A piece of history

It was not so long ago that even one new word enriched by 25% the Hungarian vocabulary of Francesca. And now she offers to us her first translation from Hungarian. (Studiolum)


a történelmet próbáltam
magyarázni a köveknek

próbáltam a fáknak

próbáltam a kertnek
szelíden rámmosolygott

a történelem négy
évszakból áll mondta
tavaszból nyárból
őszből és télből

most éppen tél jön

Kányádi Sándor
History lesson

I tried to explain history
to the stones
they remained silent

I tried to the trees
they kept on nodding

I tried to the garden
it gently smiled

history is made of four seasons
it said, spring summer
autumn and winter

now it is winter that’s coming

Sándor Kányádi

I take note of a beautiful and dangerous verb: magyaráz (in the infinitive form: magyarázni, to explain). Italianizzare or franciser or to anglicize, etc. generally imply only an orthographic adaptation in the respective language. Verdeutschen is closer to it, but not that much: it usually refers either to Germanization or to the act of translating into German, and it is only in the figurative sense that verdeutschen may take the sense of explaining in plain words, of making something comprehensible. Magyaráz rather means to explain, allowing to infer – and here lie both its beauty and its danger – that you can really understand something only via Hungarian.

Beautiful and dangerous like Transylvania, where Kányádi was born. This is the way an Italian writer describes this region:
“To be Transylvanians – says Pál Bodor – means to be Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholics and Armenians, Calvinists, Lutherans, Jews and Unitarians; it means to be cheek by jowl Romanians, Hungarians, Slavs, Saxons, Armenians. This space where people live together created the great “Transylvanian utopia”, the hope of living and flourishing together. A hope which sometimes became real, such as in the great peasants’ wars”. But maybe the utopia still resists now. There are intellectuals openly denouncing the nationalistic trap, as the writers Jebeleanu, Dinescu and Crasnaru, who dared to protest against the rise of some chauvinistic theses. Or the writer Dorin Tudoran who, together with his Hungarian friend Géza Szőcs, addressed an appeal to UN on this subject. Bodor tells: “There are two poets over there, one is Hungarian, the other one is Romanian: Sándor Kányádi and Ioan Alexandru. They are friends for life, translating each other’s poems. Two parallel fates, one single great feeling of brotherhood. The Transylvanian utopia is made of people like these”.

Paolo Rumiz, Danubio: storie di una nuova Europa, Edizioni Studio Tesi, 1990