Relations by Zsigmond Móricz
Translated by Bernard Adams
Introduction by George F. Cushing
Corvina Books, Ltd. (2007)
ISBN 978 963 13 5524 6
“He wrote some 36 novels, 600 short stories and numerous so-called reports, which are often indistinguishable from the stories; he also wrote a number of studies, some verse and dramas. Although he loved the stage and adapted several of his novels for it, he was a failure as a playwright. But in the rest of his work he described contemporary Hungarian society with the passion of a reformer, starting with the people he knew best, the peasants of the Great Plain, but gradually moving to the rural and small-town gentry and the slum-dwellers of Budapest.” (page 7)
“After this he began to write about a different section of Hungarian society, the rural and small-town gentry, who had it in their power to initiate reform.” (page 9, emphasis mine; this was the mid-1920s)
“[N]evertheless all the participants continue to enjoy themselves because, as one of them remarks, the greatest blow that can befall a Hungarian gentleman is the loss of his good humour.” (page 9)
About Relations: “It is a novel of total disillusionment, with barely a glimmer of humour; only the rogue of an uncle, Berci, who tries to palm off coal from Hungary’s best mine as his own, offers any relief. When he began to write it Móricz declared, “I postulated the idea that in every family there is one man, the rest are relations. By this I meant that there is a competent, strong personality to whom the many incompetent cling. And this strong man cannot achieve anything, because the network of relations enmeshes him and drags him into the depths.” But in its telling the story takes on a much wider significance. Kopjáss is another failed hero; he has ideas, but is no fighter. He is unexpectedly promoted from a minor post in the civic administration to a major one for which he is not qualified. … As news of his promotion spreads, relations, both close and very distant, begin to turn up on his doorstep demanding his patronage, much to his cool and hard-headed wife’s annoyance. Throughout the novel, Lina personifies good sense and sobriety as she protests ever more vehemently against the involvement of her husband in schemes of doubtful morality. But this is not all; the town administration in which he now has a key role is thoroughly corrupt and plays a part in numerous shady deals. Whatever his good intentions, Kopjáss is drawn into the net, soon realizing that he has been promoted not for his abilities, but as an easily-led accomplice. … The novel, which spreads its net even wider, to the whole country, is a complete rejection of the idea that the gentry could ever initiate reform; all they are interested in is their own personal position and wealth (even when there is little or none of the latter to support them).“ (page 10) [What if the “competent man” really isn’t competent or strong?]
Page 11: book was published in installments and then a larger book form in 1932. Personal issues, financial and political, help form the backdrop of the novel.
The novel also offers solutions (see quotes).
(page number in parenthesis is first mention)
(16) Juliska: friend of Lina; (93) the vet’s wife
(16) István Kopjáss (Pista): just elected Town Clerk. Had been a Cultural Adviser.
(191) Also the name of Pista’s father and grandfather.
(18) Linácka (Lina)
(17) Makróczy: former Assistant Town Clerk. The election of Town Clerk would have been his to win before Kopjáss’ name was entered. Corrupt official.
(17) Magdaléna Szentkálny: Boronkay’s wife. Pista thinks of her often, causing a “magical feeling”—did he have an affair with her? (Seven years ago?) elena is related to Lina.
(17) Feri Boronkay—leader of the Pig Farm. Szentkálny’s son-in-law. Embeezzled the Pig Farm capital.
(24) Holub: see later references
(26) Uncle Lajos: Pista’s uncle. His mother’s youngest brother. Lajos’ son is Elemér: a musician.
(28) Wagner: the former Chief Clerk. Ousted over blatant corruption, specifically that associated with the drainage project.
(28) Belatiny: Wagner had “been involved in Belatiny’s dubious affairs”. Dead.
(29) Soma Kardics: manager of the Savings Bank
(30) Ferdinánd Kopjáss: Kardics’ wife’s grandfather; large landowner. Pista’s great-uncle.
(30) Szidónia Kopjáss: Kardics’ mother-in-law
(30) Miklovichy: Ferdinánd’s son-in-law (married Szidónia)
(30) Gizella Miklovichy: Szidónia and Miklovichy’s daughter; marries Kardics
(31) Dr. Martiny: leader of the Opposition
(34) Imrike Keék: the Mayor’s secretary. (Relatives throughout the city, such as Feri Keék, Duckó Keék, and many more)
(35) the Mayor (Béla)
(43) András Csordás and Gáspár Veres: leaders of the small-holders.
(44) Ványai: deputy of Pista’s old department (Cultural Affairs). Role as deputy included Inspector of Schools.
(45) Isti Baday: youngest member of the Legal Department; son of choreographer Lórine Baday.
(48) Máte Pöthös—used as an example of a wealthy peasant during the revaluation of currency in 1927. Daughter: Juliska.
(53) Dr. Péterfi: officer in the Legal Department in charge of the Mackási business.
(53) Mackási: sub-leaser of “a small-holding in the forest” who had not replanted for the trees he had cut down.
(55) Pista and Lina’s two children: Berci (around 15) and Kálmuska (age 11).
(57) Uncle Berci: Pista’s uncle (on mother’s side). (213) Bertulan Bátay
(59) Antal: Uncle Berci’s brother-in-law
(63) Vadasi: member of Parliament, contemporary of Pista’s at school (a few years older)
(68) Ambrus Darkó: Chairman of the Board of Magistrates
(69) Boldizsár Kemémy: a big lawyer at the Kadics’ dinner. Transylvanian.
(83) Adélka: Pista’s younger sister. Not spoken for ten years over her marriage. Had three children with him and two from his previous marriage. She lives in Pest.
(85) Gjszti Rába: Adélka’s husband.
(88) Péter König: classmate of Pista’s sons
(93) Menyhért: Pista’s young brother, a “second self”. (139) Menyus.
(93) Albert: Pista’s brother (128) in the investment department of the Bank of Budapest
(98) Jani Hollaky: a classmate Pista runs into while out for a walk
(99) Bálint Mándy: a schoolmate (a year ahead) of Pista. Pista sees him in the Club (on the outskirts of town?).
(107) Auntie Kati: Pista’s mother’s younger cousin
(107) Zsuzsika: Pista’s mother (177) Zsuzanna Bátay
(107) Uncle Andris: Pista’s uncle (mother’s side?) (109) András Takony
Sons: Vilmos, Peter, Gábor, Béla, Endre, Máryás
(110) István: Pista’s father
(111) Mrs. Koltay: Pista’s father’s unrequited love
(111) Kaiser: leased Szentkálnay’s farm (swindler that leased the Pig Farm after its initial failure, swindled money and left for America)
(113) Andris: the Alispán
(115) Boldogh—one of the biggest families in Zsarátnok. The Misses Boldogh—two old maids (“members of the Főispan’s wife’s circle.
(128) Countess Cimbi: the Minister’s mistress
(128) Families mentioned: Tóth, balassys, Meleghs
(143) Csoma: the Economics Adviser
(150) Péter Kis Kovács: a friend of Dr. Martiny uses as an example of so-called freedom
(158) Kelemen: a relative (brother) of Pista. A mailman.
(161) Bisztriczay: the Clerk of Works
(167) Verpeléti: a distant relation of Pista. An expert with horses.
(175) Dr. Mannheim: a doctor who had provided info on the state of the hospitals to Pista
(177) Malatinszky: the family name of Dr. Martiny’s morther
(177) Éva Malatinszky: Pista’s grandmother on his mother’s side
(185) Vendel Pap: taxi-driver wanting help from Pista. They used to be neighbors.
(187) Ráczkevey: asks the Minister to buy his mansion for a tax office.
(191) Eva Malatinszky: Pista’s grandmother
(195) Devecseri: pig-dealer that set up the Pig Farm
(197) Holub: ironmonger. Owed a lot by the Pig Farm. Married Ella Wurmfeld. (Previous marriage to a Schlesinger?). Was supposed to have married the Kadicha girl.
(203) Neuszidler: Kardics’ assistant
(206) Éliás Sáfár: engineer for Holub and Company. Pista catches him copying bid tenders.
(211) Béla Greizinger: a son of the grain trade Greizinger family.
(213) Máté: employee in the Works division, Goods Inward Department
(221) Szidi: the Főispan’s wife
(Pista) Kopjáss—formerly a prisoner of the Russians in World War I.
Pista has just been elected to Town Clerk (head lawyer)—“master of the city.”
(17) About the election and why the Assistant Town Clerk had not won:
“The post had been Makróczy’s. Yesterday morning nobody would have foreseen his failing to be elected. Old Makróczy, the Assistant Town Clerk, had been running the city as he pleased for the past ten Years. He went hunting with the Fóispán, was hand in glove with the Mayor, the most influential man in the city, a little king in the making; it was on the cards that he might well have been the next Mayor, for the Old Man was getting a bit senile and it was shocking the way he’d feathered his nest and it was time he went of his own accord and if he wouldn’t the present generation wouldn’t stand for him at the head because of his age, these old swindlers couldn’t be allowed to go on ruining the city, a new world, a new spirit, a new, more energetic pace must come, for the boom had suddenly collapsed and economic conditions…” (ellipsis in original)
Pista had been a “mere” Cultural Adviser—had to look busy, but nothing he really wanted was ever implemented.
Discussion between Lina and Pista, with an emphasis on the delivery and tone of the words. Lina teases him lovingly, but the emphasis would have been different if he had lost. Lina is very different: (19)
“He’d found a whole new woman; he vaguely recalled that she could be like this, but for the last ten years there had been at his side a woman discontented, sour, wanting nothing, permitting nothing, satisfied with nothing.”
(20) Pista tells how Makróczy put his foot in his mouth in the Council Chamber—his reference to ZsV (Zsarátnok városa, City of Zsarátnok) while talking about his life’s ambition, but “when talking about the establishmentit’s usually taken to mean ‘zsebre váglak’, ‘into my pocket.’” It was an offhand remark, but symbolized his greed.
(21) Lina worries about “secret enemies” after the story of Makróczy. They had avoided it because of Pista “lived so imperceptibly” as “head of the lowest, most insignificant department, that of Culture and Education” and to Lina’s caution and advice. She takes care of him despite her sour temperament. His role as head of the department is also shown to have access to money that can be used, but he still needs approval from above to spend it. His role in the patronage system at this point was minimal.
(23) Lina can’t believe Pista ordered Champagne at his celebration dinner the previous night. She was fond of it but rarely had it, thinking “it was really just as well that it was impossible, unattainable, because it could have turned her world upside-down.” Is she thinking such luxury isn’t good? Or would that be ‘upside-down’ in a good way? To this point she worked hard and lived “with the most stringent economy.”
(24) Thoughts of Magdaléna Boronkay change Pista from a “quiet, reliable, happy man” to feelings of terror because he might fall in love with her. She “had such a magical influence over him.”
Magdaléna also highlights the difference in classes: “Hers was up above in wealth, in the Fóispán circle, while Pista and Lina, on the other hand, were in the obscurity of the solid, poor peasantry.”
Comparing Lina and Magdaléna: “The two women were similar, there was a family likeness, but Lina was the natural, simple creature; Magdaléna the cultivated, almost exotic flower of the species.
(25) Boronkay’s appearance: “This Boronkay was such an elegant, refined and distinguished man, tall and slim, bearded, seemingly from another planet, even his beard indicated that he was of another race, another world.”
Regarding Pista, “something akin to madness had broken out in him the previous evening, and it was very lucky that everybody’d put his riotous behaviour down to the wine.” So how much rebelliousness does he really have in him?
Lina realizes the corrupting influence of power. “She was wondering whether she could be sure that her husband would remain the same under the new circumstances. She was so humble that she truly dreaded his promotion. Would she satisfy the man who was rising to high places? Wouldn’t he have desires that would take him from her, for her unsophisticated world?” Is this a fear of being replaced, too?
Lina’s father has been asking for the couple to come out and took over running his property. Lina argues that his salary as Town Clerk is nothing (Pista argues this point) and that he will become a swindler like the ones before him.
(25-26) “A vague terror was beginning to grip her. If her husband was on the way up, she was going to be left behind.”
(26) “[H]e was growing too big for her to hold”. She also hates the upcoming loss of simplicity. So there are multiple worries—losing him, losing their simple ways.
Lina’s certainty vs. uncertainty—commentary on the modern world? She wasn’t ready for it…does that apply to others?
Uncle Lajos’ letter—begging for favors.
(28) A sign of Lina’s care: “[W]ar against moths was Lina’s principal task in life.”
(28) Poor drainage off of main roads. A reminder of why the former Chief Clerk was ousted due to corruption, the drainage issue a major reason.
(29) Pista already thinking about what they would need to do because of his new position: “They’d have to move into the main road somewhere. They couldn’t go on living in this tumble-down street.” Easier to move than fix the problems. The pressure to spend money starts already.
Pista’s intentions: “He smiled, tasting in his mouth the fine flavors of honesty and decency.”
Kardics greets him—attitudes changed immediately with Pista’s election. Kardics invites K. over for Thursday dinner. Kardics acts as if he has just discovered he is related to him. His wife’s grandfather, ) Ferdinánd Kopjáss, supposedly steals the family share of inheritance.
(31) Yet Pista is “happily contented” with Kardics’ familiarity. Even the guard on duty at City Hall salutes Pista, a first.
(32) Mayor asks to see Pista, but makes him wait. We see emissaries, petitioners, and commoners flocking to City Hall to beg for favors.
(34) As Pista waits, his confidence ebbs. Pista thinks “making people wait was the vilest” practice, understanding the purpose of wielding power in this manner. Pista begins to think the election won’t stand. By being made to wait, his feeling of importance changes to one of impotence.
(35) A comment on appropriate qualifications for government, as least as it stood at the time, based on his ability to consume without choking? “He [Imrike, the Mayor’s secretary] had been there, and had done some very amusing things. He’d drunk a glass of champagne standing, sitting and lying down without swallowing, merely pouring it into his throat and letting it trickle down, without choking. He had a great future in the Administration.”
(37) Pista meets with the Mayor. Mayor tells him he will need to lay out his program for the papers.
(38) Mayor tells Pista that he, as a new man coming in, can change things that established men can’t do. An acknowledgement that the entrenched power isn’t capable of reforming itself? Even though he hints that too much change is bad? “You, as a novus homo, aren’t bound by fear or favour, nothing.” “[Y]ou must move people about, bring in new men, because an established man who’s caught up in the system can’t do it, but a new man…because the system grows into you, wraps round the man in charge like a spider’s web…you see, my boy… On the contrary, you’re got a free hand…a new broom in City Hall.” (ellipsis in original)
An acknowledgement while at the same time discouraging anything ‘radical.’
(40) Pista’s views have “tended to the Opposition point of view” up to this point.
Mayor’s laughter at Pista’s utterance (“They want the goat to feast and to have cabbage left.”) reveals he was happy the new man “was so easily led.” Relieved when new men didn’t stir up trouble. But did Pista really say anything? Or is it more a Chauncey Gardner utterance that can be interpreted however you like?
(41) Pista disgusted with himself, mouth (and agreeing with) things that conflicted with his beliefs. “base toadying”
(42) Pista’s argument for wanting people to like paying taxes. “But the country will never become European until people come to like paying taxes.” The mayor stops him as Pista also begins to argue that people should have a say in the way the tax money should be spent: “This is beginning to sound a bit like Utopia… It’s on the way to Utopian thinking…” (ellipsis in original) Wouldn’t want actual power in the people’s hands, now would we? (And are we going to see reasons he might be right?)
(43) The Thursday dinners at Kardics’ house is where the outcome of the next day’s Council meeting will be. Everything is rigged?
(44) Doctor Martiny (leader of the Opposition) and two leaders of the small-holders in the Mayor’s office. The agricultural worker is “helpless in the three-fold prison of illiteracy, ignorance and poverty.”(from Martiny)
Pista replies with the goat and cabbage quote again, which Martiny interprets as favorable to his cause.
(46) The way Pista was treated made him realize “that he was executive material.”
(47) Pista falls asleep after lunch. “Lina guarded his sleep like a dragon.” Something she had been doing all along?
(47) Newspaper article went well for Pista. He can’t understand the fuss about his quote about the goat: “He couldn’t understand what people liked so much about it, probably that it wasn’t profound, and so they could interpret it anyway they chose.”
Everyone lived by tax-evasion, so his comment “People should be inspired to pay their taxes” was a sensation, everyone laughed at it. Taxes were over-imposed since everyone avoided them.
(48-49) Newspaper article on Pista shows someone proofread his quotes. The quote about paying taxes was included. Everything he said about the people having a voice on how their taxes were spent, however, were struck.
(49-50) The Chief Cashier from the Bank comes to get Pista’s signature (which he refuses to deliver, not Lina has kept him from becoming one, which involves speculation in stocks. The CC mentions that Pista will need more money now: “From now on Your Honor will have to live in quite a different style…”.
(50) From the interview in the newspaper: “I stand on a foundation of truth and law, and my sole aim is the defence of the interests of the people.”
The Mayor makes a fuss over the word “truth” in the statement.
(52) Mayor bluntly tells Pista he will have to sign certain documents (in lawsuit between government and Bank).
(54) Pista told by Dr. Péterfi that the Bank was in the wrong and the Forestry Department caused the city to get involved in the Mackási business. The case had been going on for four years (the city suing the Bank, the Bank suing Mackási).
Pista talks all morning with Dr. Péterfi and learns “a lot that day.”
(55) Confirmation of appointment.
Lina looking younger (see also page 18). While she had protected the family, evidently she had been very unpleasant, bordering on shrewish: “She sang all the time and was so pleasant and lively as to be unrecognisable.”
Pista—speaks his mind at home (really? His previous inner thoughts don’t confirm this, especially of Magdelena). “He found in Lina a good helpmate, for she was a good helpmate, for she was the more sensible and could take a critical look at things that he would rush into.” Differences between Lina and Pista.
(56) Lina realizes she will be somebody in the city. “They” will have to get on her right side, treating her as an ally’s ally if they wanted her husband as an ally.
Lina worries about her cousin, Magdaléna. Magdaléna has a “bad name among the correct, the so-called respectable women.”
(57) Lina looks down on Magdaléna because her cousin has no children.
Pista’s Uncle Berci arrived unexpectedly on Wednesday.
(57) Lina stays in the room so Uncle Berci won’t hit Pista up for money. Once again, protecting him.
Berci now owns a coal mine and brings a sample of the coal. Pista is suspicious, since Berci has a history of wild plans.
(59) Uncle Berci hints that Pista can influence the city of Zsarátnok can contract for the company’s coal. Pista instists he will not use his position for gain. Uncle Berci doesn’t ask for money (yet), just an order to get the company off the ground (and give Pista 20%).
(62) Berci asks for money as he leaves. [A funny contrast between the vast sums the company will bring in and the paltry amount he asks to get him home.]
(62-3) Pista not inclined to help Berci in his mine scheme, yet he thinks Lina isn’t very nice for saying the same things he is thinking.
(63) Pista surprised he can’t find any trace of scandal in his first few days in office—he expected “legacy of trouble after Makróczy”.[So how much corruption is real and how much gossip?]
Vedasi says current Prime Minister out of touch; doesn’t believe anything needs to be changed. Still enjoys popularity.
(64) Pista beginning to understand the appeal of power. He had not learned how to live with power yet, thought. “He still retained certain fanciful notions from his student days, that power had only responsibilities and was not permitted privileges.” [How will this idealistic view hold out now that he’s in power?]
Lina’s dress arrives. Pista admires her beauty.
(65) Lina demands the evening dress be comfortable.
(66) Crisis after crisis: Lina breaks down, saying Pista is tormenting her with his new position. The youngest son develops a fever.
(67) Pista wonders if he can compensate dressmaker by arranging “business with the city for the salon.” [His first thought on using his connections? Even if an altruistic gesture to make up for the difficulties caused by Lina, still an abuse of power.]
Uncle Lajos arrives.
Lina’s plea: “Don’t take me to places like this Pista, don’t make me into what I’m not.” [Key]
[If nothing else, the novel provides a history lesson in Hungarian politics, offices, etc. in the post-World War I era]
(69) Feeling comfortable at the Kardics’ Thursday night dinner: “Suddenly life was beautiful and there was nothing wrong.”
(69) Packed with double meaning: “All present, generally speaking, were proud men, and even if they were small of stature nonetheless they held their heads high. Perhaps this was only because of their stiff collars, because among themselves they were thoroughly cheerful, good-humoured, could laugh like children, as if they were hiding nothing, neither age nor wealth nor power nor an impoverished country.”
(70) Pista is Calvinist, intimidated by Catholic clergy.
“Zsarátnok was a big enough city for there to be quite a gallery of wielders of power. It was a curious city of many contrasts, and none the less it was as if there were no contrast at all.”
Trying to fit in with men who wouldn’t give him the time of day the previous week. Then he hears Magdaléna’s name…disorients him.
(72) Lina embarrassed by her hands (that have to work).
Pista toasted at the dinner.
(73) Lina and Pista married for 16 years.
(74) Kardics tells Pista he’ll need to move. Now, not later. And he has the perfect house for him.
(74-5) Pista humiliated: “So he was no good to the city as he was. They wanted to transform him into their own image and likeness.”
(76) Another example of Pista accurately reading between the lines of Lina’s simple answers. They are so in tune with each other at the moment. Will that change?
(77) After the couple returns home, “harmony between them was in abeyance.” Several hints that the new “order” or “level” or “influences” will move them apart.
“What ought he to do to shut out the strange influences around him, so that the two of them might live out their lives?”
(78) Lina suspicious of the villa offer, more so than Pista.
(78-9) Pista realizes the links between those in power are more than just financial ties but family, too.
(79) Foreshadowing? “A man struggles and fights, sticks at nothing… When he dies, the whole thing collapses like a balloon when the air leaks out.”
(80) Pista feels “as if his train had been hitched to a new engine, with an unknown driver at the controls, and was under way with him as a passenger, travelling into exile, being deported to some unknown world.”
(80) A feeling that “everybody here was caught in this web”, with Kadics at the center.
His first contract, for which he received fifty pengős. He acts as if it is aboveboard—is it?
(81) Warmth between Pista and the Mayor—looks on the Mayor as an uncle. (Given Pista’s uncles, maybe that’s not a compliment?) Feels as if he has arrived in “that special social oragnisation which constituted the city, public life, power, reality.”
(83) Letter from younger sister Adélka. “It was a terrible letter.” Summarized her bad situation with a husband out of work for two years.
(85) “Family trouble is the worst of the lot.”
(89) Pista decides to send the fifty pengős he had received earlier in the day to his sister. Lina is furious.
Pista’s secret plan of reorganizing the school Assistance Board to help provide all children with books. Nothing had come of it so far…first the war, then he was captured, and had not been able to help as Cultural Adviser.
(90) “He was gradually getting into an awkward situation with people, remaining indebted to everybody…” (ellipsis in original)
(91) Lina understands that once started, this generosity will know no end. “blood suckers”
The cardinal sin of insulting each others’ families has been broken. This rankles Pista and causes him to lash out.
That sets Pista off, who says bad things(undeservedly) about Lina’s father. Pista just doesn’t like him.
(92) Argument with Lina. He storms off in a huff, but looks at her before he leaves. The beautiful woman from the night before “had become terribly old. Her face had fallen, the skin hung slackly from her check-bones. Her eyes were black holes, blazing with hatred.”
(92) “All of a sudden he saw his life as hopeless. What did it all matter if one stood alone and couldn’t live by those principles that ruled one, that made life worth living?” Over this? So soon into his term?
Musing on the duty of those in a family that makes it successfully to help the others. He realizes, too, that he had nothing to do with his election…it was “An act of God.”
(93) Following up on the “one chick in a brood” metaphor, he begins counting his chickens before they hatched in assuming there will be plenty more money rolling in.
Alternative to current job—working his father-in-law’s farm. Being a farm-hand, a dung-worm. How does that compare to a bloodsucker? Not highly in his estimation.
Questioning if Lina was “a kindred spirit”, even if she had been “a good woman.” He wanted a “partner on the upward path”. “She was going to be a drag on his career, a dead weight, and she’d never realise that the Cinderella days were over. Now she’d have to change into a new woman, a career-building woman.” Not the use of language. “Cinderella days,” as if to mean she was willing to live in cinders continually instead of living appropriately. Will this be a condemnation of Pista’s ideals? That what he desires costs more than he can afford and cause him to compromise his other ideals? What is the true cost of his ideals?
Pista’s brother Menyhért had urged Lina into “an unlucky bit of business which hadn’t come off,” so Lina hated his brother for life (or so Pista thought).
(94-95) Menyhért went through legal channels on repatriating war booty, which caused him to lose all investments. “[W]hereas an astute Jew didn’t bother with the military authorities, but just went ahead and made a packet out of the idea.”
(95) Comparison between her loss of 500 koronas by failing to exchange them versus the grudge she held against Menyhért for losing her 370 koronas of investment.
Pista thinks Menyhért would be great as the Director of the new museum being built. Featherbedding already? Good intentions? Perfect fit? Pista had failed to say anything up to now because of Makróczy’s family member that was a shoe-in for the position (before the election). Menyhért obviously qualified…jobs, publications, reputation, etc.
Pista writes to Menyhért to come to Zsarátnok, and then he would “have a marvelous friend and helper… and they could create a whole new world in Zsarátnok.” (ellipsis mine)
(96) At the appearance of an elegant woman walking in front of him, “Suddenly his feet grew roots.” It was Magdaléna. Something about her walk indicated “a great sadness hung over her.”
(97) Why did he see her? “Fate again… What did it want with him? Why had it brought this woman before him just now? His thinking stopped, nothing more came into his mind, he was transformed into a running engine, but he was terrified that he’d lose her…” [to her walking away]
His questions on her relationship with Boronkay mirrors his thoughts about Lina and him.
Heat (close) or dread (distance)…which to choose? Neither…just passing on.
(97) So Pista had no previous relations with her. Reflecting on the villa and, in general, the world in which she lived (and he was now thrust into): “This was another world. Different from the one in which he lived. Could they meet here? … No, this one would have to be besieged, taken by storm. He’d have to break in.”
(98-99) Pista meets an old classmate, Jani Hollaky. No hesitation in telling his life story, which was full of failure, to Pista. A failing on Pista’s part? “But it wasn’t in his nature to be impolite”. It seems to be implied to succeed at this level there has to be a certain level of callousness. So to participate…successfully participate…there needed to be some heartlessness or cruelty or coldness? No wonder Pista is conflicted and may not succeed at his new position.
(99) Pista flees from Jani Hollaky just as he’s about to ask for money or help.
Even though Pista understand and empathizes with what Jani may be experiencing, Pista experiences “felt a twinge of malicious pleasure, because through him he’d acquired a loathing for his former school-fellows.”
In other words, Pista loathes his former life and relations…or rather, those that inconvenienced him. Which was a loose definition.
Runs past the attendants at “the Club” in order to escape Jani, but also ignores a request by the attendant to spare a moment of his time. Becoming more and more calloused. The personal influence on behalf of another seems to be a common practice.
A great line that could apply to many books, but reminds me of La Regenta…”He looked round [the Club] to see who was there. He saw the usual figures. Every gentlemen’s club has its regulars who do the same things every day at the same time. There are those who read the papers, those who sprawl in the corner of the red settee, escaping the delights of home, where they would likewise sprawl, rather like cast-off clothing, but their nerves need the heavy atmosphere of the Club.”
Runs into an old classmate at the Club: Bálint Mándy. “Finished with the land.”
Page 98—a key concept—the word protekció: the exercise of personal influence on behalf of another.
Also, Jani Hollaky says that those a year or more ‘below’ a student know that student better than the older student knows the younger, so those socially below the elite know them more than the other way around.
(100) The kissing scandal
(101) At the Club: “Everywhere they were the leaders, those that set the standard, the decision-takers. Everywhere there was a place where only the chosen might stop, sit, speak: these were they. And with clear heads, warm hearts, goodwill and cheerful happiness they basked in the exalted light, the good air, the warmth.
Around them the legion of mankind bore the yoke, toiling desperately, their brows furrowed with care, their necks bent low to the ground, on and mechanically on. They, fat and happy, spent their time in ideal chatter and laughter.”
(102) The social elite were “linked by common memories”, as if there were part of a family.
“This was a powerful organisation. In its hands were the authority and governmental power of the whole country. All of them were in high positions, senior officers of the army, mighty landowners. Secret societies had no sign that bound their members together more surely than this class that had done well in life.
And they were all cheerful, good-humoured, happy souls. Even the sick, even those who were out of sorts, once they were at home in that private world, were stripped of life’s every care and united there in warm, welcoming, understanding reassurance and conviviality.
But the material basis which had brought this social network into being was crumbling terribly. The salaries of senior officials were falling. This year they’d been cut three times. The landowners were losing their life-blood. Those that had a thousand acres were penniless, buried in a mass of debt. Those with five thousand acres were in debt for a million pengós or two, and were only kept afloat by the special decree for the protection of the farmer. All of them were landowners in name alone.” The only reason that they didn’t get rid of their properties was that they could find no purchaser at auction. There were those whose ancestral estates had come down in the form of mansions of sixty rooms, and they still clung to existence around the mansion while the hyenas of the salesrooms auctioned the clothes of one or another in the great Budapest town house.
(103) “Believe you me, dear boy, Hungarian law takes a draconian stand against the debtor. The old law-givers maintained that anybody that fell into debt was either a gambler or a drunkard. Both deserved all the punishment possible, so as to become a terrible example to others. Now, however, a new world order has come along.”
(104-5) Pista finds out from Bálint (and later, in more detail, from Dr. Péterfi) why Feri Boronkay was “kicked up” to Secretary of State in the Ministry of Agriculture and Makróczy’ was booted out of office—theft through their dealing with the Pig Farm.
Bálint also knows which villa Pista is meant to have, before Pista even knows.
(105) “He yearned to be at home in the little flat, where they’d lived until now so securely and peacefully, and he hadn’t dared to think that he’d have to enter this creaking, crumbling big world… It’s be better just to shelter in the little nest.” (ellipsis in original, emphasis mine)
(106) Pista makes up with Lina, acknowledging her protection “in these awful, changeable times, with the whole world falling apart.”
(108) Auntie Kati tells stories at odds on how easy things had been for the family in the past.
(108-9) Pista hears about the problems of Uncle Andris from Kati (with the partitioning of Hungary as a factor), who lives in a “lost” territory.
(108-9) Kati talks about “troubles in the territories:
“Well, it’s no life in those parts now. In the Rima valley. The Czechs are in charge. … He’s such a good farmer, and such a Hungarian person. You should hear them all talk about him! Last year, when he went to Prague, he went into a shop to buy some little thing for the family, some souvenir of Prague. He couldn’t understand what they said, because in his whole life he hasn’t learnt a word of any other language. So he said, ‘Heavens, you’ve belonged to us these ten years, haven’t you learnt to speak Hungarian yet?” (ellipsis mine)
(109) Kati continues:
“What can poor Hungarian children learn up there? They have to speak Slovak, and a real Hungarian like him can’t stomach that. Going to school means learning in Czech. What a lesson to learn in such a real Hungarian’s house.”
The Hungarian national pride stands in the way of adapting to the modern world.
(110) “It would have been nice to listen to all this, had there not lurked behind every word something pathetic and shocking; they oughtn’t to have done this, they oughtn’t to have done that.”
Sums up problems in the public as well as the private sphere.
Kati spill family secrets that Pista had been protected from. Seems to have been the story of his life, carried on by Lina.
Kati “was putting her finger on the sore spot in his heart.”
(111) Pista studies the Pig Farm documents. Finds out the lessee of Szentkálny’s farm, Kaiser, swindled everyone and left for America
(112) Szentkálny was left with a half-finished farm with Kaiser left. Szentkálny converts the farm to a public company and convinces the city and other prominent people to become investors.
Szentkálny appoints his son-in-law, Ferenc Baronkay, as Managing Director of the Pig Farm. Irony of a pig farm being the cause of so much trouble?
Despite accounting and other trickes, Szentkálny can’t avoid the farm from collapsing after the crash.
(112-3) “Such was the situation when Makróczy, who had been the villain of the piece, lost the battle and the task of sorting it all out devolved upon Pista, The strange thing was that he had been Town Clerk for some weeks, but the Pig Farm affair was still dormant; he only discovered its full horror by chance and his own persistence.
Shock followed shock as he delved ever deeper into the labyrinth of false balances, creative accounting and manipulation of statistics.”
(113) Mayor informs Pista he will be seeing the Minister (Prime Minister) in Budapest the next day. Instructs him on what to say, especially “the necessity of making a big loan to the city.”
(114) “ ‘They know how to live’, he thought to himself. ‘So that was why the food situation was always so bad—the Alispán had never liked having to deal with kitchen affairs.’ “ (After Andris tells Pista about his experience in the Army of having to keep up of food supplies…the army gets it all while people in the country go hungry. Andris complains that he was dealing with a whole country, not housekeeping. An apt comparison to the elite appropriating the wealth of the country for themselves.
The Alispán has Pista pay for everything (and lets him know it will be reimbursed.
(115) Pista goes to see Menyhért while he’s in Budapest. M. tells Pista to avoid Adéka since she is just as responsible for what happened as her husband.
Pista relays his desire to see Menyhért as the Director of the Great Plain Museum in Zsarártnok. The museum “business had been botched.” The city had planned to put the museum in the market square but the presence of the Misses Boldogh had objected to leaving their homes. Their connections made the city unwilling to ‘disturb’ the old ladies, so the building was “pushed up a corner.”
(116) Pista spends all day chasing the Minister, who always has something else more important to do. Finally sees him at 6pm (when their meeting had been scheduled for 9am).
(117) The Alispán: “Nowadays the Parliament isn’t a workplace. We do the work, not the Parliament. All the load comes on local government these days,” said the Alispán.
Pista reveals that the Minister spoke to an empty Parliament.
(118) Pista: “He was beginning to understand how it was possible for the whole country to be bought.
Everbody depended, by some thread, in some way, on the government. He, as a municipal Town Clerk, was so much a government servant that he couldn’t have a thought of his own. If only he were stronger…but how could he be? … Only in two ways: material independence and social independence. If he got his house and had enough money…” (ellipsis in original)
Pista’s thoughts on the trip back home: “The country was big, and for him his own city was his world. It was as if this city didn’t belong to the country, so private was the life it led, so narrow in compass.”
(118-9) Pista reads of a mayor being dismissed by the Főispan. “Behaved irregular,” using municipal staff to work in his home, allowed unauthorized behavior, acting without official permission, irregularities, “And finally, the most serious accusation, that he profited illicitly from the allotting of land…” (ellipsis in original)
(119) “Life was a jungle. Wild things lived there that tore and ate anybody that they could.”
An old classmate of Pista’s explains the difference between the Parliament of Hungary and other countries. In other countries potential members worked their way up through the system, became familiar with those in power, learned what was necessary, and applied a scientific approach to governing a country. This may be overstating things somewhat, but compared to Hungary, where “every member of Parliament received his office as a reward for his social standing or his services to the government. What mattered was dependability, not what one had to offer. Family connections were the surest touchstone of dependability. And the less anybody of political science, the more dependable he was.”
(120) The friend, a journalist, has hope for the younger generation but doesn’t feel they are ready yet.
He also points out that international decisions by large countries impact everyone. A little country, like Hungary, doesn’t have as much control over its internal affairs. “It doesn’t matter what Parliament decides or decrees, the pace of life is ruled by international agreements.”
Pista looking at the Alispán: “This was just a living human being, interested only in his own close circle of affairs.” Pista’s ideal is to look beyond the close circle, to look at the thirty thousand unemployed men in the County, an untapped resource.
(121) “The country could be built with these thirty thousand. Roads, houses, schools, museums. All it needed was somebody to set the thirty thousand to work. A will, a power aiming at a goal.”
Very idealistic—Pista’s examples so far of the people is a reflex to ask for patronage.
Pista’s metaphor for the situation and the Alispán’s unconcern: “Why couldn’t he be so fat and sleek, capable of sleeping peacefully when the far end of the house ws ablaze, saying ‘Perhaps it won’t reach here’”
(123) Pista paints a bleak picture of what can be accomplished in the current situation, thanks in part to the words of his journalist friend. Landowners who went to Parliament did damage to their own farms, through neglect and costs of elections. Even if he does have ideas to help the country he will be overridden and make himself an outcast. “There’s nothing for him to do but resign himself to what can’t be altered.”
Despair at improving things: “He, Pista, had only one duty, to ensure his prospects from the material point of view without delay. He carried a heavy burden, a wife, two children.”
(124) Pista raises the possibility of his brother becoming director of the local museum. The Alispán says don’t worry about the appointment of Makróczy’s relative.
(128) Pista believe’s Lina’s mind is “fully occupied with hatred for my relations.”
Children believe they can take it easy since dad has become a “great gentleman”
Pista takes offense at Lina’s comments about his family. Touts his brother Albert’s success. Lina informs him Albert has written asking for a position. “Pista became silent. It was unpleasant, the way Lina always had a card up her sleeve.”
(129) Mayor interested in the least little details of Pista’s meeting with the Minister before covering the official business.
Minister willing to invest only in profitable businesses. Pista had tried to mention the improvements the drainage system needed just for basic living conditions.
(130-1) Kadics talks about family dealings and patronage, which Pista finds depressing
(131) The journalist, Pista’s friend in Pest, had been a “scandal-dispensing machine,” which had annoyed Pista at the time. With the Mayor and Kadics he finds that gossip has some currency.
Kadics to take Pista to see the villa intended for him. Pista flustered because he may see Magdaléna.
(132) Kadics seems *very* familiar with the villa.
(133) Pista’s first meeting with Magdaléna in a decade? He realizes she has changed. Not as awkward as in his (or her) youth. The wildness and volatility of her youth has been tempered, and Pista finds it disturbing.
(134) Pista finds the pictures of Magdaléna and her husband to be a Svengali/Trilby type look, but with the Svengali terrified of the woman.
(136) The visit to Magdaléna’s is like a dream to Pista, then shame for how low the price of the villa ended up being. Feels like a thief.
(138) Lina insults the servant but Pista feels differently: “[H]e had become accustomed to looking respectfully on the mass of unknown, simple people and on every individual among them, for the individual represents the mass, and authority is what the mass expects…He’d had plenty of time to learn that lesson in the Russian prison camp, but the upper classes here at home, and the women in particular, hadn’t been through that school and could still behave to isolated individuals with effortless superiority and tyrannical manners.” Pista’s time in the Russian prison camp during the war seems to have given him a very different perspective than many around him.
(139) Pista feels that he is at odds with everyone…doesn’t fit in the world. “He had to struggle against unknown forces all the time. Whichever way he looked, whatever he dealt with, he always clashed with wills that were resolutely at variance with his own.”
Pista recognizes that while Lina is tyrannical she is also shrewd.
(140) Pista: the felling that the whole process of moving forward was a merry-go-round or a mirage.
(141) Lina points out to Pista that he didn’t get a copy of the provisional contract. “But it didn’t matter, for now the situation wsa the same as an hour previously, the whole thing turned on Kardics’s goodwill.”
(142) “The garden alone is amazing. It all faces south. Great big box bushes, like in the city park.”
“That’s where they came from.”
At that he was silent. It was possible, it was conceivable. He thought as he walked. These people really did live as if city property and the personal property of the leaders were fully interchangeable.
When Lina comments on the cost of heating the villa, Pista replies “The city’s got plenty of woodland.” He’s become one of them so easily.
(142-3) “The point constantly at issue here was, he said to himself, whether Lina and he, for the two of them indisputably constituted a single unit, were or were not capable of rising to and living in the style of the Establishment of the city. If they remained at the level of such small-time middle-class morality, then the greatest dangers would threaten them.”
Really? He has adopted the mind-set so easily, so smoothly. He does question the morality of the matter, but reflects on the “payments in kind” that had become part of the “accepted practice” of civil life. Not legal, accepted practice.
(143) “For weeks he hadn’t caught even a whiff of the remotest trace of swindling, and now it was as if black threads were woven all through his life, and he, like a fly in a spider’s web, was beating his wings so as to become a spider and suck like the rest, or they would finally suck out his blood.”
Fall in line and behave like the rest? How much is self-imposed in this outlook?
(144) “Lina was becoming soured by this poor life, he couldn’t talk to her.”
Albert’s second letter to Pista—his position with he Bank had been abolished since there was no market anymore for investments.
(145) Specifically on Albert’s letter, but also on the state of things in the country or of the times: “[N]owadays life was producing myths.”
Reflects on Lina’s correct decision to only have two children.
(146) Lina’s pride drives Pista away. Instead of helping him she insults and belittles him.
(147) Pista feels the weight of taking care of his whole family.
(149) Dr. Martiny’s reply to Pista’s comment that “the Administration’s the full-time Scapegoat of public life.”
“It really boils down to who the world belongs to. Capital? Or the workers? Or the State? What’s certain these days is that the State isn’t organised for the benefit of the people. It enjoys an exceptional position, like the ancient oligarchies. In the eyes of the people the State is a mystic power. An end in itself. Human life isn’t important, what matters is for the State to flourish. The State devours its children. It’s a real Cronos. They say we live in a State. No: the State lives on us.”
Dr. Martiny’s philosophy is that man “yearns for dependence”, not independence.
Pista: “Do people want to live in free competition or not?”
Dr. Martiny: of course they don’t. (150) Believe free competition to be a burden. “For individuals to be able to face the responsibility that freedom lays upon them they’re obliged to join forces, sell their freedom to one another, to unite, so that, lost in the common forest, they’ll be able somehow to fight the thousand-headed monster, the free life.”
Really? Freedom is a monster? Not as we think of it. Martiny’s argument rests on government and market forces that the individual has no control over. It’s a so-called freedom.
(151) Pista comments that the standard of living is higher than previously, but Dr. Martiny says it won’t last for long because poverty is an infectious disease that will continue to quickly spread.
(151) Boldness of Dr. Martiny’s speech is that the Opposition is such a minority. Since it was not going to be implemented, he was free from the consequences.
Abstract thought was useless to him now.
(154) Lina’s lament, that her efforts up to this point has been wiped out.
“Now you’ve been caught up by this sudden good luck, or misfortune.”
“It’s ways are different, its morals, its atmosphere, everything is different.”
“Why are you forcing me to move into an entirely new world?”
“Can people be taken out of their old skins and given new ones? And even if you can get you a new skin, can your soul be remade?”
(155) How could you slip so easily off the old way.”
Pista realizes his wife is right and that she has their best interests at heart.
(156) “because there is decent wealth, but for that you have to have something under your feet and something behind you. And tell me, Pista, what have you got behind you?”
(157) “One could only make progress in life if one freed oneself of burdens, and that meant all of one’s burdensome relations too. There was nothing else for it, one should keep only those likely to prove beneficial, and the wasters, of whom nothing could be made, must be left to their fate.”
(158-60) Pista works through in his mind how to avoid going into debt of Kardics and others (in their pocket). Determines to get to the bottom of the Pig Farm before he has to recommend or do something he doesn’t agree with. The silence on the Pig Farm, which had been all the talk just recently, bothers Pista.
(162- ) The issues with the Pig Farm were great. “The management had been so slap-dash that the criminal element of the question came more and more into prominence.” The site was entirely on city proptery…gift, purchase, easement? Can’t tell.
(165) Pista finds a handkerchief that Magdaléna had put in his coat pocket, unfortunately in front of Csoma and Bisztriczay. He can’t recall getting it…did he steal it, unconsciously?
(167) Pista speaks too quickly at the mention of a relative in front of Kati.
Terror at Lina reaching for his jacket…the handkerchief.
(170-1) Kardics tries to convince Pista that the Pig Farm is salvageable and can provide a huge profit.
(172) Pista, in looking at Kardics: “He felt that he was looking into the mouth of a wolf.”
(172-3) Kardics all complimentary to a clerk and plans to make his position permanent until he hears that his father is a typesetter. Then he withdraws everything complimentary he said.
(173) Pista reads the contract Kardics gives him. There are “unentailed” amounts in the contract, which “is naturally at your disposal.” Leaving the room: “And so Pista went out like a man who had lost his innocence.”
(174) “There was a conflict wihin him between his former self and the present one. A sort of inner disquiet. He couldn’t resolve it, and it was horrible, miserable.” Already feeling this way, unable to sleep like he used to.
Feels “so little, insignificant, unhappy, the least person in the city.”
Sends a telegraph for Menyhért to come at once…he “was the only one he could talk to.”
Wandering the streets he sees what should be done in the city, but doesn’t know how it could be achieved. Even if he did, he hasn’t stood up to anyone yet other than Lina (at times), and he comes to regret those incidents.
Pista’s desire: “He wanted to give. To give to others, to the poor, who, incomprehensibly, couldn’t acquire anything, who didn’t have Kardics básci at their disposal.”
This is why he wants the Pig Farm to succeed…to help the poor. He turns a blind eye to everything that should have clued him in that it wouldn’t work.
(175) Dr. Martiny encourages Pista to look into the Pig Farm and sequester the Boronkay villa. Which, of course, Pista was about to take over. The funds to build it came from the Pig Farm business! No wonder that was the house he was slated to own.
(176) Dr. Martiny guess that the villa will be sold for half of what it’s worth “just to avoid a nasty fight.” Exactly what had already happened!
Pista’s relation to Kardics comes out. Dr. Martiny backtracks, trying to backtrack: “I never said a word.”
(177) Dr. Martiny: “Hungary is a dunghill of relationships and scandals. It’s a swamp, and anything that is planted on it either becomes acclimatised or dies.”
Pista and Martiny find that they are related, too.
(178) Pista reveals to Dr. Martiny that he is scheduled to buy the Boronkay villa (instead of Dr. Martiny).
(179) “Dr. Martiny was lost in thought. It had flashed into his mind that this might be the opportunity, with the assistance of this well-meaning but ill-informed man, to gain influence over the city economy.” While he decried it, Martiny also places emphasis on having established blood relations with Pista.
(181) Pista to his brother about resigning: “I either stand or fall.”
(182) Menyhért agrees that Pista should buy the villa, because in “that society if he were perceived as a low-calibre, he’d have lost the battle before it began.”
Menyhért also confirms Pista’s hesitation in trusting anything Uncle Berci says or any of his deals.
(184) Conversation with a town doctor about relations. “Because, d’you see, a relation isn’t the man who’s doing well, but the man who’s doing badly. In the eyes of a well-to-do member of the family, I’m a relation. How can I put it, relationship only spreads downwards.”
(184-5) First the doctor hints at, then a taxi-driver (and carter) asks for protekció
(187) Pista and the Clerk of Works talk about Ráczkevey’s request that the Minister buy his mansion for a tax office. They end up having an argument and the Clerk storms out—Pista refused to release tendered bids before the close of bidding.
(189) Dr. Péterfi fills Pista in on more details about the Pig Farm. “Only now was he beginning to understand the affair just a little.”
(190-2) Pista goes to see the Mayor. Mayor keeps repeating that they need the Opposition. The Mayor changes mood once he finds out Pista is related to Dr. Martiny. The Mayor asks what Martiny wants.
“As he sat down it crossed his mind that these urak [members of the decadent (former) land-owning class] really conceived being related to someone as implying an established right to be cut in on any rackets that were going.
(193) Pista tries to sound out the Clerk of Works on how much the Pig Farm owes Holub and Company—does he suspect that the company will get the bridge bid (by illegally knowing the lowest bid to date)? Doesn’t seem to yet…
(194-5) Dr. Péterfi tells Pista of the troubles he has in the city since he is from Transylvania and has no relations there. Landlords, for example, make a point of excluding ‘incomers’ from social and business life.
(195-200) Dr. Péterfi tells Pista the intricacies of the Pig Farm debacle.
Holub: young gentleman. Best library, a collection of modern paintings. Symbol of up-and-coming young generation? (if so, he got screwed by the old one)
Facilities at the Pig Farm were state of the art (and over the top). Everything else was a sham…number of pigs, especially.
(200) Members of the Pig Farm company: “Old Szentkálnay was chairman. The members were Kardics the Bank, Feri Boronkay, Makróczy, the Alispán was on it and the Mayor’s son-in-law, but they never attended meetings.”
(202) Pista has to send a messenger to Lina with a note asking for money.
(206) Pista catches an engineer from Holub copying bid tenders.
“That was why the city was going nowhere. The people were being subjected to bare-faced robbery.”
(207-8) Taxi driver from previous night shows up to collect his fare. Pista is short with him while also saying he will look into position for him. Pista thinks he is trying to help the poor but his behavior alienates the taxi driver.
(208) Proof of hardship in the farming system.
(209) “It was terrible, the mistakes the administration had made in permitting the farm-plots. It had squandered resources, really set the people back into antiquity.”
(210-1) Holub’s concerns—competing with people while he was deep in debt since the “Pig Farm had taken everything.”
(211) The way Holub had been guaranteed to win the contract for the bridge and how to include additional profits.
(212) Kardics finds out about the Holub affair and sets off to see the Mayor.
(213) Uncle Berci’s plot begins to unravel.
(214-5) The Mayor and Kardics come to agreement that Pista must go and be replaced by Wagner. They realize they have been found out on the bridge bid, so they plan on neutralizing Pista in advance.
Wagner was the original heir apparent, before some of the corruption appearances.
(216) The Mayor calls what Kolub attempted a “stupid trick” in order to downplay what happened, making what unfolded to Pista’s eyes impossible.
(216) Pista vacillates between “cut and dried” for indictments against the Mayor and his cronies and hallucinations that it happened.
(217) Uncle Berci visits and harangues Pista about the coal deal.
(218) Evidently Berci and Kati had been engaged.
Irony: Uncle Berci tells Pista to “don’t collect so many relations round you. You’ve got to be careful about relations.”
(219) Pista: “But I don’t want to do that for my own sake, but because I’ve got great and unselfish ambitions.”
(220) The contradiction that Pista reveals—he wants to fight the patronage and corruption of those in power with … patronage to his family. But this time it’s different. “Instead of those who’ve taken the leading positions by force, I want to place decent, honest men at the head of society, and what’s more my own flesh and blood…I can trust myself, therefore I can trust my relations.” (ellipsis in original)
A very ambiguous statement in comparing to previous administrations.
Uncle Berci swears the coal is as good as that from the country’s best mine. He cadges a small amount and prepares to leave and tells Pista he can rely on him.
(221) Uncle Berci reveals the greater truth of the novel: “The only relation to love is the one that’s of use to you.” Repeated in many different ways, but this is the most concise and accurate. Of course, the irony is that he is trying to take advantage of his nephew and his position.
Lina, commenting about visiting the Boronkays: “I’m afraid, very much afraid of that life… We can’t compete with these people…” (ellipsis in original)
The party at the Boronkay villa. Word that a man from the Ministry would be looking at documents from the Pig Farm that evening. Pista, a little tipsy, shows his hand to Kardics. Asks for his brothers to be employed, floats idea to save the Pig Farm.
Pista talks with old Szentkálnay and broaches the idea that there will be losses associated with saving the Pig Farm. Surprises Szentkálnay.
Pista talks with Magdaléna—reveals his long-held crush of her. Embarrasses himself.
In talking with Kardics Pista implies he will be one of the controlling interests. In order to do that, though, he will need the commission on his Uncle’s coal contract with the city.
Pista and Lina fight. Lina does not like being with this crowd, nor does she like Pista’s association with them. Her rants:
(233) “This dress is burning my body. It’s not my dress, I’d like to tear the wretched thing off, because it’s not my skin, but theirs, these people here that turn their backs on me. If it were my dress, then I’d belong among them, and we’d have been friends for ages. Then I’d have sat with them on the sofa gossiping… But I don’t belong here, and you forget that you married Lina Szentkálnay, not Magdaléna. And now nothing will be any good in future, because you’ve had a taste and your ancestral blood has come out… Chance has thrown you out of your place, and now you want to compete with these fools that you’ve got among.”
[Pista] “I want to be a leader among them, to give the orders.”
“How dare you do that? … Do you know anything about it? Can you keep in step with them? … Their ways are different, their morals, their tone. If ever a friend’s come to my house she’s come in and been happy to sit at my table. She doesn’t send in a visiting-card like they did this mid-day, then dash off in the car as if she were avoiding lepers. And when I come here like a fool, for my husband’s sake, she says one word to me and goes off…”
Because you stomp around like a queen in a huff.”
“Because that’s what I am. Because I’ve got a soul, and these haven’t, or rather they have got one, and it’s money… Here you’ve got to be able to compete, my dear, you can’t come here on foot, you have to come by car, and the bigger the better. Why did you marry me while you were poor? You should have waited! You shouldn’t have ruined me… What have you done to me? I never have time to read a book, I scarcely look at a paper, I don’t follow fashion, I don’t know the witty remarks these stylish women have to decorate their lives with… Magdaléna… Perhaps she too wouldn’t veen like me, but lie’s been too good to her…”
“Don’t keep on insulting her.”
Up to this point their conversation had proceeded as if they had just been discussing the company before them, saying to the loud jazz, perfumed, crowded. Now Lina sat up straight in agitation and Pista, even in his drunken state, became alarmed, because he knew his wife, and when she lost her temper she didn’t care about appearances.
“Why shoulnd’t I? She really impresses me. All the Pig Farm money went on her showing off, because when a woman’s being spoiled there isn’t enough money in the world… Do you want me to become what she is? Just buy this house then, and a car and a chauffeur to go with it, and a fur coat for the chauffeur and a gardener and everything. You think I don’t know how to spend more than three hundred and forty-six pengős a month? What am I, then? Am I so short of ideas? Couldn’t I get through thirty thousand? Every month? … Come on then… It’s pathetic… you’ve got five pengős of mine in your pocket and your head full of dreams. You want a cheque-book and a bank account. Will you get that? Where from? On what? You want to be in with the big-time thieves? … Mind you don’t get swallowed… Because I don’t know whether they’ll be prepared to give you a share… There are enough of them already… They don’t need the Kopjáss army… they can already spend what small change there still is in the city themselves.” (pages 233-4; ellipsis in original)
(235) Pista goes into the card room where the Mayor is playing cards. The Mayor has him wait all evening (so the audit can go without Pista present). Playing cards—while Pista doesn’t play in this game, it’s clearly symbol.
Pista speaks up, begins to voice opinions, then realizes he’s treading on thin ice. He tries to backtrack and has to defend himself from being misquoted.
(237) The young people at the party—reminds Pista of “that curious orgy-scene that his friend had depicted in the Club”. The young are alternately praised and damned by the older set, and the author rarely shows him in a positive light.
(238-9) Pista speaks to Magdaléna alone—this is where he embarrasses himself by revealing his infatuation. Pista assumes the “Mayor had spoken, and he had to be ejected.”
(241) Pista tries to leave but Kardics keeps him from leaving. In the dawn hour, the Mayor leaves, a sign for everyone else to leave. On their way home, Pista and Lina see the light on in the Mayor’s office.
(242-3) Pista shows up to work early. When Dr. Péterfi arrives he informs Pista that someone had been through the office papers the previous evening. The Pig Farm papers had been “opened and undone.”
(243) “Pista went pale. The audit had taken place last night. That was shy he hadn’t been allowed to leave the Boronkays’. That was why Kardics had been agitated…He’d had to wait for Imre Keék to come back… When they’d finished in his office they’d continued in the Mayor’s… That was shy there’d been a light on when…
He felt dizzy, blood rushed to his head. Breaking and entering. Theft. Abuse of authority. Violence. Force. Theft. Burglary.
And the vouchers were in his flat, he’d taken them home to study for the indictment… Therefore from Boronkay’s point of view the examination had gone smoothly, because there’d been nothing compromising that could be identified in the books… So Boronkay had escaped… The Minister would receive a favourable report on him…
He reeled against his desk. They’d played him a dirty trick.” (ellipsis in original)
(244-254) The endgame—meeting with the Mayor. The *best* part of the book. The Mayor, who had been portrayed as old, doting, etc. reels Pista in. Pista provides some of his ideas for improving the lot of the peasants, although he paints it as having more control over them, in the “bush farm” proposal. He also repeats his idea of a syndication buying the Pig Farm.
The Mayor relays some of his political philosophy, especially his attitude of relations:
(246) “The whole world consists of relations, just relations. Nothing but relations everywhere. Everybody’s got a poor relation who has to be found a job, and then, when they’re in jobs, they do nothing, have no thoughts, no ideas, no industry any more… I’m dead against relations. They’re the bane of Hungarian life… They’ve been nothing but trouble to me ever since I’ve been sitting in this chair… It’d be possible to manage perfectly well if there weren’t all these relations. And everybody’s somebody’s relation, everybody’s got relations.”
The Mayor has made a point of being elected over a 38-year period. He keeps stressing public opinion, so while he knows certain elements don’t play well with the public (corruption especially), he understands the idea of “optics” and what looks good. On page 247 he reveals to Pista his secret—he has never appointed one of his relatives. He helps them now and then with money or a position, but never at a conspicuous level.
In their discussion the Mayor comes to appreciate Pista’s grasp of public affairs, even while he is springing a trap. The Mayor reviews Pista’s plans and demolishes them for various reasons…popularity especially.
The Mayor then closes the trap—Pista’s Uncle Berci’s mine has inferior coal but his uncle has tried to pass off coal from a superior provider as his own. Then he closes the deal by talking about the audit, telling Pista “That’s my safe, Town Clerk, it’s only kept in the Town Clerk’s office.”
Pista’s exposure damages him physically, mentally, and emotionally. He’s been trampled, and he begins to formulate plans of living without the elected position. The Mayor pretends he doesn’t even exist at this point. Pista is still in denial at this point—he was clean and honest, had wanted to help people. He doesn’t realize he has become part of their machinery, their relations, and went from outsider to abuser just like the others. The Uncle Berci point is harder to analyze—while he tried to keep his distance from it he knew what his uncle was like and did nothing to shut the enterprise down at the start. From there it took on a life of its own and caught him.
(255) Kardics had listened in on the conversation and praises the Mayor for his masterful performance.
The Mayor’s judgment:
“[W]hat I think is that if that man comes back tomorrow, then he’ll be a very useful man: because, do you know, in all my long career I’ve scarely met anybody that’s picked upt he threads so quickly and so very well.” He then praises Pista’s syndicate idea, without Pista in it, of course.
Dr. Péterfi rushes in the Mayor’s office to announce that Pista has shot himself. The Mayor exclaims “Oh… oh… but this is awful… Well, call a doctor at once… we must save the poor man.”
As he prepares to leave his office, Kardics catches the Mayor’s arm:
“You don’t mean to go to him?” exclaimed Kardics in alarm.
“I certain do. This is terrible. He must be saved. He must have medical attention.”
He spoke to his secretary as he came in:
“Send a thousand pengős to the widow right away… That is, to his poor wife… Five hundred. Send her finve hundred pengős immediately.”
“I’ll put a hundred to that,” said Kardics basic, reaching for his wallet. “One needs money at a time like this.”
And they hurried away to save the poor man’s life.