I’ve been busy at the Toronto Film Festival and the Shaw Festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake, so I’ve been neglecting my Hungarian. I have not completely neglected works of Hungarian literature, however.
First of all, there’s The Turin Horse, a Béla Tarr film, which was the only Hungarian film playing at the festival. A father, his daughter, and their horse are trapped in their house by a windstorm and grow ever more pessimistic. The black and white cinematography was very pretty, but I didn’t find the story absorbing.. The most interesting part to me was testing my advancing Hungarian skills; I was often able to almost understand the dialogue in real time. (Mostly, I’d mishear the dialogue—”Feküdt Marla” (Marla went to bed)— then realize what it must have been—”Feküdj már le” (Come to bed already).)
I also read Metropole by Ferenc Karinthy. The premise sounds like it could be interesting—a linguist flying to Helsinki arrives instead in a country where nobody speaks any language he can recognize, and isn’t able to make anyone understand him. Unfortunately, while I’m sure there are plenty of people who enjoy stories about characters who can’t affect their own situation, I’m not one of them. The most interesting part for me was on the back cover: “He is the author of over a dozen novels. This is the first to be translated into English.” A skillful and imaginative writer, even if his stuff isn’t my cup of tea, deserves better than that.
I’m currently most of the way through A Journey Round My Skull by Frigyes Karinthy, his father. It’s a gripping account of what it’s like to have a tumor growing in your brain, starting with the inexplicable auditory hallucinations, and continuing through his diagnosis and treatment.
And, finally, I saw The President by Ferenc Molnár at the Shaw Festival, which was a fun one-act comedy about a high-powered executive who has to turn a taxi driver into a convincing company president in just one hour. I looked to see if the original play was online anywhere, but at first I couldn’t even figure out the title; it wasn’t until I saw the program that I knew it was a translation of Egy, kettő, három (which means One, Two, Three), and it turns out it’s not available online. I think I will search for some public domain Hungarian plays when I get home and try reading them; it occurs to me that pure dialogue might be easier to read than novelistic prose.