2014. május 20., kedd

In Mixed Lands / For a backround of Psalms 102-103

Norman Adams, The Golden Crucifixion (1993)
I have not yet decided in which language to stay. Living abroad, option one is to lay myself down day by day into a language which makes me handicapped compared with what and how I can express in my native language. I am about to stay and speak and work in this second language. I am well aware of, with years of experience that I have, that living abroad can be painful and at stages is indeed painful. I do not know, will have to ask my friends who spent a lifetime here, if the originating centre of our consciousness can ever be forgotten. For someone like me whose primary medium of expression is language, it seems difficult. My instrument is language. That language, which like a faithful sea with its energy and riches, gives a continuous support to be interested in naming the new shores of my life. Language − Hungarian − prompts me to think and order the complex experiences of this world of constant expansion.
Tens of thousands have left Hungary and came to work in the United Kingdom. Sooner or later they will undergo the same initial birth-pangs of being born, however temporarily, into a new language. You cannot exist in your old identity here. It must undergo an expansion, a fermentation.
It would be interesting to know and share: is it indeed happening to all of us here that the mother culture inside starts a strange 'dying' in us. What normally would remain hidden, here, without words, without any conscious deliberation, starts echoing. All the classics of literature, our national thinkers, past generations embracing the identity of being a 'magyar' (Hungarian) − start whispering like will-o'-the-wisp (lidércfények). And all this whispering is underneath the present. (In a sense, Bartok's homesickness was similar and different. He has chosen the state of exile as a protest against Nazism. Yet, there was a constant yearning for return. He died from an unquenchable desire to be reborn in the mother culture and language he left behind. His leukaemia manifested this underlying pain of being cut off so dramatically from the centres from which his music developed from and wished to serve.)
I have been thinking a lot about this experience of becoming decentred. This experience is hardly named. Sporadically, I follow the programmes of the Hungarian Cultural Centre (Balassi Institute, London). They offer excellent events where the continuity with the mother culture can be cultivated. Yet, this new type of silence, the 'migrant's passion', even there remains unnamed.
It would be worth to develop a culture of sharing this specific experience. Being magyars in a global world − how does it feel? This is a specific knowledge. Not only of ourselves, not only of the host culture which offers hospitality. But first of all, this, potentially, is a very specific self-knowledge of us, as Hungary. There are two options. We came here, work here, earn money, passively, suffering all the pains of an economic migrant. At the end of which journey one usually returns to his or her country. I firmly believe that there is a second option. When identity is actively developed, and the old and the new identities, are integrated. This can be a time of cultural creation and of moral growth. When the consciousness of the migrant becomes an active cell of one's nation's cultural memory. Yes, it is possible, to become a specific, almost autonomous local culture, which can contribute to a redefinition of what a 'nation' is. Still we do knot know what this new voice can and will say. All I sense is, at the moment, that this identity should not be a passive one, which is either the victim of the pain of nostalgic yearning for 'home' or a submission to the economic coercions. Economic migrants will never attain the dignity of a 'free citizen'.
Thinking about what it means to be a Hungarian − surely will differ from the routinely reflections with which we are familiar at home. Perhaps, this is my expectation, the cultural canon may come alive an a new way. Perhaps, if I start writing this London Diary again, I will have to explore this positive direction.
Without this positive rethinking of one's identity, I fear that one can only be locked in a permanent mourning. Which is, a natural reaction of the psyche. I myself has been making attempts to overcome this wounding nostalgia. Pain must be named; think of the unredeemed pain of the exiled Kelemen Mikes of Zagon from Turkey. This pain is not a shame, it is a state, and also, a lack of a supportive fellowship who share your local experience of 'exile'. However, this pain (let us call it the pain of Bartok) is the very ground upon which a new reflective culture can be erected. There must be a point when pain does not speak any longer - but a joyful solidarity and renewed openness to existence. Of which significant fruit is the renewed openness to the 'sending culture' and all its dying forms (in us, at home, and here).
In the Book of Common Prayer, for the 20th day of the month Psalms 102 Domine, Exaudi and 103, Benedic, anima mea, are thematically arranged. They perfectly express the dynamic of 'mourning' of old, and being reborn in a new identity. This is a powerful honesty which describes both states. 'Hear my prayer, O Lord: and let my crying come onto thee. Hide not your face from me in the time of my trouble.' This is the story of our migrant self, the story of our exile. A beautiful world of pain, which, has produced many 'Hungarian divines', wounded thinkers of outstanding quality from Ady and Márai (ongoing line).
However, the world of Psalm 103, is our redemptive, cultural archetype. 'Praise the Lord, O my soul: and all that is within me praise his holy name...Look how high the heaven is in comparison of the earth: so great is his mercy also toward them that fear him. Look how wide also the east from the west: so far hath he set our sins from us.' Without this ascension to renewal there is no cultural creation. There is no home-coming. The Psalms, with their deep humanism, are indeed a guidance for our cultural condition − for that of our split and splitting presence. Psalm 103 confirms four us that, indeed, there is a 'new earth and new heaven', when our mother culture, through and in our fragile present, is being reborn.
It is also archetypal how Pilinszky lived the birth-pangs and passion of being a migrant of today. As if he was thinking in advance, anticipating, the wounds and missions of our postmodern fragmentation. His poetry − again an existential metaphor − is like Ikaros, staggering undecidedly between the worlds of psalms 102 and 103. A painful equilibrium, indeed. It is the task our generation to redeem his experience of exile expressed in the poem, On a Forbidden Star.

On a Forbidden Star

I was born on a forbidden star. From there
driven ashore, I trudge along the sand.
The surf of celestial nothingness takes me up,
and plays with me, then casts me on the land.

Why I repent I do not even know.
It is a puzzle buzzing in my ear.
If any of you should find me on this beach,
this sunken beach, don't run away, stay here.

And don't be scared. Don't run away. Just try
to mitigate the suffering in my life.
Shut your eyes and press me to yourself.
Press me boldly, as you would a knife.

Be reckless too: look on me as the dead
look on the night, seeing it s their own,
your shoulder there to aid my weaker one.
I can no longer bear to be alone.

I never wanted to be born. It was nothingness
Who bore and suckled me; with her I started.
So love me darkly. Love me cruelly. Love me
like the one left behind by the departed.

Translated from Hungarian by Clive Wilmer and George Gömöri (In: Janos Pilinszky: Passio, Worple Press 2011)

Tilos csillag

Én tiltott csillagon születtem,
a partra űzve ballagok,
az égi semmi habja elkap,
játszik velem és visszadob.

Nem is tudom, miért vezeklek?
Itt minden szisszenő talány,
ne fusson el, ki lenn a parton,
e süppedt parton rámtalál.

S ne félj te sem, ne fuss előlem,
inkább csittítsd a szenvedést,
csukott szemmel szoríts magadhoz,
szorits merészen, mint a kést.

Légy vakmerő, itélj tiédnek,
mint holtak lenn az éjszakát,
vállad segítse gyenge vállam,
magam már nem birom tovább!

Én nem kivántam megszületni,
a semmi szült és szoptatott,
szeress sötéten és kegyetlen,
mint halottját az itthagyott.

20.19.2014, London, South Kensington.

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