In May 1989, Dr Sorin Costina decided to sum up on paper the principal steps by which his passion for collecting art had developed. The result of this effort of memory is an eleven-page text, typed single-spaced, in which are mentioned the most important landmarks of an unusual and spectacular passion. “Also in the years 1962 to 1963 I had my first contacts (as Paul Neagu puts it) with the visual, or the visual arts. A first shock, an exhibition from the Dresden Galleries seen at the Museum of the Republic (I still remember the reviews, my favourite magazine in those years: second-rate works and rather weak with the exception of Titian’s Lady in White). For what I was then, it was a great festive event,” recalls Sorin Costina, speaking of one of his first encounters with the visual arts. He places his first encounter with contemporary art two years later: “Finally, my first contacts with contemporary art took place in Iaşi in 1965.” According to his notes, on 16 August 1969 he bought his first picture, The Bridge of the Turk, a scene in the old town of Sibiu by Ferdinand Mazanek. The price was 138 lei. His records of his purchases of items of visual art were kept in detail until 1989. According to this unpublished document, Sorin Costina bought most of the works that today make up his private art collection from galleries and studios in Bucharest. The last sentence of this testimony is particularly relevant for the way in which Sorin Costina conceived his own collection: “The marginalisation of all that is best in Romanian culture explains my ability to approach these figures of great value while unfortunately not rising to their level.” Small extracts from this document (which is also an account of the life of Dr Sorin Costina) have been cited in various texts about Sorin Costina’s life or within several autobiographical texts by the author himself. The text has never been published in its entirety. The manuscript is to be found in Sorin Costina’s private collection.
The lawsuit against Kiš was filed by Dragoljub Golubović. Golubović was a journalist and one of the biggest critics of Kiš’s book A Tomb for Boris Davidovich. In various newspapers, he had published a series of articles in which he accused Kiš of plagiarism. After Kiš's response to the allegations in the form of a collection of essays named The Anatomy Lesson, Golubović filed a lawsuit in which he accused Kiš of libel. The lawsuit quoted excerpts from the book as proof.
The court documentation in the collection shows that Kiš defended himself by explaining that his book was created as a gesture of a "legitimate and necessary defense, as a value greater than the prosecutor's honor: [a gesture] of my literary existence and my literary approach, as well as generally, as a fundamental defense against fatal and destructive judgements of a layman". In court, Kiš took the view that he was a writer and had the right to defend himself, using literature, against unfounded attacks on his work.
In a written statement delivered to the court, Kiš wrote: "The particular polemic sharpness of my book was, in addition, dictated not only by rough challenge and polemic fervour, but also by the literary genre itself: traditionally, polemic uses irony, sarcasm, ridicule, because it is a form of literary struggle." Kiš claimed further that polemics is a category of literature which an author can legitimately use and cannot be subject to claims of defamation. He listed a series of polemic writers and literature to try to defend his right to artistic expression. He also advocated for the view that literary controversy is actually a kind of public debate and is subject only to public judgment and literary history, not to be interfered with by the court.
In the end, the court accepted Kiš’s view, and acquitted him of the three counts of defamation. The court ruled that Kiš's response to Golubović in The Anatomy Lesson represents a "personal and subjective view to the prosecutor's conduct, and that this does not amount to facts serving to prove the truth, and thus it cannot be accepted as a charge for defamation.” The court also called for observing the broader context in which the book was created, which was in Kiš’s favour. However in 1979, after the lawsuit, Kiš left Yugoslavia embarrassed and disappointed.
- Belgrade, Serbia
Year of creation:
- Featured item of:
In 1951, a group of 12 people, mainly actors, poets and translators, were arrested and sentenced to between seven and 25 years in prison, for ‘treason to the Motherland’. Although the charges differed in each case, the main charge common to all of them was being a member of an anti-Soviet group, whose main activity was anti-Soviet propaganda, that is, they met more or less regularly between the autumn of 1945 and the spring of 1947, in order to discuss books, plays, etc. Although the defendants claimed that political topics were not discussed at their meetings, they were charged with presenting excerpts from Andre Gide's book Le Retour de L'U.R.S.S. at one of the meetings (not all the defendants participated in this particular meeting). In fact, contrary to the claims of the security structures, there was no organized resistance group. It was a loose framework of intellectuals, who tried to continue the cultural practice of private intellectual exchange that they had been used to in independent Latvia, and that was their main crime in the eyes of the security services. In fact, they were two circles of friends who grouped around the painter Kurts Fridrihsons (1911-1991) and the translator and philologist Maija Silmale (1924-1973). Both were strong personalities, who stood out in the depressing atmosphere of the cultural life of post-Second World War Riga. They had a deep interest and knowledge about French culture, and Western culture in general, and were unable to and did not try to adapt to the new Soviet cultural environment, with its explicitly anti-Western position. Among their friends were other people who loved French culture: the poetess Elza Stērste (1885-1976), the translator and lecturer Ieva Birgere-Lase (1916-2002), and the actress Mirdza Lībiete-Erss (1924-2008). Perhaps, this was why the group was later known as the ‘French group’, although not all the people detained in these cases had a special knowledge of French culture. At the beginning of the 1950s, the persecution of the ‘bourgeois’ and especially social-democratic intelligentsia of independent Latvia reached its peak, and the arrests and sentencing of this group were intended by the security services as a warning to all the Latvian intelligentsia that attempting to exist in parallel with official Soviet culture and keep an orientation towards Western ‘cosmopolitan’ literature and art was a crime. Although the files should be viewed with caution, because they were written in such a manner as to confirm the version of the interrogators, they contain an abundance of material about the mood of the Latvian intelligentsia in the post-Second World War years, the still-existing hope that the independence of Latvia would be restored, the attempts to maintain an intellectual life outside the official constraints, and the attempts to learn about cultural life outside the USSR. Today the ‘French group’ is seen in Latvia as a vivid example of intellectual resistance to the Soviet regime. Material from the criminal files is used by academics and authors of biographical books and articles, and in the preparation of documentaries and television programmes.
- Rīga Kurzemes prospekts 5, Latvia LV-1067
Year of creation:
- Featured item of:
Gyöngy és homok: Ideológiai értékjelképek a magyar irodalomban (Pearls and Sand: Ideological Value-Symbols in Hungarian Literature) is a literary historical-aesthetic study of the so-called "pearl-mussel motif” so popular in the Transylvanian lyrical creation of the 1920s and the 1930s, also present in the subsequent periods. Beyond this, it is also an analysis of the underlying ideology behind the poetic image, that is, of Transylvanism. This work did not originally express an explicit ideological challenge to the communist regime, but its fate of being confiscated by the secret police transformed it into a significant part of Gyimesi’s intellectual legacy directly linked to her dissident activity, as József Imre Balázs points out. At the same time, in its cultural meaning, Pearls and Sand was a genuine “oppositional” work, whose critical understanding of Transylvanism brought a refreshing critique of the dominant tradition of the Hungarian minority culture before 1990. The reframing of the concept of Transylvanism after the First World War focused on the idea of a federal Transylvania within Romania consisting of ethnically diverse independent cantons organised after the Swiss model. Even if the enormous demographic changes in Transylvania brought about by the Romanian political leadership during the last decades of communism would have thwarted all real chances of seeing this implemented, Transylvanism remained an influential ideology among the members of the Hungarian community and a fertile ground for literary and artistic creation.
Early Transylvanism of the Hungarian community was a response to the traumatic territorial changes that culminated with the 1920 Trianon Peace Treaty and created a de facto, formerly inexistent minority community, which was separated from its “mother country.” Under these circumstances there was a need to define the self-awareness of the Hungarian minority and to strengthen its national identity. This “strategy” of survival was much needed as the political-moral collapse of the Hungarian ruling elites following the military defeat in 1918 drove many people to suicide, alcoholism, or emigration. By 1924 as many as 200,000 people emigrated from Transylvania to Hungary. Transylvanism was a spiritual-moral defence, a positive response to the negative consequences of the Trianon Treaty which facilitated the moral acceptance of the situation the Hungarians in Transylvania found themselves confronted with. Its primary ideological function was to turn necessity into virtue: presenting disadvantage as an advantage, regarding the self-reliance of the minority as a beautiful possibility for independence, as a chance for creating specific values. This is how Transylvanism compensated for the sense of loss generated by the new situation. In the light of survival this ideology played a positive part, as in the so-called heroic era it helped Hungarians in Romania to recover from the post-Trianon trauma. It must be mentioned that this ideology was shared by a rather small group of people whose members undertook the mission, the sacrifice, mainly out of Christian faith; however, it is evident that this personal belief could not be turned into the ideology of one and a half million people.
The criticism of Transylvanism started already in the second half of the 1930s with the so called “populist” writers. They reached the conclusion that Transylvanism was not the sober conscientisation of the minority situation and of fundamental Hungarian interests, but a mere “faith and aspiration,” or wishful thinking, which created a false image of reality. The historical facts used as arguments represented, according to these critics, half-truths that were over generalised by writer-ideologists to cover up other mainly negative historical facts. This illusory image of reality proved to be necessary in the further stages of minority life as well and it fulfilled a similar role. After the Second World War both proletarian internationalism and the illusion of the “Danube basin” fraternity aimed at mitigating the conflicts of interest between winners and losers, between majority and minority. After many writers and cultural activists officially rejected the “dual commitment” in 1968, Transylvanian regionalism regained its former prestige, also strengthened by the newly established minority institutions. The manipulations of the Ceaușescu regime and the cooperative attitude displayed by certain Transylvanian Hungarian representatives towards a more liberal version of Romanian communism seemed to facilitate the validation of this illusory regional self-esteem. Accordingly, Transylvanian ideology revived again in the late 1960s and the early 1970s, when the need for redefining the collective identity of the Hungarian minority re-emerged, while its existence as minority was still unsolved. This appeared primarily in the conscious revival of tradition, as in Ernő Gáll’s historical works and in his ideology focused on the “dignity of the individual.” The publications of György Beke and the poetry of the second Forrás-generation poets also maintained the illusion of positive possibilities of coexistence, that of the decisive role played by Transylvanian historical traditions and the myth of the moral surplus inherent in the human character of minority individuals, which derives from the need to play roles such as “coping,” “service,” and “readiness to sacrifice” which paralyse the need for formulating real interests.
Gyimesi was preoccupied with Transylvanism – the interwar minority ideology – because she recognised that such a moral-centred ideological phenomenon holds the possibility of continuous political compromise from the outset. It is very difficult to draw the line between the morality of standing one’s ground and resignation. She raised the question whether the ideology of intellectuals heroically embracing minority destiny is a self-justification for not doing anything to change their situation? While writing her work she considered that the political tradition of compromise also contributed to the fact that her generation found itself in a minority situation even worse than that of the interwar period. It was her admitted purpose to point at the utopian, mythical features of this ideology that hid the real political interests of the minority and, instead of a strategy aimed at the satisfactory solution of the situation, compensated Transylvanian Hungarians with illusions. The manuscript was finished in the early months of 1985 when it seemed that an emotion-free, adequately abstract set of concepts was suitable to carry out a critique of the leading ideology of the interwar period in publishable form. She tried to avoid all those pathetic symbols and metaphors that – in the Romanian Hungarian spiritual life of the 1980s – defined in a concealed form the sense of identity among the Hungarians in Transylvania, and, by highlighting the positive values of the Transylvanian spirit and of the minority destiny, she tried to cope with the “double oppression” under the dictatorship.
The view of Transylvanism expressed in Pearls and Sand is characterised by a rather harsh critical voice. However, this is not performed in a direct manner. Criticism is primarily targeted at the clarification of concepts, determined by the need to grab the values polished into myths in their real essence. The detached dissection of the ideology components led to reactions that included labelling the author as destructive and describing the effects of the manuscript as damaging, on grounds that this merciless uncovering of the contradictory value structure of Transylvanism could easily discourage the reader from further accepting this seemingly hopeless minority situation. Beside the rather self-critical view of the past which was at the same time directed at the present, Gyimesi was unable to offer arguments in support of hope, and could not offer a perspective regarding the future, as between 1985 and 1987 she saw no real chances of a change in the deprivation of rights which the Hungarians in Transylvania had to endure. She considered it important to perform an accurate assessment of the situation and of minority awareness, to express the need for reflection, the desire for spiritual detachment, the system of analytical concepts by which she could identify even the most delicate contradictions.
The study could not be published. It was confiscated by the Securitate for the first time on 1 October 1985, during a home search conducted at the author’s residence. Gyimesi had to provide translations of random excerpts from her study to her interrogators. Almost a year later, on 30 August 1986, the Limes circle organised by Gusztáv Molnár provided the occasion for discussing the manuscript during a meeting in Ilieni, Covasna county. Sándor Balázs, Béla Bíró, Ernő Fábián, and Levente Salat were the authors of comments (I236674/4). They intended to publish this debate material along with the study “later on, when times turn more favourable.” On 7 February 1987 the Securitate conducted a home search at Gusztáv Molnár’s flat in Bucharest and seized this work along with the Limes circle materials (I236674/1). However, by that time one copy was already in a “safe place.” The study was confiscated for the third time during the home search at Gyimesi’s residence on 20 June 1989 (Cs. Gyimesi 2009).
Gyimesi intended her study – finally published in 1992 after the regime change – to be a “warning mirror,” which would prevent Transylvanian Hungarians from falling into the traps of self-deception inherent in interwar ideology. The idealising moral view characteristic of Transylvanism, the patience exaggerated to the point of helplessness, the tendency to embrace suffering could get in the way of the struggle for human rights. Gyimesi held the opinion that a balance had to be found between the Transylvanist ideology of survival and the legal and political guidelines of the struggle. Furthermore, she believed that there was a need not only for emotional-moral reconciliation but, first of all, for a legal framework to ensure a humane, worthy life so that Hungarians in Transylvania could lead a harmonious, full-fledged life in Romania despite their minority status.
In 1973, he published the first Roma-portrait in Valóság. This was followed by a book in 1976 entitled Nine Gypsies (Autobiography reports). As the author himself noted, the purpose of the book was to construct a different representation of the Hungarian Roma, disputing prevalent stereotypical and mostly negative images of Roma and thereby perhaps promoting solidarity and acceptance of the Hungarian Roma. The book contains long portraits of nine Roma of various age groups (mostly young adults) and both genders. The anonymised characters speak about their life and work, including the issue of interethnic relationships between “Hungarians” and Roma (conflicts, assimilation), everyday discrimination, poverty, and integration into the new socialist society. As he did in his previous novels, Csalog created new, coherent narratives from the texts, and he strove to preserve the original voice/intonation of the speakers in Nine Gypsies. This poetic style was closely connected to a social program as well which was intended to help the Hungarian Roma.