Bath Literature Festival 2009 – Focus on Hungary

The 2009 Bath Literature Festival with an education grant from the Charter Trustees provided a wonderful showcase for post-communist contemporary Hungarian literature and poetry. The Festival ‘Focus on Hungary’ theme included the screening of two films at the Little Theatre and talks by authors Ladislaus Löb, György Dragomán, plus the poets Anna Szabó and George Szirtes. The sheer diversity and breadth of the writing was impressive, sobering and witty and laced by a string of beautiful poetry readings. The Bath Kaposvár Twinning Association has very much welcomed the chance to engage and work with the LitFest.

Bath Literature Festival 2009

Ladislaus Löb, György Dragomán, George Szirtes

Focus on Hungary: Werckmeister Harmonies (Film) [12A]
Internationally acclaimed Hungarian director Béla Tarr’s Werckmeister Harmonies charts the nightmare disintegration of a small-town community. Based on the novel The Melancholy of Resistance by László Krasznahorkai, its surrealistic narrative – involving a circus, a giant whale and a sinister demagogue known as the Prince – bears comparison with David Lynch’s work.

Focus on Hungary: Fateless (Film) [12A]
Fiercely unsentimental and surprisingly beautiful, Fateless does the seemingly impossible: it succeeds in portraying the subject of the Holocaust in a new and devastating light. Based on the novel by Nobel Prize-winning author Imre Kertész (who also wrote the screenplay), it’s the story of 14-year-old Hungarian Jew György Köves, whose unremarkable arrest on a bus in Budapest leads to Auschwitz, Buchenwald and near death in a smaller German labour camp.

Focus on Hungary: Ladislaus Löb
In 1944, Bergen-Belsen concentration camp gates closed behind eleven year old Ladislaus Löb. Five months later, as part of a group of some 1,670 Hungarian Jews, he crossed the border into Switzerland, rescued as the result of a deal made by Rezso Kasztner – himself a Hungarian Jew. Kasztner remains a highly controversial figure, regarded by some as a traitor and by many others as a hero. Ladislaus Löb discusses his book Rezso Kasztner: The Daring Rescue of Hungarian Jews, and examines this dramatic episode of the Holocaust and its implications for Jewish/Israeli politics today. In conversation with Ian Thomson.

Focus on Hungary: György Dragomán with George Szirtes
György Dragomán translates James Joyce, I B Singer and Ian McEwan into Hungarian. He won the prestigious Sándor Márai Prize for his first novel The White King, an urgent, humorous and melancholy picture of a childhood behind the Iron Curtain. He discusses literature, life, translation, and childhood under communism with poet and translator George Szirtes.

Focus on Hungary: Anna Szabó & George Szirtes
Two prize-winning poets read from their work and discuss language, translation, emigration and the art of poetry. George Szirtes came to England from Hungary in 1956. He is now one of our leading poets and translators, with a string of prizes including the T S Eliot Prize, the Cholmondley Prize and the Faber Memorial Prize. Anna Szabó moved from Romania to Hungary when she was fifteen. She is recipient of the Tibor Déry Award and the Zoltán Zelk Prize. In conversation with Tim Liardet.

Categories: Education and Culture