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19 September 2017

Writings from Down Fell the Statue of Goliath

István Örkény



Fohász Budapestért



Budapest, my glorious city, forgive me, your errant son, who was born here, yet knew you not, who loved you but denigrated you so.

How could I have thought of you that you are no more than any city, and merely one among many!

I walked your paths and believed your cobbled ways were no more than that. I sat on your trams regarding them as pure conveyance. I visited many of your houses and believed that one could only live, eat and drink within their walls… I did not know that these windows were embrasures, that barricades could be made from trams, and that one could charge along these streets, fight and win!

Around the world, on every map and globe they have now rewritten your name, Budapest. This word no longer implies a city. Budapest is today synonymous with attacking a tank with one’s bare hands. In every language in the world, Budapest means loyalty, self-sacrifice, freedom, national pride. Every person who loves their city of birth wishes for it to be as you, Budapest!

I wish this too: be forever as you are now, Budapest. The abode of proud and courageous people; guide the Hungarians along the good path, Budapest, the shining star of mankind! Welcome people of all nations but endure no more occupying hordes and foreign flags between your hallowed walls.

Budapest, you yourself be Budapest: and allow your unworthy sons to be worthy of you and one another.

Live on eternally in your work, in battle, in smoke, blood, soot and glory, capital of liberty, Budapest!

Igazság [Truth], Friday, 2 November 1956

Translated by Adrian Hart



László Nagy


Karácsony, fekete glória



Herald of no peace from God,

you bull-headed angel!

You brought a tree reeking of blood

glory! –

and caskets for a manger.


Memories of brimstone fires,

in hellish circles ever wider,

a rose of flames over the city

glory! –

bloom like sparks around a sparkler.


Tree of death reaching the stars,

adorned with balls of slimy red –

my hurting eyeballs bulge to strain

glory! –

against the forehead of the dead!

December 1956 Translated by Péter Balikó Lengyel



Ferenc Buda


Pesten esik a hó


The snow is falling on Budapest

It eddies, churns and swirls

Onto the Danube’s ripples

Onto the soulless rubble

Onto window-eyes shot through

Onto peoples’ mouths turned blue

Onto Csepel and its chemical works

Onto the Castle where nothing stirs

On wounds with ragged borders

On workshops and defiant workers

On blood dried on the asphalt

As white as a corpse it falls

Wind sweeps it along the pavement

Wind lofts it across the firmament

The snow is falling on Budapest

As fresh binding on open sores

Pest snow-white down to its toes

Translated by Peter V. Czipott



Anna Kiss




Already gone, the rainbow,

from behind my father’s head,

the black lamb in my mother’s apron

turned out to be a wolf instead.


A disgrace, the crocus in our teeth,

we dance in the maddened winds,

with wolf-like smell

and lantern eyes

we dance, we pause,

until we die,

they need our pelts,

on cudgel tips,

our necks

in the noose.

Translated by Thomas Cooper

György Petri



Nagy Imréről



Faceless, just another suited-

bespectacled leader, you had no grit

in your voice; no clue as to what to say


to the crowd out of the blue, taken aback

by such swiftness. I felt cheated

as you spoke, old man behind the pince-nez,

not yet knowing


the concrete courtyard where the verdict

would be read, in a rush no doubt,

nor the rough rasp of the rope, that final shame.


Who can say what could have been said

from that balcony? Once shot to hell,

the chance will not return. No jail or execution

can hone the blunted edge of the moment.

Yet here we are, permitted to remember

that disinclined, slighted, hesitant gentleman

who, against the odds,

abandoned himself

to rage, mirage, an entire country’s crazy hope 

when the city awoke to

being blasted into pieces.

Translated by Péter Balikó Lengyel

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