Bob Dent

Frigyes Karinthy in the 1919 Hungarian Soviet Republic

This type of continuity wasn’t what the new regime was apparently intending. At the very first meeting of the Revolutionary Governing Council on 22 March, György Lukács, the Deputy People’s Commissar for Education and Culture, spoke about removing theatres from private hands and transferring them to public ownership. There was no formal decree issued at the meeting, but the heading of an article in the following day’s Az Újság (The News) clearly expressed what was taking place: ‘The Nationalisation of Theatres’.

The article reported that all privately-owned theatres in Budapest, as well as cabarets and music halls, were to become publicly owned and their management passed into the hands of the people’s commissars for culture. A nine-member committee was to be established, the article continued, comprising writers, actors and theatre directors to work out all the details. The committee would determine the main directions of the theatres’ programmes and that as far as possible these should include pieces reflecting revolutionary ideas and socialist tendencies. Failing that, classical works should be performed. In some theatres, during the intervals well-known Hungarian writers would give presentations ‘of a revolutionary character’. The first ‘lecturers’, according to the report, would include Mihály Babits, Frigyes Karinthy, Dezső Kosztolányi and Ferenc Molnár.

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Also on 27 March, under the heading ‘Revolutionary Presentations in the Theatres’, Az Újság returned to the issue of noted writers giving brief political lectures during the intervals in certain theatres. The aim of these, the report said, was to raise revolutionary consciousness. In the middle of entertainment, writers and poets would take a few minutes to address the serious matters of life and the world of the future, which formerly was just a dream, but was now approaching as a reality ‘with rumbling steps’. According to the report, published just six days after the Soviet Republic had been proclaimed, Andor Gábor, Mihály Babits and Dezső Kosztolányi had already given such lectures and others doing so in the near future would include Frigyes Karinthy, Lajos Barta, Ferenc Molnár and Aladár Komját.

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While many well-established writers were enthusiastic about the Soviet Republic, particularly in its early phases, their degree of sympathy and involvement could vary greatly. The writer and poet Frigyes Karinthy, for example, who had been strongly anti-war and had welcomed Hungary’s immediate post-war changes, was a member of the Writers’ Directory steering committee, announced in early May 1919, but he seems to have essentially remained in the background during the period of the Commune. An adaptation of his poem Vérmező (Field of Blood) was staged on 1 May at Budapest’s Madách Theatre as part of its May Day celebratory programme, but it was a modified version of something he had written many years before. [54] The staged poetic drama was about the French Revolution and the so-called Hungarian Jacobins who were executed in 1795 in the place subsequently known as Vérmező. As noted in Chapter 2, in 1919 the location was one of the focal points of the May Day demonstrations in Budapest.

54. Boldizsár Vörös, ‘Forradalom a műalkotásban—műalkotás a forradalomban. Karinthy Frigyes: Vérmező’ (Revolution in a Work of Art—A Work of Art in the Revolution. Frigyes Karinthy: Vérmező), Budapesti Negyed, No. 65, Autumn 2009, pp. 313–38.

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Mihály Károlyi symbolically divided up one of his own estates. As regards organisational matters, on 1 December 1918 a meeting of writers formally launched the Vörösmarty Academy, a body set up as an alternative to older, more conservative, well-established literary associations. [….]

The founding meeting was attended by many well-known literary figures, including Mihály Babits, Milán Füst, Frigyes Karinthy, Lajos Kassák, Dezső Kosztolányi, Ferenc Molnár, Zsigmond Móricz, Aladár Schöpflin and Árpád Tóth. Due to his illness, Endre Ady could not attend, so his place in the chair was taken by Zsigmond Móricz.

SOURCE: Dent, Bob. Painting the Town Red: Politics and the Arts During the 1919 Hungarian Soviet Republic (London: Pluto Press, 2018), pp. 97, 99, 146, 166-167. All but one footnote is omitted here.

Note: The only other mention of Árpád Tóth is his poem ‘The New God’. An Esperanto translation (“La Nova Dio”) is on my web site. Béla Lugosi is discussed or mentioned on pp. 105-107, 170, 200, 210.

Árpád Tóth (1886‑1928)

Frigyes & Ferenc Karinthy in English

Frigyes (Frederiko) Karinthy (1887-1938) en Esperanto

Georg Lukács’ The Destruction of Reason: Selected Bibliography

Futurology, Science Fiction, Utopia, and Alienation
in the Work of Imre Madách, György Lukács, and Other Hungarian Writers:
Select Bibliography

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Uploaded 17 January 2019

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