1. Budapest

In a sense this meditation resembles the fate of Hungary. It was written in a moment of inspiration and then completely wiped out, by a technical error. The draft still floats around in my mind as a dream but also as a thing of the past. Can one revisit an imaginary country?

I had visited Budapest before. The past had seemed more present than the present. The shoes of the Jews killed on the banks of the Danube had been eternalised in metal and were signalling an eternal emptiness, like the ‘stumble stones’ (Stolpersteine) of Berlin evoke the emptiness of the apartments behind the doorbell, where the murdered lived.

The past seemed still much cared for. The parliament I remembered as a place of agitation and demonstration, of slogans and placards, now had the tranquillity of a restored park. The epic bronze statues had been returned to their historical places. The flowerbeds separating the public space from the streets below with benches, had a touch of New York’s Highline where the disused railroad had been transformed in a walk to get an evening breeze from the Hudson.

In a park nearby Attila Joszef, an unhappy poet of the thirties, was pictured as gazing toward the river. Poetry was taught at school so that in the evening a Hungarian friend could recite eternal poems from memory. The poet had thrown himself under a locomotive. But the clear water of his poetry had burst through the vessel of his lonely language and still spoke.

Today not so much the past seemed present, but the present.

More than the urn, the water seemed to be moving.