making gloomy. Struggling and mimicking themselves. On another occasion. I rem em ber som e strange characters: They liked to play.
Russian Comraunist propaganda persuaded the world to believe at least those som etimes well-m eaning sympathizers who fell for this line. They answered m y questions vaguely. Since many o f them tended to tell lies. A t such times. I accepted as true only answers containing factual p ro o f that the person I asked knew w hat he w as talking about. I took special pains to learn w hat had trickled down to them from that great Russian literature that could in the early decades o f the century so profoundly stir the Russian people and the entire thinking world.
After the standard replies. But I did have a sm attering o f its literature. W hen we w ent beyond identifying Pushkin and Lermontov. They were fam iliar w ith his works. I was surprised how little these Soviet men knew about their own great literature. Russian literature had nurtured me. I never could learn why this was so. M aybe it was his nationalism. I understood from their replies only that they did read but superficially.
But it appeared that. Merezhkovsky and Leonid Andreyev. Ivan Bunin. Am ong the officers I did not encounter a single one U krainian repairmen. They sanctioned Tolstoy. Arkady Averchenko. I asked. The Russians honored w riters and literature. Gorky was the great official author in all their eyes. But I was surprised how quickly the nam es o f several writers w hom we. I talked with only a few dozen R ed soldiers about Russian literature. They m urm ured in embarrassment.
They still did not know that culture is som ething other than getting a haircut or not spitting on the floor. Escape from what? Escape from the bleakness o f their lives.
For most o f them. These Russians were still far from viewing writing as a contest o f wits or. Like the early Christians. They still did not exactly know w hat the escape that culture prom ised w ould be like.
During our conversations. Script fixes some dim longing. Their literacy level w as nil. This is w hy they honored the writer. Those who attached farreachi ng expectations to this hypothesis probably erred. The forty-year-olds had subsisted on the fundamental ideas o f the Russian versions o f hum anistic learning within their families: After a time. With the passing o f a little time. One im m ediately fell asleep. It was called Europe and the Eastern Soul. The two weary.
H e spoke to m e in Russian or a Ukrainian variant.
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I was alone. I later learned that this Baltic writer. Is there. In the years following.. I sometimes recollected one o f his gloomy and bom bastic statements: In his book he drew a curious profile o f the Slavs..
But I. I listened to m y visitor. A t the door. For this reason. W ithout looking at me. M y guest w as explaining. This little Russian gushing words evoked the m em ory o f still another literary character. But today I still treasure this reply like some special decoration. When the interpreter answered. The declaim ing Russian roused his snoring comrade. I put m y hand on his arm for a moment.
H e smiled. He thought for a moment. I listened wordlessly. Russian soldiers. Buda had still not fallen. And when their lives were in peril. When wounded. Russian infantry and artillery passing through streamed through the village night and day. Casualties were being transported in open trucks to safer locations.
The Russian was always a good soldier. Nothing could be done to help them. Before long. With m y own eyes I saw them strip the villa next door in broad daylight. The peasants rescued their valuables in ways as best they could: Russian troops advanced trough the village night and day between the two battlefronts. Not a night passed without someone asking for lodgings at our house.
They made o ff w ith everything they saw. Russian administrative bodies sim ply detained everyone w ho came their way. An acquaintance o f mine. A friend o f mine. His desperate parents ran futile ly back and forth between Russian authorities. In their eyes. He happened to be captured by the Russians. This rumor was true. The NKVD officer. I spoke w ith H ungarian prisoners o f war who somehow managed to make it back to Hungary from Russian screening and forced labor camps.
A t this time — and for a long while afterwards.
During these days. Large numbers o f them were the left-over victims o f the Stalin purges that preceded the war. The peasants immediately. Then they left without a word. M aybe this was precisely what spared me. But I learned a few hours later that this patrol had gathered together every able-bodied m ale in the village and the neighboring houses. It was as if memories o f the tim e after the Mohacs disaster. I som etimes recollected this extraordinary moment.
I talked with one o f them who returned hom e after three years. So the officer ju s t stared at m e — he was a repugnant m an w ith a piercing look and the face o f a dogcatcher he stared at m e for a long time. W e stood in the middle o f the room and stared at each other. The owner. It had a hearty appetite.
The people defended them selves as best they could. For years and years on barges. East Germany. And its appetite did not slacken. But i f there w as some kind o f guilty conscience because o f the past in H ungarian society. This lack o f inhibitions. In truth. The Russians took the horse away. W hen I first saw a Russian take a piglet away from a poor H ungarian peasant. In addition. The peasants took the cows into the woods. Moscovites thirsting for brandy were driving thousands o f stolen A t first.
After a year. One day the Russians will go away. It was a charm ing old town. I saw such rem arkable instances o f persistence and historical dexterity in handling problem s that I can never forget them. A t that time. The racial kinship.
These visits to the Serbian town.. The After the death o f Stephen III. About A. These priests were not Communists. Byzantium was the m agnetic. A people. A t such a crucial time. And while I waited at the bakery for the slack-baked and covertly dispensed bread.
The Russians o f the Kiev Grand Duchy. K ing Stephen. And still. Hungarians accepted an ideological. And there was som ething frightening in this. The Serbian priests quickly realized that they could expect nothing from their Slavic brethren. Up to this point. W hat was frightening was the fact that the Slav had arrived.
W hen we finally came face to face w ith the Slavs. But the Russian looter spared no one. But who was he. In the cities. The Russian officer looked sternly at the ragged poster.
And w hat did he I watched through the glass door as w ith animated movements o f his hands a Serbian priest showed the poster to an officer w earing a leather coat. The frightful. One morning. Then the locals and Russians hastily ransacked the place. Those who drafted and printed the text — and those who posted it. In the village there now began.
These ventures were always carried out under the cover o f night. This sportive diversion com m enced on M arch Since practice makes perfect. On a January afternoon.
In practice. Everything we saw and experienced up to this point was only a congenial social call. W e w ere living. A t the orders o f the high command. The war in all its dreadful reality sw ept down on the village imexpectedly.
Russians w ith their Rata fighter planes launched attacks every hour on the residential sections o f the besieged capital.
We all lived behind locked doors. The battlefront cam e to a halt before the trenches o f nearby Buda. The might they displayed was fierce. Russians swarmed in every room. One afternoon. But we now saw the Red Army in its true character. In a few hours. During the next three weeks.
Especially surprising were the m erciless energy and passion with w hich they seized everything they needed and the way they carried out orders.
By then the soldiers had already toppled the lower gate together w ith its stone posts and fence. Like an arctic ice storm. Russian forces fought with all their might and m ain and with every weapon at its disposal. The magnitude o f their military might cannot be measured. They were ju st as ruthless to each other. Nobody knows whether this was so or not. B y evening the house looked like a factory. They sawed down.
They always set their sights on One time. They started the electric generator and set about repairing the vehicles. Mongolians and Siberians. W e locals stumbled about ignorantly in the noisy repair shop. Then the officer engaged all the rem aining rooms and premises to serve as the mashtierskaia.
There were three room s on the first floor. Within moments the path to the house was clear. The Russians set up the welding shop in the bathroom. Some kind o f officer came into the house. They were kept unmercifully busy. A mechanical engineer w ho lived in the village was. They began w ork at dawn. In those first days. About thirty repairmen and drivers m oved into our house. But afterwards. The German army was an organizational and technical m ihtary power.
It seem ed as i f ter- These craftsm en confirmed that the Russian m echanics were hardworking but lacked technical flair. This arm y o f termites has become mechanized in recent decades: Russian industry built the atom bomb.
I saw them lau n di Rata fighter planes from the plow in front o f our yard. W hat is the quality o f this mechanized Red army? This is also a question.
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But at what a price and w hose help: The way the soldiers pounced on a village. This is another question. Soviet pow er will be overestimated. I saw their But every invention o f the technical revolution added to the well-equipped and mechanized Soviet army. The abundance o f humans made up for what w as lacking in technology. I watched their massive and bloody struggles on the opposite bank of the Danube.
They lost out on the flight to the moon. But back then. It is possible that precisely the same kind o f mistake will occur in the future.
They could laugh in their faces. They prepared. The Russians knew how to take the measure o f their opponents and outwit them. As their war m achine overran the little village that night. But as in their personal relations. This uninhibited and ferocious w ill was always the reason for the success o f all their m anifestations. I was living with Russians in close proxim ity for the first time. I f it could. The mashtierskaia was m anned by a trained military detachment.
Like the Soviet worker. In their pursuit o f these. This w as how we lived among our guests. But their own m en. It recognized only goals and results. Human faces em erged from the chaos. W ithin a few days the village became a clattering workshop. They knew. I adhered to m y resolve to observe the Soviet system without prejudice and preconception. I lived among the products o f this system during these weeks. And later. In that confused. The clock stood under his nose on a book sh elf next to his bed.
Russian time that it struck.
This Sedlachek carried a chim ing clock the size o f a child on his war travels. A long w ith this Russian reckoning o f tim e. W hen I came to know the m en a little better — their tastes.
H is name was Sedlachek. We lived for weeks with the thirty men like animals in a cage. Circumstances that bring hum an beings closer to each other really were not lacking: During the last two decades. As the men in the mashtierskaia flung themselves on shoes. Sometimes not even then.
These Communist Russians were so impoverished. They lived separately in the villas. On those occasions. From the standpoint o f the order o f rank. But the field officer departed and Sedlachek stayed. I lived among the men during those weeks.
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I talked him out o f it. W hen he left the room everyone relaxed. H e w as the head o f the local military police. W hen he entered the room or one o f the workshops.
He w as a bit astonished by the answer. One night. Our Kirghizians trembled in his presence. He noticed our pained countenances and asked us what was wrong. Before the w ar. He was from Tashkent. There was a Jew among the mechanics. W hen Has- There was a Siberian. His name was Hassan. H e bedded down separately in the kitchen and ate alone. Hassan growled like a dog when it is being provoked.
W hen I stated that we also had lived like that not long ago at home. The m echanics sat down around the sole rem aining table or settled down on boxes and started to eat. I once saw him do up the dishes in the kitchen and then wash his hair in the dishwater. There must have been som e sign o f consternation in the look w ith which I view ed the scene.
I looked at this strange. San heard we had been robbed. Russian and Chuwash. Hassan brought the food from the nearby cam p kitchen in a bucket. H e told many stories about Tashkent. H e w as a well-mannered. I m ade friends with this Uzbek. Russian politics is imm utable. Is the danger past? In the evening hours. The methods. Hassan expressed an interest in the origin o f the Hungarians.
Till then. He once said: W hen I m uch later read a prophecy that cautioned the world about the Russians. To begin with. The prophecy w ent like this: W e sat at the dirty table in the flickering light o f the oil lamp. I som etimes played chess w ith him. I was pleased when he spoke up because up to now he had not shown the slightest inclination to converse. He had survived the massive purges. I later learned that he w as a m em ber o f the Party.
This m an wore no insignia. Som etim es he wrote page upon page in a notebook in Cyrillic letters. In the m orning and afternoon he went out to the bridge construction site.
Now he finally spoke up. This m an had stood out earlier. H e always answered calmly and thoughtfully. H e sat down Even the political officer feared him. This is w hat it said. I asked him i f I am a bourgeois. You w ill not be free now either. H e heard m e out patiently.
On one occasion. I asked him what happened to the bourgeoisie in Russia. You hang on to something that no longer exists. I told him that in a war every man turns into a beast. Only the H ungarians. On the first evening. I recalled these words. I could not tell the bridgebuilder from M oscow that culture is always mightier than despots and despotism. I said. It was hard to engage in an argum ent under the conditions in which we lived.
I asked him w hat the Soviet tax system is like. The bridge-builder from Moscow would not have understood this anyway. Even when. I wrote down m any things he said during our chess games. This question made him uneasy and he changed the subject. The soldiers had only one record. The details he reported were true. It was a great sport for them to fool us.
He related that there are priests in the Soviet Union. These conversations took place amid ear-deafening din. H e once made a slip o f the tongue. It w as not ju st the war machines that rumbled around the house. He changed the subject. A tchervonietz is. His eyes sparkled. I asked him w hat a tchervonietz is.
They played it night and day. Sedlachek roused his workers at dawn with it. The war is on. H e said the present situation is abnormal. A year later. But high com mands were billeted in the villages. The room filled w ith the acrid stench o f burned flesh and scorched skin. This burning. One attacker was arrested. The taciturnity with which they regarded the hum an pain. One o f the mechanics in the welding shop had caught fire when a gasoline blowtorch exploded in his hand.
I have no idea what happened to the other. At first this constant m iaow ing got on m y nerves. One afternoon I was calm ly playing chess with the Com m unist from M oscow when a smoking. H e is healthy. No one ever heard anything further about the assailants. Now this carbuncular Anatol darted toward the women in the kitchen in an acute fit o f sexual passion. He was a simple m an. But Anatol could not be contained. I lived alone w ith tw o w om en for w eeks among Kirghizians.
Others related other. Chuwash and other savage men. One afternoon a Georgian nam ed Anatol. It happened that they turned to m e w ith incredible requests. H e left in low spirits. Gorky and Dostoevsky. One night the two o f them got hold o f som e wine. The w om en squatting on the kitchen floor gazed soberly. I returned to the kitchen and found the wom en in an embarrassed state o f mind. The shouting. This lad w as hunchbacked. I assisted the w eeping Russian to the vestibule.
They peeled the potatoes in silence. H e sobbed uncontrollably. On another evening. The scene clarified som ething about the always som ewhat baffling characteristics o f the great Russian novels. I closed the door leading to our room behind me and stopped directly in front o f the hunchback.
He approached slowly. Their besotted. I threw m y back against the door and stood there w ith arras folded. There was no trouble later. The moment that followed seemed endless. Ilonka was the interpreter. This is why I did not move. The others began to applaud the w ay spectators extol the lion tam er after accom plishing a daring feat. I w ould cause incalculable trouble.
I felt like the lion tamer when he has to enter a cage o f restless wild beasts. I put on my robe and passed through the adjacent room between the tipsy and lustily singing Russians. W hen he stood before m e I extended m y hand. And I touched his shoulder. I ju st stood at the door and looked him in the eyes. And actually. Sometimes the Russians caught the little fellow red-handed. I w ould have liked to learn whether I was such an ancient enem y to the adult Russians as well. An eight-year-old lived in our house.
Som ehow it w as in this. To him I was the ancient enem y it was not proper to fraternize with. They waved their hands. According to every indication. Nearly all the Russians were gentle and kind w ith children. After all. W hen he passed by m e and I looked at him in a friendly way or spoke to him drolly. H e wore a regular arm y uniform and strutted around in it. And what was even m ore surprising. I now saw. I often recalled this characterization.
Good deportment. I quickly learned.
Sometimes I recollected a statem ent of the aged Freud. An experience with selection and quality was w hat they were getting to know through the tattered Am erican magazine. They bent eagerly over the text and pictures printed on shiny. Russians also came from neighboring houses and snatched the crumpled issue away from their fellow lodgers. It was the advertisem ents that fascinated our fellow residents and callers:Read more 2.
H e w as only eighteen when his first book o f poem s appeared, and twenty-one when his sec ond was published, also in Kassa, which by then had become a part o f Czechoslovakia by terms o f the Treaty o f Trianon.
At Kobo, we try to ensure that published reviews do not contain rude or profane language, spoilers, or any of our reviewer's personal information. I sat in the dark room and decided 33 that, to the extent hum anly possible, I would purge m y judgm ent o f every bias and try to look at the Commun ists without any residual m em ories of m y readings and conversations, without any o f the preconceptions o f offi cial anti-Bolshevist propaganda.
The Slavs? Le Guin. If they can make use o f Hungary for a moment, they will sign it on in som e sort o f subordinate role, ju st as the Germans signed it on yesterday, as the Russians will sign it on tom orrow.