Frigyes Karinthy: philosophical fragments / filozofiaj fragmentoj


If someone asked me who was the Hungarian writer with the most to say to Europe, beyond the frontiers of Hungary and independently of our tragic problems, I would name Frigyes Karinthy without the slightest hesitation. His work carries the most universal message about our deepest common human problems. We have great writers beside him whom Europe does not know or knows insufficiently, and whom it would be well worth for the whole world to know; for they have created pictures of the life and emotions of a much-suffered and amazingly complex nation. In the colours of these pictures you will discover the basic elements of all that is eternally human. But in Karinthy’s work these elements are not presented in Hungarian colours, through Hungarian problems. In his writing the people are not wearing Magyar garments—no, I’m tempted to say, they wear no clothes at all. They are completely and unashamedly naked. . .

— Mihály Babits, 1926



“The One and the Nothing”: excerpt / “La Unuo kaj la Nulo”: citaĵo; from / el volumo Ki kérdezett? [Cikkgyujtemény] [= Who Asked You? = Kiu demandis al vi?] (1926)

“Literature is certainly more than art and represents man as a whole with skin and hair, with soul and reason, with eyes and ears and so on—quite in contrast to an actual artist who only ever represents one sense: the painter the eye, the musician the ear, the sculptor the sense of touch, the poet the soul, the philosopher reason.”

— Frigyes Karinthy, “A Letter to H. G. Wells,” July 1925

SOURCE: Quoted in: Küchler, Ulrike. “Alien Art: Encounters with Otherworldly Places and Inter-medial Spaces,” in Alien Imaginations: Science Fiction and Tales of Transnationalism, edited by Ulrike Küchler, Silja Maehl, Graeme Stout; foreword by Dame Gillian Beer (New York: Bloomsbury Academy, 2015), pp. 31-55; see p. 44, 54. Translated from source quoted: Karinthy, Die neuen Reisen des Lemuel Gulliver [1916] (Berlin: Verlag Neues, 1989). This passage can be found in Karinthy’s preface to Capillaria (Budapest: Kultura, 1925), i.e. “A Letter to H. G. Wells”.

In Esperanto, translated by RD:

“Literaturo certe estas pli ol arto kaj reprezentas la homon kiel tutaĵon kun haŭto kaj hararo, kun okuloj kaj oreloj, ktp.—ja kontraste al reala artisto kiu reprezentas ajne nur unu senson: la pentristo la okulon, la muzikisto la orelon, la skulptisto la tuŝosenson, la poeto la animon, la filozofo la racion.”

— Frigyes Karinthy, “Letero al H. G. Wells,” julio 1925 (Antaŭparolo al Kapilario, tradukis Andreo Szabo)


“How miraculous is the effect of music! As if someone pounded on the door of our soul from outside, from the world of Beauty and Reality; but we no longer understand the voice. It is this language they speak in Faremido. Gulliver, the wanderer, believed for a moment that he almost understood it. And that was when he wrote this book.”

— Frigyes Karinthy, introductory statement to Voyage to Faremido (1916)

“If I had considered all this soberly, I would not have been shocked by the salutary lesson I received in Faremido. I would have understood that Man always values his creations far higher than himself; that in all his works he tries to recreate himself as well and with greater perfection—so that he can cease to exist like a mould of clay used for casting metal.”

— Gulliver, in Voyage to Faremido (1916) by Frigyes Karinthy

“Machines made of inorganic matter produce per unit of time more and better than human or animal effort. The solasis’ association of ideas is considerably faster and more precise than ours. As for the force of their emotions and passions, it is characteristic that they use, even for the expression of their simplest thoughts, the means which we employ only for the expression of our most complex and heightened feelings—the medium of music. It is also possible that with them thought and emotion are not as strictly delimited as in our intellects.”

— Gulliver, in Voyage to Faremido (1916) by Frigyes Karinthy


“Men and women—how can they ever understand each other? Both want something so utterly different—the men: women; and the women: men.”

— Frigyes Karinthy, introductory statement to Capillaria (1921)


“If to be a madman is to have an obsession, and my only obsession is that I am a madman, have I really lost my mind or not?” — Frigyes Karinthy

In Esperanto, translated by RD:

“Se esti frenezulo estas obsedi, kaj mia sola obsedo estas, ke mi estas frenezulo, ĉu mi efektive freneziĝis aŭ ne?”

In Hungarian:

“Ön azt mondja, a rögeszmém, hogy őrült vagyok. De hiszen tényleg az vagyok, az imént mondta. De hiszen akkor ez nem rögeszme, akkor az egy logikus gondolat. Tehát nincs rögeszmém. Tehát mégse vagyok őrült. Tehát csak rögeszme, hogy őrült vagyok, tehát rögeszmém van, tehát őrült vagyok, tehát igazam van, tehát nem vagyok őrült.”

SOURCE / FONTO: Karinthy, Friyes. “Őrült sikerem a tébolydában” [roughly: Crazy success of the madhouse] from Betegek és bolondok [Patients and fools; short stories] (Budapest: Új Idők, 1946).

Rough translation:

“You say obsessed, I’m crazy. But I really am, I have just said. But it’s not an obsession, it’s a logical thought So there is no obsession.. So I’m crazy. So it’s just an obsession that crazy I’m so obsessed with you, so I’m crazy, so I was right, so I’m not crazy.”


“Everything is the other way around! This is the only theorem we are free to fanatically believe in and from which it would be foolish to deviate. Everything is the other way around! Yet we know, that human reason is only a curved mirror to reflect truth, where is the geometry that shows us the degree of distortion so that we can at least imagine reality if we can’t see it? But then, how can we expect a perfect work from such an imperfect tool?”

— Frigyes Karinthy

In Esperanto, translated by RD:

“Ĉio statas alie [...] Jen la sola aksiomo kiun ni rajtas fanatike kredi kaj de kiu malsagacus devojiĝi. Ĉio statas alie [...] La homa racio estas kurba spegulo por speguli la Veron; kie la geometrio kiu montrus al ni la gradon de distordo por ke almenaŭ ni povu koncepti la realon se ni ne povas vidi ĝin? Sed, do, kial ni atendus perfektaĵon de malperfekta instrumento?”

—  El libro Minden másképp van (“Ĉio statas alie”, 1929)

In Hungarian:

“Minden másképpen van! Ez az egyetlen tétel, amiben fanatikusan hinni szabad és amitől eltántorodni bolondság. Minden másképpen van! Hisz görbe tükör az emberi értelem, melyben az igazság tükröződik, és hol a geometria, mely megmutatja mennyivel torzít ez a tükör, hogy a valóságot legalább elképzelhessük, ha már látni nem láthatjuk! De hát, milyen tökéletes munkát várunk egy ilyen tökéletlen szerszámtól?”

SOURCE / FONTO: Karinthy, Frigyes: “Heuréka,” in Karcolatok, humoreszkek; Szerkesztette és a szöveget gondozta Ungvári Tamás (Budapest: Szépirodalmi, 1975), pp. 180-182. (Karinthy Frigyes összegyűjtött művei.)

Minden másképpen van. Ötvenkét vasárnap. [Humoreszkek] Budapest: Athenaeum, 1929. 326p. Original publication of Everything is Different (which lacks an English translation).

Note: The original essay, as far as I can make out from not being able to read Hungarian, references the revolutionary changes in modern scientific knowledge that should make us aware of our cognitive imperfections and skeptical of absolute claims in knowledge and politics. Newton, Darwin, Lenin, and chess are mentioned. Rule-governed behavior is only a subset of the universe of human action. The skeptic is aware in his dreaming that humans act in a dream themselves, lacking self-knowledge and the awareness of the rules and lawlessness that play out in their world.

Interestingly, quotes like these from Karinthy are sometimes referenced in English-language writings by Hungarian scientists, mathematicians, and logicians, indicating the long reach of Karinthy in Hungarian culture. Much of Karinthy’s variegated work remains untranslated in English. Karinthy’s name in the English-speaking world is connected with his invention of the notion of “six degrees of separation” in his 1929 essay “Chain-Links” (also included in Everything is Different) and his 1937 memoir of his brain operation A Journey Round My Skull, available in English translation. His poems, short stories, dystopian novels Voyage to Faremido ;(1916) and Capillaria (1921) (both translated into English), satires, parodies, and essays remain largely unknown.

Noto: La originala eseo, el la libro Ĉio statas alie (Minden másképpen van), ŝajne (mi ne povas legi hungare) ligas revoluciajn ŝanĝojn en moderna scienco kun konstato de niaj mensaj limoj kaj skeptikemo pri absolutaj asertoj pri sciado kaj politiko. Newton, Darwin, Lenin, kaj ŝako estas menciataj. La referenco al ŝako memorigas min pri la novelo “Cezaro kaj Abu Kair” en Norda Vento. Reguloj kaj malregula konduto konkuras en la reala mondo, kaj homoj kvazaŭ sonĝas en siaj konstatoj pri la realo, sed la verkisto konstatas, ke temas pri sonĝoj.

Diversaj verkoj estas tradukitaj en la anglan aŭ en Esperanton, sed nur kelkaj en ambaŭ lingvojn (markitaj en ambaŭ miaj bibliografioj per “*”), kaj multaj verkoj, ekz. Ĉio statas alie, restas netradukitaj en ambaŭ lingvojn. Do nek anglalingvanoj nek Esperantistoj disponas la plenan variecan amplekson de la verkaro de Karinthy.


Ways of Thinking (artificial intelligence, cognitive science, Hungarian literature)
by László Mérő

Alienation, Utopia, & Hungarian intellectuals: Madách, Ady, Karinthy, Fogarasi, Nádor, Lukács, Mannheim
by Joseph Gabel

Introduction
to Frigyes Karinthy’s Voyage to Faremido & Capillaria
by Paul Tabori

Frigyes & Ferenc Karinthy in English

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

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 11 March 2016
Last update 24 December 2016
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