CAN YOU GO HOME AGAIN? A BUDAPEST DIARY 1993 by SUSAN RUBIN SULEIMA Dept. of Romance Languages and Comparative Literature, Harvard University _Postmodern Culture_ v.3 n.3 (May, 1993) firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright (c) 1993 by Susan Rubin Suleiman, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordanc with the fair-use provisions of U.S. copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that the editors are notified and no fee is charged for access Archiving, redistribution, or republication o this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of the author and the notification of the publisher, Oxford University Press. INTRODUCTORY NOTE:  The excerpts that follow are from a diary I have been keeping since early February , when I began a six- month residency at the Collegium Budapest, a new Institute for Advanced Study modeled on those in Berlin and Princeton When I was invited last year to come to Budapest during this inaugural year of the Collegium, I accepted immediately. Besides the usual luxuries of such a Fellowship period, th invitation offered me what I thought of as a near- providential opportunity to continue the autobiographical project I had started some years back, and which was assuming increasing urgency.  I left Hungary with my parents in the summer of 1949, and rarely thought of it again until thirty-five years later, when I decided to return as a tourist with my tw sons, then aged 14 and 7. That return triggered a desire to reconnect with my childhood and native city, a desire that took the form of writing. I published two short pieces I occasionally allude to in the diary ("My War in Four Episodes," _Agni_, 33, 1991; "Reading in Tongues," _Boston Review_, May-August 1992). Then, as a preparation for my current trip, I wrote a longer memoir, still unpublished, about the 1984 return and the memories it brought back. The decision to write the diary did not crystallize until after I arrived here--I simply found myself writing on my computer, sometimes for hours, at other times for a few minutes, from the first day on. After a while, I realized that I was writing "for a public" as well as for myself, an the project of a published diary began to take shape Since these excerpts have had to be radically excised from much longer text that is still in process, I decided t limit my selections to a few themes, chief among them the current resurgence of nationalism and anti-Semitism in Hungary (as in Eastern Europe in general), and, not unrelated to the first, my personal history. Out of a desire to protect the privacy of people I mention, I have used only first names or initials, which are not necessarily factual. In the case of public figures, I cite their full real name. I have tried to keep the writing very close to that of the first draft, but have not resisted makin occasional stylistic changes. The order and tenor of th entries have not been modified. Some of the major cuts ar indicated by suspension points in brackets.  A few Hungarian words: %utca% means street, %ut% means avenue, %ter% means square (like "place" in French), %korut% is a round avenue, %korter% or %korond% a round "square," %villamos% means tramway. Hungarian names are cited last name first, given name second. Hungarian vowels have variety of diacritical marks, but they cannot be reproduced in this electronic publication.  I would be interested in readers' responses to this work. Please send them to _Postmodern Culture_, which will forward them to me. WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY  My apartment is the whole top floor of a three-stor building, very big and nice.  [...] I didn't want to sleep in the middle of the afternoon, so after taking a hot bath and changing clothes, I went to the Collegium. I walked part of the way, down toward the Gellert Hotel on Bartok Bela ut, a wide, bus avenue lined with shops. I stopped at one to buy a toothbrush and some paper handkerchiefs. It felt strange to be speaking Hungarian to the young woman in the store. I thought I was speaking badly, like a foreigner. After walking a while longer I took a taxi, which cost 240 Forints--just under three dollars.  The Collegium occupies a historical monument, an 18th- century building, newly renovated, in what is surely one of the most beautiful spots in Budapest--on Castle Hill abov the Danube, across the square from the Matyas Church. The Church and square look positively dreamlike when they are lit up in the evening. My first sight of them was that way, for it was dark by the time I got there. FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 5  Had a chat with the downstairs neighbor this morning, a woman of about 65. She and her husband have been living in this house for over thirty years. It was a state-owne building, but three years ago the tenants were given th option to buy their apartments. The couple who own mine bought two--this one and a smaller one on the ground floor, where they now live. They spent several years abroad, which may account for the fancy electronic equipment in my apartment. Everybody had their place redone inside, bu they have no money left to repair the outside, which still bears the marks of World War II. The front was just one street over, she said: Germans on one side, Russians on the other. The pockmarks on our facade are due to flying shrapnel. It looks very bad, but would cost too much to repair. There are six apartments in the building. Theirs was divided, that's why it's smaller than mine.  Shall I go back again to Akacfa utca and climb again the three flights of stairs to our old apartment, now divided? Maybe the couple who lived there nine years ago no longer lives there, or maybe they have bought the place and had it redone.  After lunch at the Collegium I took a taxi to the hom of B., one of the editors of a recently founded monthl journal, whose name was on my list of people to call. He had told me on the telephone yesterday that he lived in an old-style building with a balcony surrounding the courtyard, and asked whether I was afraid of heights. No I wasn't, I assured him--and a good thing, too, because really his balcony is very narrow and from the third floor where he lives one has a plunging view. The building reminded me of Akacfa utca, but it was less nice--narrow balcony, n wrought iron, a smallish courtyard full of parked cars.  The man who opened the door was tall, around 50 pleasant face, almost bald and what hair he had, white. The apartment's clutter matched the exterior mess. He invited me into the tiny kitchen while he made coffee. He has a very charming, informal manner and a boyish air which suspect he cultivates, as if he didn't want to flaunt his authority or power--or perhaps as if he didn't want completely to grow up. After the coffee was made, he invited me into his study, a large pleasant room lined with books which we reached by crossing a small bathroom. His computer was still on, and he showed me the database he has been working on for the past fifteen years, just finished: a complete %repertoire%, in French, of Hungarian poetry written before 1600. A true work of erudition, which somehow didn't fit in my mind with his image as an editor of a chic journal. But B. turned out to be a man of many interests and talents ("Je n'ai pas un violon d'Ingres, j'ai un orchestre d'Ingres," he joked at one point), and we spent a pleasant few hours talking about everything from opera to French structuralism, with which he feels a great affinity. At first we spoke Hungarian, but when things got really interesting we settled into French, which he speaks ver well with a heavy Hungarian accent.  I asked him about the journal. "Well, I think you have great areas of empathy in you, but you simply cannot imagine what it was like to be an intellectual here around 1987-88. Suddenly, everything seemed possible. I had purposely chosen to specialize in literature before 1600, just to mak sure I would never have to write anything about politics. Under the communist regime, that was the only way I felt I could survive. But then, when things began to change, I felt I could and should take an active role." So he and some friends founded the journal, in the very room where we were sitting--and he didn't even have a telephone at the time  After looking at the "Contents" of _Subversive Intent_, which I had xeroxed for him (the book is on its way), h asked: "Are you close to feminism?" Yes, I answered. H smiled broadly: "I wrote one of the first feminist articles in Hungary--about a 16th-century poet, the first Hungarian woman poet, who wasn't mentioned in any of the official literary histories." But now, he no longer considers himself a feminist because all the ones he knows are to angry. He likes women, but not feminism. Are there an women on the editorial board of the journal? I asked. ( knew full well there aren't any, I had read the masthead. No, he answered. There are too many "fistfights" (%bagarres%) among the editors, and in a woman's presence they might not turn out the same way. Some men become to wildly competitive if a woman is present, as if to prove themselves to her. What did I think about that? That it' very hard for men to think of women as equals, I answered  He gave me his latest book--about three kinds o readers, all of them "played" by himself. As he was tellin me about his three readers I couldn't help thinking of th four sons at the Seder, especially since he had mentioned a short while before that both of his paternal grandparents were Jewish. He said neither he nor his father thought of themselves as Jews, though of course, at the first sign of anti-Semitism, he identifies himself as one. He inscribed his book, in Hungarian, "To Zsuzsa, with much affection--B. the feminist." I gave him some of my essays. The visit lasted more than four hours. SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 6  Spent the afternoon in my office, reading final papers for my "War and Memory" seminar. The first one I read was K.'s interview with her father, about the last year of the war he spent in Budapest. He is three years older than I, so he was eight years old in the harsh winter of 1944-4 when all the fighting was going on. Many parallels between our stories, including the fact that all of his immediate family survived. K. writes that she has always known he father was a Holocaust survivor, and he told her many stories when she was a child. The stories were always doctored, or as she put it "filtered," in such a way tha they were tales of good luck and triumph, not of fear or anxiety. It was only now, in this formal interview, that her father, with her prompting, spoke about his fears.  Reading her essay, I wondered why I never told suc stories to my children--why, in all innocence or thoughtlessness, I never considered myself as a survivor al these years. I finally decided it had something to do with the fact that I left Hungary in 1949, not 1956 like K.'s father. He was 20, he has an unmistakable accent when he speaks English--there was no "forgetting" his past. I, on the other hand, looked and spoke like many other smart middle-class American Jewish girls by the time I graduated from high school. So I could easily pass, "forget" where I came from or consider it irrelevant, and want other people to consider it that too.  The funny thing is, these days I am irritated when I discover that someone I know thinks of me as "just another American," or even an American Jew. The other night, at the dinner for Ruth Wisse in Cambridge, D. expressed surprise when I told her I was born in Budapest. So I immediately sent her my two memoirs, as soon as I left the dinner  Two days ago I bought _Magyar Forum_, the weekl newspaper of the ruling Magyar Demokrata Forum--or more exactly, of the party's far-right wing, led by Csurka Istvan. I finally read it this morning. Csurka's column i on page 2--a piece extolling the Hungarian people (Magyar nep), the "silent majority" against the political "elite." Since the column starts out by talking about a former head of the National Bank who seems to have been mixed up in some scandal and who "has an Israeli passport," I think "elite" may be a code word for Jews, or groups that include a lot of Jews.  A pretty piece of populist rhetoric, on the whole. I imagine it's the kind of thing that the grocery store lady of this morning whom I overheard complaining about the price of life might find comforting. But maybe I am jumping to conclusions about the poor lady. At any rate, Csurka is not a nice man. His name should be Csunya, for he stirs up ugly feelings (%csunya% means ugly). MONDAY, FEBRUARY  Last night all the Fellows were invited by the Recto to a concert at the Kongresszus hall, a kind of Conventio hall that also serves as a concert hall. Our host, V., wa most affable, and also invited us to dinner at a small restaurant not far from the Collegium. We had a wonderful time, talking about frivolities, but also after a while about Csurka and the reasons for the resurgence of nationalism in Central Europe. V. enumerated the usual political reaons: a reaction to the internationalism of the Communist regimes, economic and social inequalities that cause resentment (but B. had told me that it was under Communism one saw the greatest and most unfair inequalities), and generally the recession. But that still doesn't explain the deep psychological attraction of nationalism and xenophobia in these parts. We agreed that this was an important subject of discussion for the Collegium.  Things noticed: People can be awfully touchy in stores around here. Last Wednesday, on my first day here, stopped to buy some shampoo in a small store on Bartok Bela ut, which was quite crowded with customers. A young woman near the cash register was surveying the clients, and at one point she said to a woman: "Don't handle the merchandis too much." The woman got terribly upset, and stalked out o the store without buying anything: "You're too disrespectful (%pimasz%), so I won't buy from you," she said in a huff. Similar scene the next day, at the flower vendor stall on the corner of Bartok Bela and Bocskai. The old lady told a young woman not to handle the flowers, and the young woman went away saying, "Then I won't buy any." Finally, a similar scene at the concert at the French Institute on Saturday night. During intermission, many people were swarming around the bar ordering coffee, tea, or other drinks. A young man calls out to the waitress: "One coffee, please." His friend, another young guy, adds: "Some cream," and then "A milk." The waitress thought he was ordering a glass of milk, which was a little bit strange for that time of night for a young adult. She was about to give it to him when he said, very rudely, "Didn't you understand I was asking for milk in my coffee?" She said: "But you didn't say that, you didn't say 'a coffee wit milk.'" He then replied: "Well, you heard me ask for cream didn't you? What did you think I wanted to do with it, pour it behind my ear?" At that point she got very angry and threw his change at him on the counter. He grumbled, "You don't have to throw things at me, madam."  The whole scene was imbued with a degree of aggression I found quite astonishing, directed largely by the young man at the young woman. In the other scenes, it was two women who were involved each time, so it's not a gender issu (though in this instance I think there was some gende tension as well). One thing all this shows, I guess, i that Hungarians have easily bruisable egos; another, perhaps, is that under the new democratic regime, they won't "let themselves be pushed around anymore"; or, finally, tha they're feeling generally anxious, especially about things related to money. TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 9  Very interesting TV program, this evening--the first of two films on what appears to be the political history of Hungary from the 1930s to 1956 (I came in late, so I didn't see the beginning). Tonight's installment stopped in 1949. It's based entirely on interviews with men who were involved in politics, non-Communists of course. The three this evening were Nyeste Zoltan, who was a leader of the Kisgazdasag (Smallholders) Party after the war--for a while, part of a democratic coalition with the Communists; Fabry Pal, a journalist and diplomat who stayed out of Hungar after 1949; and someone whose name I'm not sure of, who was a chemist and then an opera singer. They all talked about the war--by 1944, when the Germans occupied Hungary, it was time to resist. Nyeste, a big bearded fellow, had a good story: he and some other students composed a text protesting the German occupation (March 1944), and their plan was to have it made up in posters and post it all over the city. The plan was never realized because the young man carrying the text to the printer was arrested by the Hungarian secret police. But nobody got hurt or even thrown in prison, because the police chief found out that not a single Communist or a single Jew had been among the plotters. "You understand, the myth was that only Communists and Jews wer resisting Hitler--no authentic Hungarian would dream of suc a thing. So, they preferred to hush up the whole affair rather than have to admit the truth." And he gave a big laugh.  After the war, all these men were involved in a democratic alliance, and their story is essentially the story of how Rakosi and the Communists succeeded in taking over the country. There was some very interesting footage of mass demonstrations of the time, huge crowds gathered on Hosok Tere, addressed by Rakosi and other orators. In one around 1946, just before the elections that brought the Communists into a position of power (though not into a majority yet, if I understood right), people chanted "Long live Stalin!" and carried huge photos of him as banners floating above the crowd. I must have seen some crowds like that. The film (or this first part) ended with a bunch o children, boys and girls, dressed in their %Uttoro% (Young Pioneer) uniforms, white shirt, navy blue pants or skirt, string tie, singing a song about the smiling future Reminded me of the time I recited Petofi's poem about hanging all the kings, on Prize Day in 1949 at the end of fourth grade, my last year here. I really believed in tha stuff--and so, judging by their uplifted faces, did the children who were singing that song. WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 10  Took my first %villamos% ride this morning--I rode fro Kosztolanyi Dezso ter all the way to Deak Ferenc ter, traversing a good part of the inner city, or rather its ri formed by Muzeum korut, Karoly korut, etc.. From Deak Ferenc I went to the bank, in a small street off Jozse Attila utca; opening an account didn't take long, so I strolled over to Vorosmarty ter, which is truly a wonderful space--no cars allowed, and in the middle is a large statu of the poet, now wrapped in burlap to protect it from th cold. From Vorosmarty ter I walked toward the river with the intention of finding a taxi, but as none came I ended u near the Chain Bridge, on a beautiful big square with elaborate buildings facing it, and yet another statue in the middle. The square is so big and full of traffic that I didn't cross over to see who the statue was of. Instead, I crossed the bridge. It's quite magnificent, heavy granite and elaborate ironwork, with a superb view on both sides even today, when it was a bit hazy. Walking on the narrow passageway for pedestrians, I thought I felt some memories stirring of having crossed there as a child. But when, and with whom? Mother used to take me for walks, and so did Madame, after the war. Would we have walked this far from home? Maybe to go up to the Castle, on a Sunday afternoon.  Right in front of the bridge is the Budavar siklo, the cable car to the castle. It goes up at almost a 90 degree angle, quite impressive--drops you off very close to the National Gallery and the theater, about a five minute walk from the Collegium, where I arrived tired but happy at 3:30 p.m.. I felt elated by the beauty of the city. "It really is a great capital, it really can be compared to Paris," I told myself at various moments during the day. That thought somehow makes me feel very proud, and also in a strange way "integrated"--since Budapest turns out to be a city I can put up there with the city I find most beautiful and seductive of all, and that has been part of my mental and emotional life during all the years when Budapest was totally outside it. Finding the link of beauty is a way to connect Budapest to my whole life, the life I spent not here, which has nothing to do with here SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 14  Saw a new Hungarian movie, _Roncsfilm_ ("Junk Movie"), which turned out to be a cross between Monty Python and the French hit of two years ago, the gross _Delicatessen_, "film bete et mechant." This one was funny and postmodernly self- conscious (people speaking directly into the camera, "testifying" about the action we are in the process of seeing), but it got a bit tiresome because almost all the episodes involved some kind of violent confrontation-- between men, between men and women, between women. In keeping with postmodern humor, though, no matter how badly people were beaten up or stabbed or burned, they always reappeared in the next scene perfectly fine. The idea was, I think, to show the pent-up frustration and rage in people, always there just below the surface. The film starts wit the breaking down of a wall, intercut with actual footage from the taking down of the Berlin wall. But the implication is, nothing has really gotten better--the subtitle of the film is "Vagy mi van ha gyoztunk?" "Or how are things now that we've won?" They're not too good, is the answer. The theater, incidentally, was full, mostly very young people. I was one of the few people above 25 there.  Afterwards, I walked down Terez korut to the Oktogon, where the busiest place was the Burger King, again full of very young people. I actually went in, but when I saw tha everybody was around 20, I decided to come home and make an omelette. I walked down Andrassy ut to the Opera House, very elaborate but dark (no performance tonight) and took a taxi from there. The taxi driver was extremely talkative, the first one like that I've met since coming to Budapest. He asked if I had seen _War and Peace_ on the TV last night I said no, which one was it? The American one with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. He said Audrey Hepburn was not his type, he finds her ugly. We spoke about her death, and about illness and how doctors can't necessarily cure you if you're sick. Then he asked me what I did for a living, I wasn't a doctor by any chance? No, I said, I'm a %tanarno%, which can mean either a %gymnazium% (high-school) teacher or a university professor. He said it's a nice profession, on that requires heart--only people with real heart can be good teachers. I asked him whether he had gone to university. Yes, he said, he had studied for five years there. Really? And what did he study? Engineering--he's an engineer. An now? "Now I drive a taxi." I didn't want to probe any further, and besides we had arrived home. But if what he said was true, that gives one pause: since when do engineers drive taxis for a living? MONDAY, FEBRUARY 15  Long lunch with G. today. She told me it was hard for her and N. to readjust to life in Budapest after their year in the States--as I imagine it will be hard for me to readjust after my six months in Budapest. But in their case it was more than just the "return to routine after a time o freedom elsewhere" syndrome, because life in Budapest is harsher in economic terms. After ten years of teaching and a good scholarly reputation, N. is on the second rung of four-rung ladder that ends with the title of Professor, and he earns 15,000 Forints a month--less than $200. G. was also offered a regular teaching job at the University this year, at a salary of 13,000 Forints a month, which shows th double absurdity of the whole thing: first, because no one can possibly live on that amount, and second, because the difference between a starting salary and the salary of one who has been teaching for ten years is 2000 forints pe month, or $25. In fact, everybody who teaches in th university has at least one more job, often two or three more, to make ends meet. G. turned down her offer and accepted a private administrative job instead, in which she earns three times as much. "At least you can live on that," she said. But in the meantime, she feels every day that "nothing is happening" to her, because she doesn't like that kind of work. She'd much rather be in the library, reading, or else translating an American novel into Hungarian. "I feel this job is good for my present, but not for my future," she said. But for now, she has no choice. She simply cannot afford to take a university job TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 16  Read Csurka's column in last week's _Magyar Forum_, which I only bought yesterday. His rhetoric is disgusting, but so clever (and at the same time so predictable) that it fascinates me. This time, his theme was: The good Hungarian Christian people are being silenced by "George Konrad-type liberalism" (he actually named him: "Konrad Gyorgyek-fele...liberalizmus")--that is, the old leftist and Communists who now call themselves liberals, but it's still the same old clique. Once again, it's those Jews wh are trying to keep us true Magyars, Christian Magyars, down They control all the media, radio and television, plus al the major papers, and they have all the wealth and power. The current talk about the renewal of anti-Semitism in Hungary is just a smokescreen--what really should be talke about is the "robbing of the country" ("az orszag kirablasarol kellene szot ejteni"). In fact, this clique would like to hound the Christian Magyars not only out o politics and public life, but out of life %tout court%: "without persecution, there is no liberalism. They nee space."  Note how, first of all, he equates the current liberals and the old Communists--conveniently forgetting that someone "like George Konrad," or more exactly Konrad himself, was during all his adult life a dissident in relation to the Communist regime. Csurka implies (more than implies, almost states outright) that all the Communists were Jews, hostile to true Magyar thought and spirit. He speaks of "Nag baloldali liberalis kommunista nyilvanossag," "great left liberal communist declarations," as if all the adjectives were interchangeable--and at one point he mentions the name of Revai, who I think was a much feared cultural commissar in the 1950s, the man for whom B.'s father worked. "Revai and his culture band, Aczel and his %shameses% jumped at the throat of the national culture," writes Csurka. He never actually uses the word "zsido," "Jew," but %shames% (Yiddish for "sexton") is about as explicit as you can get. I assume Revai and Aczel were both Jewish, or if not, had lots of Jews working for them. Indeed, a few paragraphs later Csurka makes a nasty dig at some of today's liberals who "sing the song of Let's forget the past, it's no use looking backwards, we have to look forward." That's because, he says, some of them "had a Daddy who tore people's nails off."  I wonder who Csurka's Daddy was. On the same page as his column there is an ad for the Magyar Forum publishing house, which has just reissued a 1938 novel about provincial life at the turn of the century, by one Csurka Peter. Any relation to Csurka Istvan?  Saw the second half of the documentary about the three men which started last week. It turns out that what the all had in common was that they left Hungary in 1956 an went to the United States--so the film was a documentary portrait of these men rather than a film about the political history of Hungary, but of course the two subjects ar closely linked, since the reason they left Hungary in th first place was because of politics. Fabry Pal was the most successful, becoming a big businessman in New Orleans-- founder of the first World Trade Center in 1962. The chemist/singer, Kovesdy Pal, did all kinds of physical work and eventually ended up as an art dealer in New York, where he now owns an important collection of works by the Hungarian avant-garde of the 1920s, which he is trying to sell to a museum. As for Nyeste Zoltan, it's not clear what he does--he seems to have been in some kind of publishing venture. He is the least assimilated into American life, the most "true Hungarian" of the lot. But curiously, neither he nor the others have hurried back to Hungary, now that communism is gone. Fabry comes often, but with a American wife and American children, he can't possibly com back to live here, he says. Kovesdy is thinking about it, waiting to see how things turn out; and Nyeste says he never stopped being Hungarian for a single day or a single minute since he left--perhaps implying that he doesn't need to come back, for he carries Hungary with him wherever he is.  In tonight's program, like last week, there was ver interesting newsreel footage from the 1950s and later: at Stalin's death, for example, newsreels showed mournful workers assembled, then marching in silent funeral parades; there were several other mass marches and demonstrations with enormous portraits of Stalin and Rakosi floating abov the crowd. As late as 1985, one party speaker (was it Kadar? I didn't recognize him), discussing Hungaria politics at what looked like a dinner meeting, stated tha experience in Hungary has shown a one-party system is best There is nothing wrong in principle with a multi-part system, he said, but Hungarian history shows that in thi country it hasn't worked. Doesn't leave much hope for Hungarian democracy, it would seem. WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 17  It snowed today. I had another very long Hungarian visit, this time with A., who teaches literature at the University and has two other jobs as well, like most Hungarian academics. [...] A., a woman about my age, received me in her office on the ground floor, which she shares with another person who was not there. She is a very pleasant and warm person, who immediately asked if we could "tegez" each other (say "te," like the French %tu%)--i makes life so much simpler, she said. I was delighted, of course. We chatted for quite a while, then she took me up to look at the library, which has a good collection of French literature--plus, of course, an excellent collection of Hungarian literature. A. introduced me to the librarian and obtained permission for me to borrow books. Great! I immediately borrowed _The Oxford History of Hungarian Literature_ by Lorant Czigany, which she recommended. I've been reading it all evening.  After the library we went back to her office an chatted for another hour. [...] Earlier, we had spoken about feminist criticism, and she confirmed my sense that people here know very little about it. But she also sai that right now, with so many bigger problems that also affect men, she doesn't particularly want to dwell on women's problems or pit women against men. This sounde like the Marxist-feminist thesis in France during the 1970 ("First the revolution, then women's problems"), and I didn't want to engage in an argument about it at this point I did, however, remark that not all feminist criticism i directed against men. She still wasn't fully convinced however.  We spoke at some length about Csurka. Csurka Peter, as I suspected, was his father and was also a right-winger. It seems that Csurka himself wrote ("Alas!" A. said) some very good plays during the %ancien regime% (that too was he expression), and no one could tell from them that he was an anti-Semite. In fact, he and Konrad considered themselves on the same side! "You have to understand, that was in the good old days when we were all together in opposing th regime. Our opposition was so strong that none of us realized our differences--it was only afterward that we found ourselves split into two hostile camps." "But didn' anyone notice his anti-Semitism?" "No! Oh, there were stories occasionally, about how he got drunk at the writers' club and started to 'Jew' (%zsidozni%, you see we even have a verb for it in Hungarian--to badmouth the Jews), bu otherwise, he kept it all under wraps. Maybe if we went back and reread his plays now, we would find indications ...." He also wrote some good stories, she said. He i around 60, the same age as Konrad. I should read some of his stories and plays--it pays to know your enemies well.  The Czigany literary history is very interesting--I could hardly put it down. It makes many things come to life, including the place names of Budapest, of which an extraordinary large number are those of writers: Vorosmarty ter, so central, is named after Mihaly V., a 19th-century poet, the first of the great poets after the language reform of the early years of the century. Kazinczy utca, which I had always associated with Jewishness--no doubt because of the synagogue there--is named after one of the architects o the language reform, which involved, mainly, standardizing orthography and expanding the vocabulary so that abstract concepts and technical terms would no longer have to be borrowed from Latin or German. The Eotvos of the Eotvos Collegium and the University was both a writer and a political figure. To an American, it's astonishing how man streets and squares and institutions are named after writers and intellectuals: Jozsef Attila, Moricz Zsigmond Kosztolanyi Dezs, Arany Janos, Madach Imre, Karinthy Frigyes, Jokai Mor and many many others, including of cours the hero Petofi.  [...] I kept thinking about Mother this evening, especially when I spread out the map of Hungary to look for Nyiregyhaza, after reading the _History_. What a pity that she's not alive now, for her and for me! I would so much have loved to ask her about her childhood, and some of th small towns she knew besides Nyiregyhaza. A few names in the same region sound very familiar, for exampl Hajduboszormeny and Hajduszoboszlo. I want to find Mother's birth certificate, though I couldn't say exactly why. THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 18  Exhausted. I must have walked miles today, all around my old neighborhood. %Villamos% to Deak Ferenc ter, then up Kiraly utca to the yellow church, then right on Akacfa utca. Kiraly utca has some beautiful turn of the century buildings on it, or even older--from the last third of the 19th century, I was told later by T.. Very interesting an varied decorations on all of them. Some look in bad shape, others look redone, and it's the same in that whole neighborhood. Kiraly utca itself is a grab-bag: some decrepit shops and some newfangled ones selling computers, electronics, etc.. Akacfa utca is mostly decrepit, at least the part I walked on, from Kiraly to number 59, in the middle of a long block. The first two houses on the odd- numbered side are black with soot and practically crumbling, though once they must have been quite noble, with columns and other elaborate decorations. Then comes a long low building which I didn't remember at all, and after that no 59, which could be quite beautiful. I don't think I noticed, last time--at least, I didn't remember--that there are three statues decorating the curved top of the facade. The three balconies, including our old one on the top left, look as if they're ready to fall down--I don't remember that from 1984.  I went into the courtyard, which is very rectangula indeed, and then into the stairwell. The wrought iron railings are still there, still very fine. An elderly woman dressed in red was crossing the courtyard when I walked in and looked at me curiously. I felt odd, a bit like an intruder. No question of going up to the third floor and knocking on the old apartment door again, though I may do it one of these days--maybe if someone else is with me. In th meantime, standing at the bottom of the stairwell, I remembered the time after Daddy's heart attack when he ha to be carried up the stairs every day, since there was n elevator and he was forbidden to climb. He had hired tw men who would come and join hands to form a seat, on whic he sat with his arms around each man's neck. I think this must have gone on until we left the country--or rather until we moved out to the summer house in Romai furdo, wher he didn't have to worry about stairs. That was around June 1949.  He had the operation for his ulcer in March o thereabouts, then the heart attack a few days later followed by the long recovery, first in the hospital and then at home. It must have been around May or early June that he gave the "thanksgiving" dinner for all the Talmudic scholars, of which I have a photograph at home: a large table full of men dressed in black caftans and black hats, with Daddy the only one wearing a regular suit. He wrote a learned speech for the occasion, a textual commentary he practiced for weeks beforehand while I listened. It was i Yiddish, so I didn't understand a word, but every time he said the word "Rambam" I would go into gales of laughter- for some mysterious reason, I found that inner rhyme hilarious. After a while it became a whole production, would laugh even though I no longer really thought it was funny, because I thought he expected me to. What did i matter that Rambam was Maimonides, a great scholar of antiquity? All I cared for was that Daddy should find m rapt and charming  Coming out into the street again, I noticed that the building directly across, no. 60, had been knocked down-- they seem to be getting ready to build a new house there. crossed the street and stared intently at the facade again A little girl, walking home from school, went by and turned around to look at me. I felt too self-conscious to take out my camera again (I had photographed the statues on the facade before going into the courtyard), as if people would notice and not like it. I noticed, or maybe only imagined, that a man standing in front of the building was staring at me suspiciously--what was I doing there, inspecting the place so closely? I suddenly felt tired and hungry, and besides I had had enough nostalgia for one day. [...]  The "Evening with Vajda Miklos," sponsored by the journal _2000_, was very interesting, but I'm too tired to report on it in detail. Suffice it to say that VM was born in 1931 of a Greek Orthodox mother and converted Jewish father, and is the editor of _New Hungarian Quarterly_, whose mission it is to publish Hungarian authors in English translation. He said he thought of the war, including the "ostrom," the last terrible year, as an adventure; Torok Andras, who was doing the questioning, remarked that just last month George Soros, who had been the invited guest, had used the same word ("kaland"), and I thought of what I say in "My War" about adventure. It must have something to do, I think, with having been so %choye% before the event, so loved and surrounded by adoring relatives, that we thought we were invincible. That, at least, is how Vajda explained it (his parents had very powerful friends, including the great actress Bajor Gizi, who had been his father's girlfriend and was his own godmother), and I tend to agree with him. In my more modest way, I too was a totally spoiled and adored child who took all the adulation as her due.  The other thing worth noting is that the evening lasted almost three hours! Unheard of, back home. Scheduled to start at 7 p.m., it actually started at 7:20, with about 100 people in the audience. The two men sat on the stage with microphones and talked--or rather, Vajda talked about hi life with just a few well-placed interventions and question from Torok. At 8:40, Torok announced we would take a break, just as I thought the thing was going to end! Break lasted around twenty minutes, and then we were back for another hour. The audience sat patiently on the uncomfortable chairs, listening intently. Vajda said, at one point: "To be here in the darkest period of the Rakosi era [ca. 1953], one could only survive by laughing a lot"--which is what he and his friends did. Around five minutes before ten, Toro asked the audience if they had questions. I had been reflecting for close to an hour that this kind of dialogue could never happen in the U.S., where questions from the audience would have taken up at least half the time. Here sure enough, there were only two questions. As if one could get a discussion going with an audience that had sat through almost three hours of its own silence! SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 2  Party at T.'s apartment, a huge place across from the American Embassy. There must have been hundreds of people there--writers, academics, politicians, plus a large contingent of foreign visitors. I saw Michael B., and G., who was coiffed and made up quite provocatively, very rouge cheeks, spikey hair--she was wearing tiny black lace glove plus a fox collar over her loose-fitting culotte dress Michael introduced me to an interesting woman, Judy S., journalist from Toronto whose life story resembles mine except that she's a few years younger--she left in 1956 after three years of elementary school. Her Hungarian is pretty good, somewhat like mine in that she doesn't know many abstract words  She told me about one of the men there that he had published a moving essay in a Canadian journal last year, about how he had discovered that he was Jewish. Another Hungarian "of Jewish origin"! %Zsido szarmazasu%: I'v heard or read that expression half a dozen times since I go here. Few are ready to affirm, simply, "I am a Jew." Bu to be "zsido szarmazasu," of Jewish origin, is quite admissible SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 21  %Hovirag%, snowdrops. Small white bouquets wrapped i green leaves, beckoning at the flowerstands. Evening on the boulevard, the shops are still open when darkness falls. I stop with Madame and we buy a bunch of %hovirag%, snowflowers for the end of winter. A few weeks later it will be %ibolya%, violets nestled against velvety leaves--I bury my face in them, inhale the sweet smell. How I love the coming of spring!  I bought some carnations at a stand on the way to th tram stop this afternoon, to put in the vase on my desk. A the young man was wrapping them, I noticed the bunches of snowdrops, dozens of them with their stalks in a shallow pan. These flowers are smaller than the ones we have in America, so you need quite a few to make a tiny bouquet. It must be a huge amount of work to make dozens of bunches, each one wrapped in a green leaf and tied with string. I wasn't sure of the flower's name, so I asked the vendor. Until then, I think he took me for a Hungarian, but my question obviously told him I wasn't. "%Hovirag%," he said, looking at me curiously. Snowflower. I took a bunch out of the pan and gave it to him to wrap up. "Are you from England?" he asked. "No, from America." After that, he spoke to me only in English.  Neither a foreigner nor a Hungarian, but something i between. Just a little off-center, not quite the real thing, but sometimes close to passing for it. One could make this into a sign of unhappiness, or on the contrary sign of uniqueness, special status. Except that there are whole armies of people like me--not unique, unless it's a collective uniqueness. Is that what we call history?  Most of the current issue of _Magyar Forum_ is devoted to the founding meeting of the %Magyar Ut% movement, th Hungarian Way. So Csurka got to be on page 1 in a larg photo showing him on the platform at the meeting, on page with his weekly column, and pages 3-4 which printed th complete text of his speech. There is a close-up of him a the podium, a thick, blunt-faced man with receding hairlin and double chin. ("His name really should be Csunya," I said to myself with some satisfaction while studying the photo). He wears tinted glasses. Looks a bit like Le Pen- why do all these right-wing demagogues look like beefy parodies of "real men," the kind that would never in a million years eat quiche  Well, anyway. The page 2 column is about the ministerial shakeup of last week. Mr. Csurka is not happy that the MDF may be contemplating a move toward the Young Democrats (Fidesz), which would definitely require them to squeeze out the "national radicals" whose leader he is. National radicals, the phrase comes up at least four times in his article--sounds ominously like National Socialists to me. The usual theme: the People, the %Nep%, is being kep down by the "nomenklatura," who used to be the Communists but who are now the liberals. They will certainly do all in their considerable power to keep the Hungarian Way fro developing. But it will win out in the end, because yo can't keep the People down, etc. etc..  The speech? More of the same. True Hungarians have "Hungarianness" (%Magyarsag%), a matter of blood. They're descendants of King Arpad. Christians. What all true Hungarians detest is "Naphta-liberalism"--and here Csurka the one-time playwright and short-story writer opens a parenthesis to explain about Naphta. Thomas Mann, he tells us, modeled this character in _The Magic Mountain_ on the philosopher George Lukacs, who "as everyone knows liked to vacation in Swiss resorts" during the years before "he threw his lot in with the terror and with the Hungarian Red soldiers"--that's an allusion to the short-lived Bela Kun government of 1919. And of course everyone also knows that Lukacs was Jewish, or rather, "of Jewish origin," as were all the other members of the Kun government. So basically liberals=Communists=Jews, the tried and true formula. But he says that the %Magyar Ut% is neither right nor left, just Hungarian. WEDNESDAY, MARCH 24, 1993  Second visit with B. this morning, almost as long as the first! And very interesting. We spoke in Hungarian this time, and a lot about the current situation here. My head was spinning by the time I left, he mentioned so many names and factual details I wanted to retain.  He looked somewhat younger today, and in fact he mentioned later that he was younger than I, born after th war. His manner was still charming and somewhat scatterbrained, but not quite so "bumbling" as last time-- and certainly not after we went into his study, where the really intense conversation began. "So, what do you think about what's happening--the extreme right and all that? Ar you worried?" I asked him. "No, I'm not. I'm optimistic," he answered. That's because, in his opinion, things are very different from what they were in the 1930s: most importantly, there is now a counter-offensive to nationalism and anti-Semitism. "We are here too," he said. Well, of course, there were anti-nazis in the 1930s too, I pointed out. But I don't recall his responding to that.  About anti-Semitism: "I think it's time to become aggressive. Paradoxically, I have become much more aware of being a Jew because of it--you know that Hungarian Jews have generally been very much assimilated, and my family certainly was. But this changes things." His idea is to write an article in which he will defend not the idea of tolerance ("Let's be good Magyars and tolerate difference, those who are not like us"), but rather the idea of a "loose" [%laza%] Hungarian-ness: "I am not Magyar the wa Petofi was--and if Csurka is a Magyar, then I'm not one at all. We should love difference, not tolerate it," he said. I liked that.