4. Experience of the world

The Dutch language is small like the Hungarian. As a language of traders it had swung the door open to foreign words: a Dutch dictionary is filled with them. But it also went overseas and became the language of a colonial power. Some authors and intellectuals, perhaps the best, integrated the experience of the colonial world, like Multatuli and Couperus.

Hungarians and their language had a different fortune. They were absorbed into the Austrian empire and started to compete with Vienna. Budapest had been created as a rejection of smallness. But it shared the Viennese experience of the suicide of Europe and was reduced to smallness again.

So for poets that stayed, smallness became a condition, if one had no wish to migrate to the world of America like Márai.

The poets that wanted not to be condemned to silence as their ‘natural’ language, instead took to minimalism and even the secret language of underground thinking. Like Pilinszky in his poem ‘Ravensbrück’ about a solitary execution in a concentration camp, where the executed would not speak.