by Sándor Szathmári

translated from Esperanto by Ralph Dumain

About that time I received a visit from my brother Vincent.

His visit of course took me by surprise and I told him so. He asked me not to be angry on account of his coldness and to consider that he as a bishop could not act according to his own preferences. He insisted that he was bound by his position and status and that I should keep this in mind and consider the implications of what could happen to him on account of his association with me. It would be fatal for him and no boon to me. As things stood, though, he had the confidence of the pope and he really could help me if I were endangered, and I ought to think about that, standing in the shadow of danger all the time.

Naturally, I am not a naive man: I accepted his words with a smile. I knew the thrust of his approach: he believed that I had the new pope's confidence and he was after the details to turn to his own advantage.

You know that I am not particularly accustomed to restraining my tongue, (which is why I get into trouble all the time), and I didn't keep my thoughts to myself this time either. He looked at me sadly.

"May God pardon your ingratitude," he said, "and never force you to be convinced of my sincere brotherly love. I know your heart is pure; your intentions are always pure, altruistic, but you are a child, perpetually out of control, who can't behave himself and who can only be helped by someone who conceals his feelings because you will drag your benefactor with you down into the pit with your thoughtlessness. I am not gong to conceal the reason for my visit: because you have the confidence of His Holy Majesty. But I don't want to exploit that for my own gain. You yourself will not be able to exploit your advantage, you will squander it before long, so that again it will be dangerous for me to have anything to do with you. But I have wanted to reestablish fraternal contact for a long time; I wanted to see you and embrace you and now is the one moment I can do it without fear."

I shrugged my shoulders. I knew my brother better than to trust him completely. I was sure he wasn't really my enemy, but I was convinced that at the moment when his interests demanded it he would disown me without the slightest hesitation, as he had already openly admitted.

"At last there is no reason for us to quarrel," I said. "I myself would never disown you, so please feel welcome."

I felt a tinge of regret that I had voiced my opinion crudely, and to soothe him I told him of my audience with Pope Urban and my fruitless endeavors.

My brother was really annoyed: if the pope commissioned me (or, as he put it, "gave me permission") to glorify his regime, why didn't I seize the opportunity?

With amazement I asked what kind of acts could I praise to verify "the construction of the new, truly Christian world." He responded by explaining that everything that serves the Church leaders strengthens the reign of Christ in the end. I need to reflect: if the loyal Church and state rulers did not strenuously fortify their armaments, then the Turks would conquer the world, or even worse, the heretics would.

"Christ did not want a superpower," I objected. "Christ did not want Christian flags to flutter on the ramparts and all other insignias to be trampled into the mud; he wanted peace, mercy, and humility. I recognize that our humiliation would only entail the heavy-handed rule of foreigners. Let's suppose then, that only by hating hatred and trampling the enemies of love into the dust can we bring about the reign of love. But did the Christian prince of Urbino have to be exiled for that? Well, that would be pardonable were the prince's property to be distributed among the poor, as Jesus defined the way to heavenly bliss for wealthy youth. But the poor became poorer still and the prince's treasures only multiplied the incalculable wealth of the Barberini family."

"Your sacrilegious words are terrible!" My brother grew indignant. "Apparently you don't know that His Holy Majesty's windfall in this affair was very modest. Although he had every right to the bounty, he commissioned the Jesuit General Viteleschi to investigate the propriety of the endowments. The General ascertained that all was in order, even modest, following a thorough inquiry."

I stared at my brother in disbelief.

"Could you really be so naive or would you hide the truth even from me? Can you imagine a servant who would judge his master otherwise? Oh, I already know that you saw through this pseudo-judgment! Didn't you notice that Urban compensated the Jesuits by completing the canonization of Holy Ignatius and strengthening their power in the Inquisition? Oh yes, you know all about it, but your interest is in flattering the pope, and you have proved that you approve everything uncritically. And that is the weakness of every despot: his flatterers are so insistent on the stupidity of the people that he himself ends up believing it and is finally toppled because of it.

My brother gave me another sad look.

"I can't be angry with you," he said, "because your heart is pure. I'm afraid no one will be able to keep you out of trouble, but I believe I can help you better if I speak in total honesty. Well, I'll give it a try; I ask only that you not misuse my sincerity with which I now put myself into your hands. Tell no one what I am about to say; don't drag me into the pit. Can you promise that?"

I didn't know what he was after, but his words really took me by surprise. He had not spoken sincerely up to this point, and now I was about to peek beneath the mask of his words. Or would I only find another mask underneath?

Well, I promised complete confidentiality. (For this reason alone I'm asking you to destroy my letter or hide it until after both of us are dead. I would not have the courage to write to anyone besides you.)

"So," my brother began, "your greatest error is that you think the reign of Christ is ever going to come."

I stared at him.

"Don't be so indignant that a bishop who announces His arrival on a daily basis should say that. But now I'm talking to you: and believe me that I who do not believe in or prepare for this arrival, have served it better than you, who run around chasing mirages, giving others the opportunity again and again to trample all over it."

"How so?"

"Do you imagine that the meek will inherit? The meek are meek because they don't aspire to conquer. But ambition is one of man's ineradicable character traits: education may possibly carve pious, complacent freemen out of the majority of people, so that love will enter their hearts and they will resign from forging ahead by smashing their neighbors. These people stop fighting, but there is always a residue of malefactors who exploit the piety of the majority to suppress them. It makes sense then that the evil are the most fervent apostles of peace, love, and gentleness--to disarm their chosen victims. Preaching gentleness is the best weapon of the malicious against the meek. The dominion of love is a fantasy; one can only choose between two possibilities: others trample me, or I trample them."

"Naturally, you opt for the latter."

"To be honest, yes."

"Undoubtedly, a personal moral philosophy to justify your conduct."

"Enough already! Am I right or not?"

"However much it might be that way, people also have moral obligations to their neighbors and not only material or temporal aims."

"Are you borrowing philosophy from me? Remember: I said the same thing when you insisted that your theory is objective, unchangeable fact and it must be published. Yes, I said that there are not only objective facts but moral obligations as well. Well, I confess I said that not from conviction but only to keep you from jumping into jaws of a tiger. Now who is more realistic?"

"Well, let's discuss my theory and agree that men must fight one another. But how could I offend the powerful with my theory? There is not a single word in it that dictates that the clergy is not to create a monopoly or that Barberini should not steamroll other people. Why don't I have the right to publish?"

"Why? It may not be harmful, but it also is not useful. And power loves a positive achievement. Don't expect neutrality in neutral matters, because the individual path is always suspect: why don't you dance to the same tune, what does this malcontent want? I know your theory doesn't contradict the Scriptures, only the clergy discovered something to demonstrate a motive for their antipathy. Once again I'm warning you: disavow your theory."

"And once again I tell you: I cannot. It doesn't depend on me. And I should renounce it now, when the pope is good to me?"

"The Pope is a pope and not Cardinal Barberini."

"Exactly. So much the more he can do for me."

"He is neither able nor willing to do anything for you. But you will never understand that, so I won't bother to explain; I only recommend that you write your book fast."

I smiled.

"Believe me, I tried several times. Of course, only to smooth the way for the publication of my own ideas. I started to write many times, but my pen always stopped."

"I feel sorry for you, and I will try to help you if you let me. I will write it and you present it to the pope. I know people, I know how to treat them, and I know what you should write. If you pass up this chance, you will bungle your whole career. May I help you then?"

"No! Not that way!" I cried. "I would be grateful if you wrote it instead of me, but you must understand that my name can never be printed on it. It might bring glory to you, but to me it would only bring shame. Write it. Present it if you are so inclined, say that I asked you to fulfill the commission instead of me because I rate your capabilities superior to mine, but leave my name out of it."

My brother stood up.

"It is terribly hard to help you, but it will be as you wish. I'll use your permission and act as you advised. I was honest, I put myself in your hands, and you can ruin me any time. I hope that you will not misuse my trust."

I assured him of that and we parted peacefully.

My brother's book soon appeared with the title A Floral Crown for the Glorious Forehead of Pope Urban.

I could see at once of course that the book would be another hymnal panegyric, but never could I have imagined such boldfaced falsifications and sophistries of the most shameful boot-licking sort which my brother had the gall to put into that book.

Need I even mention that he recorded the occupation of Urbino as an act of Urban's immortal virtue, as an expansion of the reign of Christ, effected exclusively for the glory of God?

That he calls the extermination of the Protestants a powerful restoration of Christian teachings is barely tolerable. But Pope Urban also had a run-in with Catholic Austria and Spain, not ashamed to ally himself with the inconstant Richelieu against them, and with the Protestant King Gustav Adolph to cap it all, and as a consequence of that alliance he had to make a peace treaty humiliating the Catholics. Well, my brother described everything as if the pope had initiated the peace negotiations out of magnanimity and was gracious to the vanquished out of a yet greater magnanimity.

The epithet "magnanimous" was strewn throughout the book almost as abundantly as "peace" and "love", most likely because in this respect his soul was most inconveniently stained. He virtually burst over the Mantovan war of succession: the pope enthroned the Prince of Nevers by fighting against the Spanish-Austrian interests, and when the offended powers occupied Mantova, he persuaded Richelieu to attack them. The massacre of Catholic inhabitants and the holocaust in the villages were, according to the book, a "labor of peace" performed in the humble service of Christ, and Pope Urban was consequently named the "Pope of Peace."

This, however, was nothing compared to the impudence with which my brother poured mud onto the reign of Paul V. He, who at one time lavished praise on Pope Paul, now without a blush recalled his regime as a reign of Satanic despotism. He revealed the magnitude of the treasure and estates the pope turned over to his family and how many debts he incurred as he skinned the people. But he did not write one word about the fact that this is still going on, and on an even larger scale! As far as present circumstances were concerned, he remembered only the construction of the reign of Christ.

But how would Urban receive the book?

I could imagine that all that flattery could wipe out unpleasant memories and that Urban would forgive Vincent for his past, but the book must have been irritating for its excessive praise.

No, I thought, the pope could not approve of that book. Reading the book one could not avoid thinking of contemporary analogies; one could not know whether to be indignant or to laugh. Moreover, the lies were so transparent the whole thing appeared to be a lampoon whose excessive compliments were aimed at making Urban look ridiculous and arousing hatred against him.

I really thought that the book's purpose was to ridicule his misdeeds. And that my brother was a noble-hearted man as he demonstrated during his visit. But then he was hanging by a thread and I pitied him doubly; even his demise could fatally influence my life, although I was still expecting a lot from Pope Urban.

But my brother's fate was not sealed as I had thought.

What followed exceeded my mst preposterous fantasies.

A few weeks later I was informed that Vincent received ... a cardinal's hat.

I was forced to conclude that the stupidity of the despot is unlimited. Apparently he gobbles up all compliments--and this is the greatest blindness--he even believes that everyone will believe them and no one will think of comparing them to reality. The despot is thus even more stupid than the people, because he regards them as more stupid than he himself.

My brother knew this very well, and again he had taken an excellent position. And in spite of my total nausea, I began to look at my brother with a certain esteem, despite what he did, because after all one needs a special genius for that. If I had attempted to write that book, it most likely would not have pleased the pope, no matter what lies I could dream up in his favor.

Now, again I did not know what to think of my brother. He seemed to be well-intentioned when he was at my house, and he knew the truth and acted falsely only to secure his position. He seemed then to understand me completely, even to approve my principles. He even confided in me and told me what he really thought; as he said, he "put himself in my hands."

But did he really put himself in my hands? There was no witness to our discussion present, and who would believe it if I were to tell anyone? I would be branded as a slanderer. It may have been that the whole visit and "confidence" took place only so that he, knowing of the papal commission, could write the work the pope demanded.

"Oh, it makes no difference," I thought.

I approached the publication of my theories. My brother had fulfilled my commission instead of me; I was free from that bothersome task and Urban was satisfied.

I felt that I must now take action. The pope was my benefactor, even my friend at one time. However, I didn't want to abuse the situation; so as not to provoke Urban, I began working on my book taking even more scrupulous caution than before. I decided that I would not touch on the authority of the dogmas, nor would I criticize the revelations of the prophets, but would treat the problem totally scientifically, as a topic having nothing in common with the affairs of the Church.

You know well the book I then wrote that in short order was referred to only as the Dialog. In it three people discuss the Copernican theory: Salviati, the rational scientist who knows the truth of the movement of the planets; Sagredo, the inquisitive party; and Simplicio, who, as his name shows, is a simple soul with a muddied brain who obstinately persists in the old dogmas, immune to education.

Not a word was contained about the Church or the Bible. I refuted only the cosmological conceptions of the pagan Aristotle. I really believed that this book was so non-provocative, so totally neutral, that it could not incite any admonition.

You know what happened nevertheless. The Officium Sanctum cited me in Rome and informed me unceremoniously that I was a prisoner of the Inquisition, my fate would be decided in a few days, and I would he held under house arrest.

The world spun around me. I simply did not believe what was happening. I was certain the entire proceedings was a plot on the part of my enemies, who wanted me to disappear clandestinely before the pope found out what had happened to me. I strenuously objected and expressed my suspicions. But the Jesuit Father on the case declared that the instruction came directly from the pope. I insisted I didn't believe it and demanded he take me to the pope.

The Father leaned close to me and whispered:

"Believe me, I pity you, our friend. You may not be remember me. I saw you 22 years ago when you were accused of the same crimes. At that time, in Pope Paul's time, we recognized your right to teach your theory. But now things are different: Pope Urban is much more strict about Church discipline. Many have already intervened on your behalf, but we were crudely rebuffed by His Holy Majesty, and now no one has the courage to attempt it."

I responded that the accused has a right to request an audience to determine the situation for himself. It cannot be dangerous for someone to communicate such a request.

"Well, I'll give it a try," he responded after some deliberation.

The following day he returned, and in the company of two Jesuits he led me into the Vatican. A half-hour later I kneeled before the papal throne.

"Holy Father," I began, but Urban interrupted:

"Not a word!" The he turned to his priests. "The culprit was allowed to be informed of our order. Take him away and fulfill your duty to God and to the Holy Church just as we ordered."

"Only one word, Holy Father," I begged, but the pope gave the signal and his priests took me away.

I did not know whether I was dead or alive.

When I returned to my cell, the priest told me with great sympathy:

"You had the chance to hear it with your own ears. Now do you believe it?"

I fell helpless onto my bed of straw.

"What happened? What will happen to me?"

"The grace of God is limitless. We must have faith in it."

So you're trying to tell me that I can forget about my trust in men and that I've lost."

"I don't know anything. Let's wait to the end."

He left me alone and nobody paid attention to me for a few days.

On the fourth day the cell door opened and in stepped ... my brother!

At first I was puzzled when I saw him. His behavior had been so mysterious, I didn't know whether he wanted to help me or lead me to the scaffold. But in the next moment, I jumped up and embraced him, crying. He was my brother in the end, and I wanted to know what happened the last four days.

Vincent gently but without any emotion whatsoever sat me on the bed and sat down next to me on a chair.

"I came," he began, "to save your life if that is at all possible."

I gazed into his eyes with anticipation.

"To save me? Can I believe you?"

"I am your brother."

"True. But that book ... the Floral Crown."

"Exactly! That book! That's what has preserved you until now. Without it you would have already burned at the stake."

Now he lowered his voice and whispered. "Enable me to speak honesty. Promise me full confidentiality and you will see that I acted well."

I was ready to listen, and this is what he said:

Go to Part Three
Click here to return to Part One

* * *


Translated March 1970
Transcribed & edited 16-24 November 2000

English translation copyright by Ralph Dumain ©1970, 2000
All rights reserved.

More about Sándor Szathmári in English & Esperanto:

Sándor Szathmári @ Esperanto Study Guide / Esperanto-Gvidilo


Sándor Szathmári - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Kazohinia - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sándor Szathmári [in English], Literatura Galerio de Esperanto

Vojaĝo al Kazohinio de Sándor Szathmári, reviewed by / recenzis Jim Henry
     review in English
     recenzo en Esperanto

Kazohinia by Sándor Szathmári,
translated by Inez Kemenes
(Szathmári's masterwork in English!)

Postscript by Dezsõ Keresztury

Voyage to Kazohinia
(New Europe Books)

Sandor Szathmari. Satiraj rakontoj

Sándor Szathmári - Vikipedio

Vojaĝo al Kazohinio - Vikipedio

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