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Hungary: Comments on the Interview with Imre Kertész

Categories: Eastern & Central Europe, Hungary, Arts & Culture, Ethnicity & Race, Freedom of Speech, International Relations, Language, Literature, Media & Journalism, Politics

The German newspaper Die Welt published an interview (GER [1], HUN [2]) this weekend with Imre Kertész [3], a Nobel Prize-winning Hungarian author living in Berlin. Kertész celebrated his 80th birthday on the same day as Germany celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The journalist asked him about his attitude towards Budapest and Berlin, the Hungarian author, annoyed with the political situation in Budapest, replied [4]:

I am a metropolitan person, I am and always have been. A metropolitan person does not belong to Budapest. The city is completely balkanised. A metropolitan person belongs to Berlin!

His words made several Hungarian bloggers upset, and a tense discussion started right after the release of the Hungarian translations of the interview. Mr Falafel of Konzervatív Költők Baráti Köre [5] (HUN, ‘Fellowship of Conservative Poets’) reacted [6] (HUN):

[…] In the interview he gave to Die Welt, he declared what every honorable Hungarian man thinks about him, that he is a stateless rogue who has nothing to do with Hungarians. […] Regarding the interview, the translations of certain news sources are different at the point that, according to Kertész, anti-Semites have been reigning for 10 years, or they have been only opinion leaders. I don't speak German, so I can't decide which translation I should trust. Actually, it's the same, both versions are imbecility. He is not living in Hungary, and he is not even interested in what's happening here. […]

Lordart was also disappointed after reading the article. He wrote in his post [7] (HUN):

[…] Till now I have been a little bit proud that there's a Nobel Prize-winning author of Hungarian origin, whose work – and the value of whose work – is recognized worldwide. After this I will still acknowledge what can be considered as value in the work of Mr. Kertész, but I will respect his will, according to which his personality can't be attached to Hungary, to Budapest. […]

Some bloggers condemned the translations published by the Hungarian media because some points seemed to be exaggerated. Vérszegény éjszakai dúvad of Hángörienidiocc [8] (HUN) re-translated the whole interview [9] (HUN), and added his comments to the controversial translations of the press:

[…] Simply and solely the whole Hungarian press was lazy to review a damned translation, every news report is an approximated word-for-word repetition. (Perhaps nobody speaks German in this country.)

It sounds really very good anyway: “Don't attach me to Hungary.” And of course one can be shocked at it, but the problem is, which is always forgotten to be stated, that it's not about the origins, but rather about the literary roots.

Otherwise, that can't be picked at either what Kertész thinks about Budapest or Berlin, because that would be approximately like if I picked at someone because he doesn't like goulash with beans; how can that be, if for me that's the favorite meal.

[…] It seems as if anything that Kertész had done, he couldn't atone for since then, because summarizing his interview this way looks rather like an intentional slant than a mistranslation. […]