My friends had gone to look for the statue of the poet who had committed suicide in the thirties. I had half an hour of reflection. What had changed since I first brought Hungarian poets like Weöres and Pilinszky to Rotterdam in the sixties. Meulenhoff had dedicated an anthology to the event. The book was called the Tower of Silence. At home I still owned a volume dedicated by Sándor Csoóri in his incomprehensible language.
The tower of silence. At the time one would think of communist censorship. But the roots of the silence lay deeper. In Hungary there existed a feeling of separation, of not speaking a language of Europe. The language had come from afar, from Central Asia, and though absorbing the institutions of the Roman Empire, had stuck to its foreign identity. Battles had been fought and lost to defend it; Hungary had been a part of the Austrian Empire and so of the German world. But after two suicidal world wars Europe had been reduced to smallness. And Hungary even more.
Hungary had, like the Netherlands, adapted. Knowing that it was small it had showed its talents on the world stage. Especially in the thirties it had reacted by artistic migration. Such as to the Bauhaus of Weimar. Or in the Second World War with war-photographers like Capa.
Sándor Márai had gone later, seeing that his country had become small. But he left behind a description of the many local talents that did not want to or could not leave. Smallness was no reason to give up and accept silence.