The most entertaining language of the world

In the post on the history of Bella ciao I have mentioned the great site of Riccardo Venturi where he has been collecting a large amount of popular antiwar songs accompanied with several translations as well as historical and press documentation. Not much later I was honored by Riccardo’s having included on his page the verbatim translation of the Bella ciao from the Hungarian version of the post, introducing it with some warm words.

But the real surprise followed only next. When I have said thanks to him – in Italian – and sent to him the address of the English version of the post as it could be understood by much more readers than the Hungarian one, Riccardo answered to me in Hungarian:

Szívesen köszönöm az egész munkádért a szép blogodon. Én is elfogadom, hogy az olvasók többsége könnyebben olvashat angolul, de én a magyar nyelvet mindig jobban szeretem, mint a “világnyelv”...Elkezdettem magyart tanulni 16 éves korában én részrehajló vagyok :-) Minden esetben remélem, hogy a blogod és a honlapom a jövőben is a magyar és olasz néphagyományok tanulmányáért és történetéért közreműködhetnek!

(A warm thanks to you for all your work in your beautiful blog. I also accept that the majority of the readers can more easily read in English, but I have always loved Hungarian much more than “world languages”… I started to learn Hungarian when I was 16, and I’m therefore biased :-) In any case, I hope that your blog and my site could collaborate in the future too for the study and history of Hungarian and Italian folk traditions!)

It is already improbable enough that a sixteen years old Italian boy choose from thousands of alternatives precisely this extraordinarily difficult language of very limited usefulness. But it is completely unbelievable that he has reached – obviously with a great amount of diligence and talent – to this level of perfection. When asked about the reason of his choice, Riccardo answered like this:

A magyar nyelv két legfontosabb szava: szerelem és szabadság. Mikor 16 éves voltam, voltam mint minden 16 éves: romanticizmus, elmezavar, eredetiség, “én-nem-vagyok-mint-a-mások” zűrzavara...s a többi. Továbbá a határtalan nyelvszerelmem volt, mert a nyelvek, mint mondta a híres olasz keleti nyelvész Alessandro Bausani, “a világ legszebb játéka”. Egy firenzei könyvesboltban Fábián Pál magyar nyelvtanát (“Manuale della lingua ungherese”) láttam meg, és a magyar nyelv a hihetetlen szerkezetével elbűvölt engem; de sajnos nem volt pénzem vásárolni, túl drága volt. Két honapot várnom kellett, és a napon, mikor a szükséges pénzem volt, buszsztrájk volt. Jól, hazámból a könyvesboltba gyalog mentem, hogy vásároljam: nyolc kilómeter. Szerelem első látásra. A magyar nyelv nem “nehéz”: különböző, másféle. Az elméjét különböző gondolatmódra, gondolatszerkezetre készteti; és a különbözés szabadság. Megtanultam és beszélek más nyelveket, de a magyar még kedvenc játszótársam, a világ legszebb, legszabadabb és legszórakoztatóbb nyelve. A szerelem és a szabadság nyelve.

(The two most important words of Hungarian language are love and freedom. When I was 16, I was like any 16 years old boy: in a confusion of romanticism, madness, originality, “I’m not like others”… and so on. And I was fallen in love beyond limites with languages, for, as the renowned Italian Orientalist Alessandro Bausani told, languages are “the most beautiful toy of the world.” I found the Manuale della lingua ungherese, the Hungarian grammar by Pál Fábián in a bookshop in Florence, and the Hungarian language has enchanted me with its unbelievable structure. However, it was too expensive and I had no money to buy it. I had to wait two months, and on the day when I finally had the necessary money, there was a bus strike. Well, I went from my home to the bookshop on foot to buy it: eight kilometers. Love at first sight. Hungarian is not “difficult:” it is different. It opens your mind to a different way of thinking and to different mental structures. And difference means freedom. I have learned and have spoken a couple of other languages too, but the Hungarian language has remained my favorite playmate, the most beautiful, most free and most entertaining language of the world. The language of love and freedom.)

Pál Fábián, Manuale della lingua unghereseFábián Pál magyar nyelvtana (Budapest 1970, Tankönyvkiadó) az asztalomon, 30 év után... :-)
(The Hungarian grammar of Pál Fábián [Budapest 1970, Schoolbook Publisher] on my table, after 30 years… :-) )

I remember this book well. I have taught with it. On two occasions, and both times without success. My first student was a very sympathetic twenty-and-some years old carabiniere officer from Torino who had been attracted to us by a Hungarian girl, the daughter of a renowned ethnographer and a student at the Italian department. As at the end of the 80’s a Hungarian connection was considered a risk of state security, the young officer – with a promising career after several years of service – was given a choice by his superiors: either the girl or the profession. The boy chose the girl. And then, after some six months of learning Hungarian, the girl chose someone else instead of him, and sent him home to begin a new life as best he can.

The second time we started the book with my friend Bobo who in the 90’s found it an exciting venture to open an Italian café in Budapest. However, this was a short round. Bobo lost track somewhere around the third lesson, during the morphological analysis of the phrase Hol vannak az amerikai turisták kocsijai? (“Where are the cars of the American tourists?” – in Hungarian a somewhat prematurely complicated construction for a beginner.) Well, may God give rest to signor Fábián (he died in this September), but if it is difficult to learn Hungarian, then to learn it with his book is a Herculean labor. So that Riccardo deserves all the possible credits.

Some days after our change of comments, on January 6 when in Italy the Befana brings gifts to the children, Riccardo also favored me with a gift of Epiphany. On the page of his site dedicated to the song Mio nonno partì per l’Ortigara (My grandfather set off to Ortigara) by Chiara Riondino, he translated to Hungarian this song with a personal dedication. On the top of the page he also included a link to a registration of the song with Chiara, but as this can be reached only through a number of steps, I also link the song here. While listening to it, you can read his English translation in parallel with the original Italian text of the song.Chiara Riondino, foto dal sito di Riccardo Venturi


Chiara Riondino: Mio nonno partì per l’Ortigara, registration of the performance organized by the Florentine basis community Baracche Verdi on the Piazza dell’Isolotto, May 13, 2007.

This song – writes Riccardo – is also about his grandfather “of 98,” who was similarly robbed of his youth by the First World War, by the years spent in the trenches of the Italian Alps facing the trenches of the Austro-Hungarian army.

In return I also send to Riccardo the song of my grandfather “of 88,” which was sung in the same years and in the same mountains – on the other side of the same front. And since we are here, I also include here the song of my other grandfather serving at the Russian front, a song which was so much liked by our Russian friends. Similarly to the Italian song, its Hungarian counterparts are not about hatred against the enemy, but about life senselessly wasted in a senseless war.


András Széles: Kimegyek a doberdói harctérre (I go out to the battlefield of Doberdo). From the CD of Tamás Cseh - Péter Péterdi: Magyar katonadalok és énekek a XX. századból (Hungarian soldiers’ songs from the 20th century) (2000).

Kimegyek a doberdói harctérre,
feltekintek a csillagos nagy égre:
Csillagos ég, merre van a magyar hazám,
merre sirat engem az édesanyám?

Én Istenem, hol fogok én meghalni,
hol fog az én piros vérem kifolyni?
Olaszország közepébe lesz a sírom,
édesanyám, arra kérem, ne sírjon.

I go out to the battlefield of Doberdo
I look up on the starlit sky:
Starry sky, where is my Hungarian homeland,
where does my sweet mother cry for me?

My God, where will I die,
where will my red blood run off?
My tomb will be in the middle of Italy,
my sweet mother, I beg you not to cry.


Zoltán Kátai and the Hegedűs Ensemble: Esik az eső, ázik a heveder (The rain is falling, the girth is getting wet). From the same CD. However, the version of my grandfather was much more melancholic, exactly that was beautiful in it.

Esik az eső, ázik a heveder
gyönge lábamat szorítja a kengyel
bársony lekötő szorítja lovamat
nehéz karabély nyomja a vállamat.

Megjött a levél fekete pecséttel:
megjött a muszka százezer emberrel
kétszáz ágyúval áll a harc mezején
így hát, jó anyám, elmasírozok én.

Jön egy kapitány hófehér paripán
fényes kard csillog annak az oldalán
kardja megvillan, az ágyú mennydörög
szép piros vérem a földre lecsöpög.

The rain is falling, the girth is getting wet
my weak feet are pinched by the stirrup
a velvet halter pinches my horse
a heavy rifle weighs on my shoulder.

The letter has come with a black seal:
the Russians have come, a hundred thousand,
with two hundred cannons they stay at the battlefield
so my good mother, I have to march away.

A captain is coming on a white horse
a brilliant sword shines on his side
his sword flares up, the cannons are thundering
my beautiful red blood drips down on the earth.

Italy, Doberdo, First World War: Prisoners of the Austro-Hungarian Army

2 comentarios:

zs dijo...

:)

Anónimo dijo...

WONDERFUL POST. My italian boyfriend, Gabriele is combating with the language at the moment using Fabián's fantastic book (though it is old, it is the best he could find to help him learn my crazy language)...we have a lot of fun about the conversations, our favourite for months was as follows:
Szeretsz? (Do you love me?)
Szeretlek. (I love you.)
Csak engem szeretsz? (do you love only me?)
Csak téged szeretlek. (I love only you.)

The illustration in the book was of a girl and a boy (apparently one of them Hungarian, the other Italian) - it could have been us...maybe it was too:)