Page 53 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 49

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On the basis o f Nadas’s delicate and realistic portrayals we can
be certain o f the Jewish origin o f the family, though not once
is this explicitly stated in the 535-page novel. His intention,
Nadas insists, was to depict a Hungarian or Central European
type, which he feels can be done without being more specific.
Ano ther — fa r less significant — Hungarian novel, Gyorgy
A koriimeteles
(The Circumcision), is also far less discreet.
A charm ing and ra th e r transparently satiric evocation o f Jewish
life in Stalinist Hungary, the novel is about the plight o f a young
boy, Robi Singer, who is placed in a Jewish orphanage af te r
the war. While his religious instructor urges him to undergo
circumcision before his bar mitzvah, his very flexible Jewish
g randm o the r teaches him to say with conviction and pride that
he is a “Hunga rian Jewish Communist.” Robi Singer’s main goal
in life is to bring together Hungarians and Jews. “After all,”
he says, “they speak the same language, and their fate is similar,
The case o f Gyorgy Spiro is equally interesting and somewhat
disturbing. A Jewish novelist and playwright, Spiro aroused the
ire o f many o f his fellow writers several years ago with a short
poem he published in a popu lar literary magazine. Entitled
“Here They Come,” the poem was a brazen frontal attack on
Jew-baiting “deep Hungarians” who were again on the march,
ready to pounce. Yet, Spiro claimed, “everyone cowers, every­
one’s scared / and it’s up to a few o f us puny ones / to prove
tha t not only the scum know Hunga rian .”14 At the time, some
Jews noted with satisfaction that for once one o f their own had
the temerity to be undiplomatic, bu t the general reaction was
unexpectedly vehement, and Spiro was accused o f offending
an en tire nation. In the intervening years public discourse on
anti-Semitism became more open and in some cases more stri­
dent. Spiro may have questioned the wisdom o f publishing that
combative poem, and in an appa ren t attemp t to prove that he
is not a typically defensive and oversensitive Jewish intellectual,
he published a long article recently on the “Jewish question”
that stunned many o f his readers. In it he maintains that talk
o f a sizable Jewish population in Hungary is a myth kept alive
by anti-Semites and grasping Jewish leaders hankering for fo r­
13. Gyorgy Dalos,
A koriilmeteles.
Budapest: Magveto Konyvkiado, 1990, p. 47.
14. Gyorgy Spiro, “Jonnek.” In
Mozgo Vilag
13:4 (April, 1987): 45.