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Fri, 30 Sep 2016 09:57:42 EDT by webmaster, 6536 views
Stony Brook University & New York University
Cultural Studies paper by Vasvári, Louise O. (all papers)
Béla Zsolt, the Last Chronicler of the Hungarian-Jewish Assimilated Bourgeoisie
Zsolt Béla, a leftist journalist and one of the most prolific writers of the interwar period, was as a typical coffeehouse figure (polgári kavéházi író), who today is known primarily for his Kilenc Koffer (1946), one of the very earliest memoirs of the Hungarian Holocaust. In this paper I focus rather on his literary works written between the mid-twenties and thirties, with particular emphasis on his only novella collection, Polgári házasság (1935), in the context of the sociocultural and political discourse in interwar Hungary. This collection, which has received no critical attention to date, illustrates all the themes that preoccupied Zsolt throughout his oeuvre, principally his pessimistic and merciless inside criticism of the empoverished Jewish petit bourgeoisie of Erzsébetváros as well as of the ridiculous pretensions of the upwardly mobile Jews who attempt to mimic the mores of a hostile semi-feudal gentile society. Ultimately, Zsolt’s work is centered in the tragic irony of the ideological illusions of assimilation, for which he foresaw a tragic outcome, as few others were able (or willing) to see.
Brief Professional Bio:
Louise O. Vasvári is Professor Emerita of Comparative Literature and of Linguistics at Stony Brook University. Currently she teaches in the linguistics department at NYU and is also Affiliated Professor at the University of Szeged. She works in medieval studies, diachronic and socio-linguistics, Holocaust studies, and Hungarian Studies, all informed by gender theory within a broader framework of comparative cultural studies. She has recently published with Steven Tötösy, Imre Kertész and Holocaust Literature (2005), Comparative Central European Holocaust Studies (2009), and Comparative Hungarian Cultural Studies (2011).