The Violet, Day 22

Director. This is why I appeal to you.

Ilonka. Of course this is why! Because of your job, because you are the sort of poor man who goes to work on foot.

Director. I haven’t an iron fillér to my name. I can’t support my own self on my wages.

Ilonka. I will give you money, if I must.

Director. Thank you, my dear, I have not come to that. Very well, let us say, let us say it is only natural that you should appeal to me …

Ilonka. Ah, happiness!

Director. Pardon. We are only supposing.

Ilonka. I know, you dear, what it means when we are already supposing!

Director. You’re very conceited, dear girl, but wait, you will yet become humbler.

Ilonka. I could not be humbler than when I chose you.

A page today. The words seem to be sucking less, but I put off getting started so long that I really can’t keep going. Some really incomprehensible dialogue was made more comprehensible when I figured out Ilonka was ending words with “ér” which ought to have ended “ért”. I hope I’ll get at least a few pages done tomorrow.

“I haven’t an iron fillér to my name” was originally just “I don’t have an iron”, where “iron” is standing in for “thing made of iron” (and not “clothes iron”, which would be a different word altogether). It seems like a pretty safe assumption that he means an iron coin, and fillér is plausible, but I really should check Wikipedia or some other source to find out what Hungarian or Austrian coins from 1920 or earlier were made of iron. I like the sound of “iron fillér, though, and I think this is a good example of when to throw in a Hungarian word for flavor. It should be obvious from context that a fillér is a coin, and it’s a good reminder of where the story is set. I would absolutely not substitute “brass farthing”.

The Violet, Day 21

I did about half a page today, nothing worth quoting. Really ugly English, I’m not sure if it was a tricky patch of Hungarian or if I was just out of sorts and the words weren’t flowing. Either way, I couldn’t get excited about translating when it was turning out so badly, so I did some proofreading for Project Gutenberg instead. Hopefully when I come at it fresh tomorrow I’ll have a less ugly day.

The Violet, Day 20

Director angrily. But then you made it painless for him, certainly the way you winked at him, and the way you flattered him, that so disgusted me there at my work. Yet you dare speak like this? When you told him that you were in heaven!

Ilonka crying. And what should I have told him?! That I had a headache? Once I see what they want from me, what should I do? Sacrifice my own bread? She cries out in anguish. I had to be his echo!

Director. There’s something in that.

Ilonka crying. If they assault a person!

Director. That’s going too far, girl. But regardless it’s a pleasant surprise that you’re so frantic.

Ilonka crying. Villain! Villain! All directors are villains!

Director. Bravo, that’s the way to speak. Dear lady, if these are tears of offended honor …

Ilonka. These are my tears, if you please, and not theatrical salt water, I cry from my heart. But this is not the larger problem.

Director. Then what?

Ilonka. That I don’t care for the director. I care for another.

Director unsuspectingly. Yes, that was likely. Selmec. The Eighteenth Hussars.

Ilonka. Not a hussar.

Director. Well.

Ilonka sniffling or whimpering (the Hungarian text is ambiguous). A civilian.

Director. In Selmec?

Ilonka. In Pest.

Director. Where?

Ilonka. Close by.

Director. Close by?

Ilonka. Yes. You have a thick head. Crying bitterly. I love you!

I finally decided to translate “keservit” as “you made it painless”. I’m not 100% sure that’s accurate, but it fits the text perfectly, better than any other plausible meaning I could come up with.

You’ll note that later on I wasn’t sure whether to translate a stage direction as “sniffling” or “whimpering”, and just inserted a clarifying note rather than decide.

I did about four and a half pages today, there are about ten and a half more before the end of the play. I think it’s most likely I’ll finish on Friday or Saturday. I’m really pleased that I managed to set myself an ambitious goal and meet it.

The Violet, Day 19

Ilonka. You see what he did with me?

Director. I saw. He did nothing.

Ilonka. How dare you say this to me? Crying bitterly. Certainly when I came in the director immediately made me a filthy suggestion.

Director. Good heavens, this is impudence!

Ilonka crying. Didn’t he make me a filthy suggestion?

Director. I didn’t hear it.

Ilonka. Well, didn’t he say dear lady, please take a seat, what have I to thank for this good fortune?

Director. He did say that.

Ilonka. Well, from a director this is already a filthy suggestion. An honorable director doesn’t speak that way to a country chorus girl. Their custom is to say “Why throw yourself on my shoulder, give me peace, I’m not taking on anyone.” But one who says please sit down and I thank my good fortune, crying, we poor chorus girls know the meaning of that to a poor defenseless creature. Crying out in anguish. They told me he was as gruff as a drill sergeant.

About two pages today. I’m stumbling over “keservit”, which actually makes several appearances in a Google Books search, but whose meaning is not immediately obvious from even multiple contexts, at least at my current pace of deciphering. I think it might mean something like “comfort”, or maybe the opposite, but I’m not even sure if it’s a noun or a verb.

Another tricky word is “beleesik”. “bele” is just “into”, and “esik” means “drop” or “fall”, but the combination means to fall for someone, that is, fall in love. So “beleestem as igazgató” means “I fell for the director”, except that it makes no sense for the character to say that. I consulted the big dictionary, and found it could also be used with words like “snare” or “trap”, so the revised translation is “I fell into the director’s clutches”, which makes much more sense in context.

The total number of pages is not great, but considering how tricky some of it was, and how much Project Gutenberg and other stuff I did today, I’m actually okay with that.

The Violet, Day 18

Ilonka. If you please. She begins again, singing the first strophe with the composer’s accompaniment. As the song goes on she leans toward the composer, puts her hand on his shoulder, then even around his neck. The composer is visibly succumbs to this, and rests his head on the woman’s bosom.

Composer after the song. Bravo, dear, congratulations! Feverishly. You will not only get small roles. You will get enormous parts! You will make a career with us! Seizing her hand and drawing her to him. You have such a warm voice, truly, it flies to my heart. And fresh, like a hand-bell. And this soft little hand … And how fragrant …

The director watches this in horror.

Ilonka. Oh, I am so happy!

Composer drawing his head beside her, passionately. And how it throbbed … your little heart, while you sang … and how fragrant your little heart is … and how this little hand burns with passion …

Ilonka in raptures of pleasure. Dear, enchanting man … I swear before God I am in Heaven.

Director ringing the telephone. Halló, Heaven here. Pardon, the director’s office. Excuse me, Mr. Composer, but this is already bordering on scandal, these proceedings.

Composer. What did you say?

Director gesturing at the phone. I told him my opinion.

Composer. But perhaps you shouldn’t speak with the composer that way.

Director. He is a clever man, that will not offend him. To the telephone. Halló! Give my regards to your lovely wife. Puts down the phone.

Long pause, the composer is embarrassed.

Ilonka. Look darling, now hold the other hand a little while, this one is going numb.

Composer. Whichever you want, you darling.

Long, awkward pause.

Composer stands, embarrassed. Skultéti, if you please.

Director stands. At your service.

Composer. Please … bring me a glass of water.

Almost six pages today. I’d hoped to push on, but what I meant to be a brief nap insisted on prolonging itself. Even so, a very good pace.

The Violet, Day 17

Ilonka. I can stay underwater two minutes without a breath. At least, that was my lung capacity at the Milenium. Please put it to the test. In a bathtub if you like. And my figure, if you please, please judge for yourself … She stands up. And in a leotard if you please, I am like an almond.

Composer. What, what’s like an almond like?

Ilonka. I do not know, if you please, but the editor of Pápá wrote this about me, or rather the poet, if you please.

Composer. I take that for granted. Well, you have a beautiful figure, very beautiful, and certainly to my taste. I don’t need a papal editor to see this. And your eyes are also pretty, large, expressive …

Director picking up the telephone. May I have 43-63, please? Hello? Is this the music composer? Good day. I just saw here, if you please among these papers, what was definitely not agreed to. I think that there has been enough of this already. You should have thrown out long ago … that part of the score. Are you pleased to understand? Well then, if you please. Hello, hello! My regards to your delightful wife. Puts down the telephone. To the composer. I beg your pardon.

Composer. Ahem. In a word, I summarize your request: you ask for employment in the women’s chorus, with the separate desire, that here and there you receive small individual parts.

Ilonka. Well, here and there a little princess, but not a long speech, or some tattered little countess, but only when five or six countesses enter together … a short line, such as, “Wow, but that party was a smash!” … or what I said when I played in the Lace Fairy, “Something reeks in Denmark” … or this reply I made, “That’s so, Your Excellency, nes-pa, Ambassador?” … Such trifles and if a person should develop, well My God, with time will come what comes.

The word which I translated yesterday as “the top of my lungs” appeared again today. This time my best guess was “lung capacity”. I had to consult my big Hungarian dictionary to figure out that “trikó” meant “leotard”. “nes-pa” is, of course, “n’est-ce pas” rendered phonetically. I could have legitimately translated “Valami bűzlik Dániába” as “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” with only a bit of license, but I had the feeling that the Hungarian phrase was meant to be from a crappy translation of Hamlet (especially since she attributes it to Csipketündér).

A bit later, when describing how modest her wants are, she saids “I do not eat bird”, which I’ve translated as “I don’t eat pheasant”. I can’t imagine, even then, that eating chicken was considered a great luxury. There’s also a typo, “kódus” for “kórus”, which could have really confused me if she weren’t obviously talking about the chorus.

There’s also a bit where she sings and holds the “á” in “Viráááááág” an absurdly long time. I’ve translated it as “Floweeeeeer”, but I’m not sure how well that actually works vocally. It might be best to substitute another song altogether, but since I don’t intend for this translation to be anything more than a learning exercise, I won’t actually spend any time worrying about things that would only matter if someone tried to stage it.

Four pages today, bringing me to fifty-two out of seventy-five, breaking the two-thirds mark. I feel optimistic about finishing by the end of the month.

The Violet, Day 16

Ilonka with excitement and sincerity. Yes if you please, because he was also a very brilliant man, if you please. All day he drank cheap brandy, he had already begun in the morning if you please, he didn’t go to rehearsal, for two days I struggled with him to put on a clean collar, if you please, then he spent my wages as well if you please, in winter he sold my fur coat to keep it from moths, he also drank up my chinchilla ruff, to keep it from moths, if you please, that too … he was excessively brilliant, but that’s not why I divorced him, and the quarrel was on account of a peacetime hussar captain, that’s what they told tales against me in the city, that the Eighteenth Hussars drank French champagne from my shoe, Sándor Moje if you please, but this was a slander, because it wasn’t true … because they did drink champagne from a shoe, the whole season they if you please never drank anything other than champagne, only, I beg your pardon, from a shoe, if you please, but not from my shoe belonging to me, if you please, I will swear an oath on it this very moment, that it should have been a major and not a poor captain, who I one time allowed to pour something into my shoe, and it wasn’t champagne precisely, if you please … yes, because of this we had our first quarrel, but this is not why we divorced, it was afterwards to be sure that we divorced.

Composer. Then why?

Ilonka. My fosterfather, the prompter, was angry at him because he troubled me so badly. And he punished him by not prompting him. And so he forgot his own lines, if you please, in Hamlet, and that’s why he insulted me, if you please, when he came home that evening, if you please, but then I suffered agonies in the top of my lungs. That’s when we divorced.

Three more pages. The English syntax above is ungrammatical in ways that don’t reflect the Hungarian, but that I thought conveyed the headlong rush of her words. The word today that gave me the most trouble was “dzsindzsula”, which has, as far as I can tell from a Google search, appeared twice in print in Hungarian and never in a dictionary. I could tell from context that it was some sort of fur, and I found a definition of “dzsindzsa”, a patch of impenetrable gorse on a military parade ground, in an online slang dictionary; but it was only when I took a nap that it suddenly struck me how much it sounded like “chinchilla”.

I also had a bit of trouble deciding how to translate “törköly”, which the Hungarian-English dictionary translates as “marc”, which an English dictionary explains is a brandy made from the leftover pressings of wine grapes. I considered marc, brandy, törköly brandy, and törköly pálinka, before settling on “cheap brandy”.

I’m not entirely sure if “tüdőcsúcsba szenvedtem” means “I felt pain in the upper tip of my lungs” or “I suffered an injury in the upper tip of my lungs”. Either way, it seems like an oddly specific location.

Three pages today and three pages yesterday brings me up to forty-eight pages. I’ll have to start doing four pages a day if I want to finish by the end of the month; otherwise, I won’t finish until April 2nd, which would still be pretty good, but has the disadvantage of not achieving an arbitrary goal based on calendrical happenstance.

Racism in Hungary

This article, from The Contrarian Hungarian, discusses the economic theories of László Bógar, a right-wing economist. I can’t speak to the claim that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán alludes to his loopy conspiracy theories about the IMF and international lenders, but I found the claim that he accused international bankers of “built up the Gypsies as the most effective weapon of mass destruction against Hungarians” to be incredible enough that I tracked down the original article at Magyar Hírlap, and I can verify that the translation is accurate, and the quotation is not taken out of context.

Hungarian politics is getting very scary.

The Violet, Day 15

Composer. And if I may be free to ask, what were you before stepping onto the stage?

Ilonka. I was a orphan.

Composer. In the Hungarian State Orphanage?

Ilonka. Yes, if you please.

Composer. And how did you go to the theater from there?

Ilonka. The orphanage faced the theater, if you please, and every time angels appeared in some spectacular play, they sent across to the orphanage for angels. They always picked me, because they said I had a sad little face and nevertheless was impudent enough. There on the stage I became attached to the prompter, because we always sang there in front of the hole. And one time after the song he whispered to me that I should become his wife, but I gestured ‘No’ with my wings. Then he whispered that that was fine, it was all the same to him, the main thing to him was that I not be alone in the world, if I did not want to be his wife then I should be his daughter, he would gladly adopt me as his child. Then I gestured down into the hole that we could speak about that. I felt pity at such a poor lonely old man who lived in such a dark hole. I was adopted not long after that. They called him Sobri, I kiss your hand.

Composer. I beg your pardon, do not always say ‘I kiss your hand’ to me. I am not a priest.

Ilonka. I see that.

Composer. Well, then, why do you say it?

Ilonka. It’s such a modest habit, if you please. It was the fashion in the theater company. We were accustomed to say it to dear sweet men. Those we respected: editors, mayors, head physicians, furriers.

Composer. Composers.

Ilonka. Never, I kiss your hand. Those were generally such frightened jackrabbits.

Composer. Managing directors?

Ilonka. Them, not so much.

Several mildly tricky bits. Ilonka said “State Hungarian orphan” and the composer said “orphanage” in the original; I’ve changed that to “orphan” and “Hungarian State Orphanage”, shifting the specific adjectives to a different noun, a different order, and a different speaker. I’m pretty sure, based on context, that “hitták” (“they believed”) was a typo for “hívták” (“they called”), or possibly a regional variation. I translated “ugráló”, a person who jumps, as “jackrabbit”. Later in the text Ilonka uses a word that’s evidently a Slovakian regionalism, as it’s not in any of my dictionaries and the composer doesn’t recognize it; I can guess the approximate meaning from context, but I have to think of how to translate it into something that’s almost but not quite recognizable as English.

Ilonka uses “kezit csókolom”, an oddly spelled variant of “kezét csókolom”, which means “I kiss your hand” a lot. It’s one of those expressions which, like “I tip my hat to you” in English, is seldom accompanied by the physical gesture it describes. (At a Washington Stage Guild production of Molnár’s “Husbands and Lovers” last month, the actor literally kissed the woman’s hand as he said this, which to me felt like an unfortunate absence of verisimilitude; I expect the rest of the audience would have been just as discomfited if he hadn’t.) I might have been tempted to find an approximate English equivalent, if the composer hadn’t drawn attention to the verbal tic.

The Violet, Day 14

Composer. Operetta, operetta, this is a roomy concept. What style, what sort? Singer? Soubrette?

Ilonka. We would say: assistant soubrette.

Composer. This is something new, Miss. But interesting. What did you understand by this?

Ilonka. If you please, strictly speaking I was in the chorus.

Director. Ha, at last.

Ilonka. Who is this, may I ask?

Composer. Don’t mind him. Skultéti, don’t interject remarks, this makes the second time I’ve spoken to you. You know I won’t endure this.

Director. I beg your pardon. I will keep quiet.

Ilonka. So you must.

Director stands up, and looks angrily at Ilonka.

Ilonka stares him down. Yes, yes!

Director sits down.

Composer. Steady on, continue.

Ilonka. Dear, reassuring man, I would like to kiss your hand.

Composer. In a word, you were in the chorus.

Three pages tonight. I should probably try to do one more; that would bring my two-week total up to 42 pages, or an average of exactly three pages per day. At that rate, I’d finish on April 2nd, although I think it’s more likely I’ll be done by the end of the month. I’m not sure if I’ll take the time to give it much of a polish before comparing it to the preexisting English translation; I suspect I’ll learn more by moving directly on to a second play.

One interesting phrase this time, “Ilonka farkasszemet néz vele”, which I’ve translated as “Ilonka stares him down” but which is literally “Ilonka looks wolf eyes with him”.