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Socialism, Debrecen-style12 Nov. 2008
- Published on Amazon.com
I purchased this book right on Budapest's Vaci Utca, drawn to the book by its beautiful cover art by Hungarian painter Sandor Bihori. What also intrigued me was that Moricz, the author, hails from peasant stock and therefore in his writings, his sympathy lies with them and not the gentry class. Relations takes us through a period of time in the life of our failed hero, Pista, where he unexpectedly gains an administrative office in the communist politburo (but through no esteem of his own; his peers select him due to his harmless benignity). The story opens with a telling scenario of emotional discrepancy between Pista and his wife, Lina, who has been chronicaly irritated with his complacency. Pista had been satisfied at his dead-end job, living in "dependable poverty." Despite his henpecked status and we see him change once he is awarded the "higher up" job as a minor official in a city purported to be a thinly disguised Debrecen. Initially, Pista exhibits vanity or naivete (or both) when granted his new position. Suddenly, his drab home (and wife) no longer seem desirable and he even criticizes his wife for her "middle class mentality." Alas, even Pista here becomes human frailty personified. He is ultimately a good guy, though: early on, I dubbed him Everyman for if Pista can get sucked in to the system, anybody can. Once he realizes the corruption taking place in the govt, he struggles with his conscience over what to do. I found chapter 15 to be bogged down in too-complex politics, but the character of Martiny to be quite interesting. He represents "the opposition," an anti-government group worrisome to Pista's new peers as he defends the concept of socialism and raises the unsettling possibility that perhaps the serfs were happy enough before liberation. The title of the book, Relations, comes not so much from the relationship between Pista and Lina, but from the nepotim apparently rampant throughout Hungarian politics. Pista state "Hungary is a dunghill of relationships and scandals" and "Relatives are the bane of Hungarian life." There are lotsa other Hungarianisms throughout the novel (did you know that the Magyars are notorious tax evaders?) My favorite passage in the book is on page 138 when Pista, long disenchanted with his new govt. peers, explains how and why he respects all persons and his theory between the privileged and the non-privileged. Read it! The story has a shocking ending and even more so when it appears that some of Pista's snobbish peers somewhat redeem themselves in the end. The index at the back of the book helps clarify some geographical or political questions the reader may have.