Page 51 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

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SANDERS /JEWISH REVIVAL IN CENTRAL EUROPE
43
Ano ther recent Hungarian Holocaust novel, Janos
Nyiri’s Bat­
tlefields and Playgrounds,
first published in English in London,
is also in ten t on not becoming yet ano ther harrow ing account
o f dea th camp experiences. Rather than produc ing a chronicle
o f all-too-familiar horrors, Nyiri, a London-based expatriate
Hungarian , has written an ambitious if flawed social novel
whose real focus is the mutual distrust and hostility that existed
between H unga ry ’s traditional provincial Jews and their more
assimilated, better-off, urban coreligionists — a hostility exac­
erbated ra the r than eased by the dangers both groups faced
in war-torn H unga ry .11 T h e re is yet ano ther type o f Holocaust
literature, one tha t approaches its subject with disquieting gal­
lows humor. Miklos Vamos’s new novel,
Jaj!
(Oy! 1989), for
example, is a moderately amusing fantasy about a g roup o f war­
time Jewish deportees that suddenly finds itself in contemporary
Budapest. T h e novel details their vicissitudinous adjustment to
present-day Hungarian reality.
IDENTITY CRISIS
In grappling yet again with their “Jewish problem ,” some o f
Hungary’s finest writers continue to make valiant attempts to
justify their assimilationist stance, agonizing over the relevance
o f a to them too-distant and alien tradition. The novelist and
translator Laszlo Marton has recently published an earnest and
r a th e r to r tu o u s (and m u ch -d iscu ssed ) essay e n t i t le d
Kivalasztottak es elvegyiilok
(The Chosen and the Assimilated), in
which he poses the following question: “Can anyone be faulted
for not wishing to take note o f his ethnic origins, either because
he doesn’t consider it important, o r because he simply feels it’s
too much o f a burden? Furthermore , can anyone who fears
possible stigmatization be blamed for denying those origins or
at least remaining quiet about them , ceasing thereby ceasing
to consider himself a Jew?” Marton answers all these questions
with an unequivocal though by no means painless n o .12
discussion o f Hungarian Jewish literature, see my “Sequals and Revisions:
The Hungarian Jewish Experience in Recent Hungarian Literature.” In
Soviet Jewish Affairs,
14:1 (February, 1984): 31-45.
11. For the Hungarian version o f this novel, see Janos Nyiri,
Madarorszag.
Bu­
dapest: Makkabi — Teka, 1990.
12. Laszlo Marton,
Kivalasztottak es elvegyiilok
(The Chosen and the Assimilated).