by Sándor Szathmári

translated from Esperanto by Ralph Dumain

"At first, I tried asking others to intervene on your behalf--my good friends in the higher clergy. I hoped for a greater impact coming from an apparently important place.

"At first the pope listened patiently to the end, but decidedly refused. The second time, he interrupted their first words and angrily ordered silence. Afterwards, he got so angry at every attempt to intervene that no one dared to dared to try again. Any further experiment would have been more detrimental than helpful to you.

"Then I decided to attempt it personally, no matter what the cost. I know how to deal with people in power; I planned every word I was going to say, with extreme caution. But then when I knelt before the throne, I forgot everything. Your burning body haunted me before my very eyes. I started to cry and I couldn't speak because of my sobbing.

"Urban knew perfectly well why I came and said coldly:

"'Our dear son, it is a shame to waste time with superfluous commentaries. Anticipating you, we already decided that you must answer one question: did your brother write the Dialog or not? If you prove that he didn't write it, you can continue speaking; if not, don't waste your breath.'

"Often, you know, when we are in the greatest danger, our equilibrium is returned to us and the most appropriate words come to us. That happened at this moment as well.

"'I never saw the manuscript of the Dialog, Holy Father,' I said to Urban, 'but I know that half of the Floral Crown, appearing under my name, was written by my brother.'

"My answer surprised Urban. But somewhat suspiciously he asked:

"'How is that? Only your name is found on the book.'

"'Judge me with full severity, Holy Father...Guilt has made me rectify my old sin.'

"'What sin?'

"'Your Holy Majesty knows that once I wrote an unfortunate book about Pope Paul, full of errors.'

"'Forget it! I pardoned you a long time ago.'

"'Your Holy Majesty's lenience is boundless, but my guilty conscience was also very strong, and gnawed on me more sharply day by day, because my old deficiencies I had repressed so assiduously I recognized only much later, and now I see clearly how high the flag of Our Holy Christ has been raised under the rule of Your Holy Majesty.'

"'The glory is to Christ, who gave us the strength to serve him,' he said with conspicuous modesty, and I rushed to seize the moment by spouting some enthusiastic words about his actions. And feeling that I had sufficiently smoothed the way, I again took up the subject of our business.

"'So I wanted to make amends for my sin in every way I could think of, by writing about the present, but I felt that my pen was too weak to do justice to so much glory. Then it happened that I visited my brother, and he mentioned that he was busy working on the very same thing, with the favored permission of my Holy Father. He produced the manuscript and with shame I had to look at the enthusiastic elan of his words, and this is where my sin began. I begged my brother to let me do the book by proxy, and he--Your Holy Majesty indeed knows he never sought glory--good-heartedly agreed; he simply gave me the pages already written, allowing his name to be omitted from the book.'

"I saw that my words had shaken him. Scolding me, he said:

"'Nevertheless, nevertheless, you should also have signed your brother's name.'

"'I had too many faults to rectify and I wanted to prove that, recognizing the facts, I had spontaneously come to a greater certainty.'

"'At the cost of a new sin ...'

"I would never have believed before that I would ever enjoy being admonished by the pope. I wanted to rejoice, for leniency towards you rang in his words. Again I burst into tears. Urban certainly thought it was out of conscience. And I hastened to exploit the situation.

"'Judge me harshly, Your Holy Majesty,' I answered. I know I'm guilty and I see an omen also in that my brother has stood before the Inquisition. I could not bear calmly enjoying the favor of Your Holy Majesty at the cost of my brother's destruction, whom I can thank for the most part for that favor, and who is an even more enthusiastic supporter of Your Holy Majesty.'

"Well, as it happened," my brother ended, "Urban softened."

I listened with mixed emotions. I had no doubt that everything happened as he said, and I was touched and full of gratitude. Nevertheless it was not pleasing that I would have to be spared at the cost of accepting those false compliments and nauseating flatteries as mine. I could not protest, since I would betray and endanger my brother. I said nothing in response and my brother continued:

"But don't think he pardoned you for the Dialog."

"Why not?" I cried. "Whom did I offend and how?"

"I asked the same question, though not so crudely. Urban answered that in the Dialog a primitive character named Simplicio plays a part, and several people called to Urban's attention that through that character you intended to ridicule him."

"Who said such a ridiculous thing?"

"I couldn't pose that question, but it makes no difference. Maybe nobody. Possibly the Jesuits, who wanted to suppress your book. I told Urban he should send whoever said that to the stake; since he thought to recognize the pope in that image, he was only betraying his sordid opinion of His Holy Majesty. But most likely the pope simply wanted to do away with you because of your theory, and because he had previously supported that theory, he now used that pretext."

"That's even more absurd. If my theory makes him angry, why did he once support it?"

"He was not pope then."

"But why does my innocent theory bother him now?"

"Even now you're so naive? I once told you that power cannot remain neutral in neutral affairs. Whoever is neutral in relation to power is an enemy, even if he is not an enemy. That's all he's thinking about, because whoever behaves that way just might begin to become aware of things he shouldn't."

"All right. But now tell me what the pope decided. Will I be punished?"

"Not at all. You will receive no punishment. You must only make penitence."

"I'll pour ashes on my head, tear my clothes to shreds, crawl on my knees before the altar and fast, if only I may announce my theory!"

My brother exploded with laughter.

"Oh holy simplicity! Don't you understand that that is exactly what you don't have the right to do? You must renounce your theory with an oath; that is your penitence."

I was horror-stricken.

"Renounce it? Shall I drive the sun from the sky? I should do such a thing, indeed!"

"And that is what you must do; otherwise you die."

I thought about it for a few minutes.

"I shall die on the stake!" I cried with decided finality. "If I am made a martyr, I will be vindicated with so much greater honor by posterity! Christianity also spread thanks to the blood of its martyrs, who are now honored as saints and beatified persons!"

"Dear brother, Christianity spread when it was already no longer Christianity, but a buttress for the new empire. Besides, how many martyrs are recorded in history? A few dozen. But who knows the names of the many thousands thrown to the lions, and of the many hundred thousands who were simply impaled by a soldier with his iron? We, of course, who proudly honor some martyrs, erroneously believe that martyrdom invariably brings fame for centuries. However, the most worthy of men have disappeared without being remembered in any way, men who did not know how to advertise themselves and their actions, but lived in the truest Christian humility and disseminated their material and spiritual treasures in a manner that the left hand did not know what the right was doing."

"Oh, but I'm not afraid of disappearing, for the world already knows me! They have read my book; others have taught my theory!"

"Ah, you eternal child! Who's taught your theory?"

"Kepler, for instance."

"Yes, yes, the astronomer from Graz. But he is already dead. Who else?"

"Well... at the moment nobody. But Kepler was a scientist of considerable importance!"

"Yes, I went east; I know about that. Some time ago you said that you greeted him in a letter following the appearance of his book on heavenly harmony, which announced principles similar to yours. But his impudence was less unreasonable, because he taught in the Protestant university at Graz. What happened, though? He was accused of atheism and banished. And he didn't know where to go. To Geneva maybe, to the Calvinists so they could burn him , just as they did to the other scientist Servet? To the Lutheran countries? Luther was also a vicious enemy of Copernicus. Kepler finally took refuge in Hungary, and from there he wrote a letter of petition to Prague, solemnly promising that he would disclaim everything, if they would let him live there as a God-fearing, pious foreigner. So he went to Prague, afterwards to Linz, and there he said not one word about the revolution of the Earth, but limited himself to calculating the orbits of the planets. And even that was too much. He was banished from Linz, too, and he had to keep wandering. Now Wallenstein the warlord accepted him into his house, but he too could not tolerate the fact that Kepler, besides casting horoscopes for him, would occupy himself with scientific research. Soon he had to leave there as well,. And died on the road, forsaken. I know from one of his acquaintances that in his childhood he used to say this to his grandfather: 'You will see, grandpa, I'll be an emperor some day!' But he said that as a child and not at the age of 70, as you do, an eternal child. Kepler, of considerable importance, has nothing to report anymore."

"So not Kepler, but the Dialog itself."

"The Dialog? Who read it? Well, first of all the Jesuit censors, but evidently to smother it, not spread it. They destroyed every copy they could find, but don't think they did it with a loud drum roll. Everything transpired in the greatest secrecy. Furthermore, it was just luck that your book could be even be published in a few hundred copies. At the time there was a transitory period of laxity, but you can be sure you will never succeed a second time. Do you believe that those ten dozen copies in the cupboards of your readers will preserve your name? They themselves might read it and become your enthusiastic adepts. But someday they will die, and their sons will burn the book, never having read or appreciated it. At the most it will take two generations for you to be forgotten completely. Or maybe people will know about you: you donated a telescope to Venice and a microscope to the Polish King Sigismund. See how you must behave! In a way that will get you orders and prizes and extend your renown. In a way that the world will remember your achievements, and not in a way that you will collide with the powers that be who will trample you. As for your theory--so what? The Earth must turn without a theory; it will not stop turning."

I was hammered by his words, but I would not give in.

"Maybe my theory could be eradicated from public knowledge in two generations. But can you possibly imagine that this system stood on its head could hold up so long? Do you believe that this unstable construct of violence and falsehood will not collapse first? A man could not be found who would not hate that inferno of malice and fraud that Urban has created. How long can such an abomination be tolerated?"

He looked at me in amazement.

"It is apparent that the scientific mind does not agree with social sense. However, this too is a science. I understand that the half-wits are floating in a fog of dreams, even whispering about fixed dates when the French Huguenots will storm out of secret arsenals, kill the perfidious king, and then gallop through Italy. They know exactly when the English, with Swedish support, will attack Emperor Ferdinand to install Friedrich, the exiled crown prince of Pfalz, on the throne to get revenge for the massacre of Graubunden. But you, who keep busy with physics, should understand reality."

"I'm not hoping for an English invasion, but I know that the cup finally runs over and that men cannot forever be tormented in a way that they are at the same time forced to be jubilant about. The human spirit will some day awaken into self-consciousness."

"If you hoped for an English invasion, you would only be naive, but now I must call you stupid. Do you anticipate the awakening of the spirit? If such indeed could be hoped for, the world would have become Protestant and republican a long time ago. And what do you see as an alternative? Not long ago Archduke Ferdinand was the only one in Graz who took communion with a host and today there is not one Protestant to be found. Whoever was not converted was driven out and his property confiscated. In Graubunden the fanatical peasants exterminated the inhabitants and transferred the city to the monarchist Spaniards. In Poland not only did Protestantism come to an end, but the Orthodox were Romanized as well. The old governments disappeared, despots who sat on the necks of the people were replaced by new despots with the armed support of the people. And meanwhile that same people moans and complains and waits for the day to rebel and set a new despot on its neck. The Czechs were conquered at White Mountain near Prague because the alliance of the Protestant rulers only incited the Czechs but did nothing for them. The Huguenots in turn were incited by the English to rebel. The English even put on a show with their fleet. And when the Huguenots actually began to fight, the English fleet vanished without a trace, and the English peaceably allowed the fortress of La Rochelle to fall and the Huguenots to be exterminated. But to preach they know something about human rights and the liberation of conscience. They know how to agitate others to scurry to their deaths for their own sordid interests. For that reason many Protestants say that they hate only the English more than the pope."

I wanted to interrupt him several times, but I felt I would not know what to say: my every word would only represent a stubborn struggle of a defeated man and would only make me ridiculous. So silently I searched for rebuttals.

"Well, then," he continued, "such a process has now been brought to fruition. Be reasonable and look around. Do you imagine that this situation will be reversed, or that even a trend toward freedom will break its way into the Catholic world? Two generations from now no one will know any more about Kepler, Copernicus, and you, that you lived and thought about the movement of the planets, let alone read your book. Do you know what people will read? During the next pope's reign they will read my panegyric of Pope Paul, because after Urban the new pope of course will condemn Urban and vindicate Paul. Under his successor they will read the Floral Crown; under the succeeding popes they will read them both since both of them will be covered by the veil of history. They both will be made resources and bases for the papal power of the moment. They both will be made into seminary textbooks, just as the books of the Fathers Heribert Rosweyde and Bolland about the acts of the saints over a thousand years ago are now, which contain the same manufactured miracles as the glorious acts I concocted in my books."

I sat down, defeated, not able to say a thing.

"What then should you do?" he continued. "The only rational thing is to do what I do. To take measures--if evil is already in charge--to obtain some of the spoils. At least I use them for honest purposes occasionally, as you now see. But you are much more honest than you are reasonable, so I won't ask you to follow my example. I ask only that you not instigate people to think. In that way I may succeed in getting them to let you live, but prepare yourself for this: you as a suspect will be under constant watch. If you live in retirement, you will be saved. You can always think--in fact I think the same as you do. I have risked everything for you; I have definitively put myself into your hands, because if you refuse the conditions of your liberty, then it will become obvious that I lied about your loyalty and I will perish along with you. My fate is at your disposal--decide!"

There was some obstinacy left in me, but his last words broke me. No! After all this I could not defy my brother, and where would my defiance get me?

You know the rest: on the 22nd of January 1633, in the Church of Santa Maria Sopre la Minerva, I disavowed the truth, under oath. I now live under the control of the Inquisition. At first I lived in Rome, afterwards at Siena; finally, they gave me permission to return to Florence, the city of my ancestors, but I could live only outside the city, in the villa of Arcetri, and every day I must pray under priestly supervision.

Do you despise me? Certainly not more than I often do myself. But, having thought through what would happen if I persisted in the truth, I had to recognize it would be senseless; sooner or later the darkness would swallow everything. Before long no one will know there once there lived a man named Galileo Galilei, who taught the orbital motion of the planets and even declared that facts are above dogmas. The world will know the name of Galilei only through my brother, who has established his immortality in two grandiose works.

My sole desire now is to lie in the Church of Santa Croce after my death. But when I mentioned it, the priest--my guardian and supervisor--indignantly crossed himself. My ashes in a church!

Well, no matter. Live in peace. I, your teacher and friend, greet you with fondness.

Galileo Galilei


Vincent lived across from his younger brother. Understandably, he did not have the courage to visit him during Galileo's internment at Arcetri, but he always managed covertly to obtain information about him. And when his brother lay on his deathbed, Vincent set off at once to come to him.

He went to his brother's bedside and took his hand.

"I came to see you so that you could bless me," he said.

"Me bless you? You? You're a cardinal!"

"I'm only a cardinal, but you are a saint. One of those who will never be canonized because they are the truest, whom the world will forget."

Galileo smiled.

"You still can canonize me when you are pope. With your phenomenal capabilities all you have to do is reach out your hand for the crown and you will be the next pope."

Vincent shook his head.

"Time has already passed me by. But even if I were younger, I would not want to be made pope."

"Why not?"

"Well, if someone does something because he has to to it, that is still forgivable; but the pope apparently does everything of his own free will, and no one stands above him. This isn't true of course, because he has to act in a certain way if he wants to stay pope, but the appearance is such, and I want to avoid even the appearance. Cardinalship is enough for me. I have money, reputation, and fame; I have more than I ever counted on. I have two books on the acts of the popes, another on heavenly grace, another on purity, and one polemic against the Protestants. They will preserve my name for future ages. For the defense of the Church I received the Order of Holy Sylvester from the Pope, from the Spanish king the Order of Saint Jacob, for my scientific explorations the Order Cum Artibus Pro Deo from the emperor. I can say: exegi monumentum."


If he had become pope, history would have preserved at least his name. But history knows nothing of him, and we don't know if Galileo ever really had a brother named Vincent.

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* * *


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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