The third pilgrimage also slips into the Hungarian goulash. It already starts with an inability to decide which poet to turn to, as I have three Hungarian examples: Csoóri, Juhász and József. We drove to the Bükk Mountains and it turns out that Attila József stayed in a hotel in Lillafüred and wrote a famous poem there. My idea was to do the same, but the hotel is too expensive, as the days when Hungary was cheap are in the distant past.
We are about a hundred kilometres from the Ukrainian border. Now and then some military equipment flies over. In the streets we see more and more men in military uniforms, but they are not army men. It is the stereotypical Larry Leafblower who has taken his uniform from the attic and is now marching around in a militant way to signal that after corona he is once again experiencing great social benefits. We drove by and he made a sarcastic bow. Yesterday the landlady called in a panic: petrol is rationed here, whether we had enough petrol to get away again. So no, the war is not passing me by, in fact I am quite close to it.
Yesterday we went to Eger. That is said to be one of the most beautiful Hungarian towns. I’m still trying to enjoy it but I’m tired of travelling. Too many places, too many impressions. Just an enormous need to process all that, but I don’t have a place to call home to do that. The nomadic existence is certainly fascinating, but it has its own tragedies and difficulties.
Back to the pilgrimage. So I decided to go to Eger to stock up on all the Juhász books they had in a nice bookstore, just like I did with Can Yücel. But oh no, here too the bookstores have been replaced by….hmm…something with a hospital atmosphere and only new books. Went to the biggest bookshop in Eger. Found it on google maps, turned out to be in a huge shopping centre. They had a bookcase with poetry, but not a single book by Juhász or Pilinszky or Csoóri. A whole cupboard full of…well, no idea. It can’t be much if you leave out the best poets. So I bought a book by Attila József at a street stall, the only book of poetry there was. I don’t know what those shops are, they imitate bookshops, but they are not bookshops at all. Imitation. Fake. Impossible for a real bookshop not to stock the best.
I repeat: if you don’t stock the best writers, you are not a bookshop at all.
Yet another point that only earns a hollow, pitying glance from a nihilist. A cupboard full of Flemish poetry without Paul Snoek is…yes, what is that….a strange cupboard, a flupcupboard. A strange country too, because during his lifetime, Mr Snoek could not enjoy any of the benefits that his superior abilities generated: he was completely ignored by even then so ‘pleasant’ colleagues, innumerable great talents who strangely enough disappear like snow in the sun after their death. So-called natural selection, in reality a political construct.
No Juhász. The greatest poet is missing from every bookstore. The Book Mountains, it turns out, are not ideal for books. Where the Turks, twenty years after Yücel’s death, still had not made a collected work, the fate of the great poet is even sadder here, there is not a single book left to be found. Betrayal is in the air here, the betrayal of literature and the sell-out of a generation.
And then, outside, you come across a wonderful example of Hungarian marketing:
And opposite, you can pull ‘pokets’ from the machine. Is this the future of all literature?
No, the result of my pilgrimage is a selected verse by Attila József. The man was fortunately born in time for it.
And so, for the time being, my series of pilgrimages comes to an end. Shipwrecked, on the brink of perhaps the third world war. No doubt enough experiences collected to fill my new book of poetry, but first my book SHROOOOOMMMMM or was it SHHHHHHHROOM? The latter, to symbolise silence, the secret of all magic.