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eniko.basa at verizon dot net
Wed, 20 Apr 2011 12:02:38 EDT by admin, 144406 views
Columbia University, New York
Language and Literature paper by Sanders, Iván (all papers)
Would-be Émigrés and Internal Exiles in Péter Nádas’s Parallel Stories
In my paper I would like to focus on three important characters in Péter Nádas’s monumental novel: János Kovách (also known as Hans von Wolkenstein), Ágost Lippay-Lehr and András Rott. The three of them are close friends, having spent a significant part of their lives abroad. All three of them work for the Hungarian counter-intelligence service, and are themselves secret agents. Because of their profession and family background and connections, they are privileged members of the nomenklatura. These three men are in many ways strangers to Hungary; they speak Hungarian with a foreign intonation, and have a disdain for ordinary Hungarians. What complicates their situation is that one of them (Kovách) is of aristocratic birth, and the other two are Jewish-born or half-Jewish. Yet Hungary is their home. There are important and highly interesting reflections in the book about the state of mind of these and other communist “internationalists”, so I would like to explore their “displaced” “internal exile” status.
One of the more likeable characters in the novel is an architect of great promise, Alajos Madzar, who is half Hungarian and half sváb, i.e., ethnic German, and forever wavers between his two identities. During his youth in the 1930s he planned to immigrate to America, but it didn’t happen, and he never became an important architect either. He remained a “would-be émigré”. Then there are the holdovers from the prewar elite and middle-class Budapest Jews who did not leave the country after the war or in ‘56. These people are either comforted by the past or tormented by it; what they cannot do is find their place in the present.
Brief Professional Bio:
Ivan Sanders is Professor Emeritus of English at Suffolk Community College, SUNY, and Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia University. He has also taught at the New School, New York University, New York Jewish Theological Seminary and Central European University. Sanders has written extensively on modern Hungarian literature in American as well as Hungarian journals. He has translated works by György Konrád, Péter Nádas, and other major Hungarian writers; for his translations, he was awarded a Soros Translation Award (1988), the Füst Milán Prize (1991), and the Déry Tibor Prize (1998). His reviews and articles have appeared in the New York Times Book Review, New Republic, Commonweal, Nation, and other periodicals.