As this, May 2012 edition of the Hungarian Review goes to press, the Hungarian Parliament is electing a new President. In his inaugural address, János Áder shed his party shoes to appeal to his fellow countrymen and countrywomen to turn their backs on what he called “sterile, selfish, egotistical discord… which is so self-destructive to the community”. What differentiates such discord, the President went on, from a healthy expression of the multiplicity of Hungarian society today, is mutual respect. If Hungarians could only respect one another, and their diverse opinions more, he underlined, the future for all concerned would be a much better one.

We at Hungarian Review could not agree with him more. We wish the President well. There is too much bigotry on all sides of the political spectrum, and it is the President’s job to stand above all that, and call the politicians and the pundits, the bloggers and all those of blind faith in their own narrative, to account. It is also inevitable that the main governing party, swollen by the democratic floods of the last election, will make mistakes. Under the Hungarian constitutional system – the Old as well as the New Constitutions – the President is one of the main checks on the power of Parliament, of the justice system, and of the other institutions of state. He has promised to be his own man – that was his condition for taking the job – not the man of his party, Fidesz. All power to his elbow. If he succeeds, that would really be a “Miracle on the Danube”.

In this edition of HR, authors László Árva and András Schlett refer to miracles on two other rivers – the “‘Miracle on the Rhine” as West Germany’s economic growth after the Second World War is sometimes known, and the Miracle on the Han River, in their essay about South Korea’s astonishing growth and the ways that has been made possible. Close cooperation between the state and private enterprise, small businesses which enjoyed generous state subsidies, and the great importance allotted by Korea to education and science, are all models which Hungary too might emulate, they suggest.

To mark the 80th anniversary of the late Prime Minister of Hungary József Antall’s birth, Géza Entz explores the intellectual affinities between Antall and the statesman par excellence of the Miracle on the Rhine, Konrad Adenauer. While Adenauer faced the task of rebuilding a country devastated by war and morally decimated by Nazism, Antall’s task was to nurse Hungary back to health after 42 years of Communist rule. Adenauer, the statesman, set about building what Géza Entz calls a fundamentally new German State. Antall looked to the lessons of the Hungarian political parties in the brief post-war democratic period between 1945 and 1948, as well as to Adenauer’s thought, in his efforts to create a new Christian Democratic tradition in Hungary, Entz argues. And he resisted pressure to form a grand coalition with the liberal Alliance of Free Democrats, because he saw the need for each of the new political forces to define themselves separately, after the forced and false marriages of the Communist era.

There are more recent “miracles” on the Danube in Nick Thorpe’s essay on the remarkable restoration of oxbows in Austria and Germany. While countries downstream sometimes appear bent on destroying those sections of the Danube which are still in a near pristine condition, the countries of the Upper Danube are investing millions to undo some of the worst damage to the ecosystem caused by the regulation work of the 19th century, and the dams of the 20th. What finer symbol could we find for the 21st century, he argues, than a river clean enough to swim in again, where fish can reproduce naturally, and where periodic flooding restores the natural dynamism of the landscape.

Elsewhere in this issue we call attention to forgotten miracles of international co-operation – how in 1947–48 Hungarian composer László Lajtha worked with Austrian director Georg Höllering in London, together with T. S. Eliot, to create the award-winning film Murder in the Cathedral from the verse drama of the great British-American poet.

István Orosz, creator of the famous Tovarishi Konec poster of 1989, demonstrates here the talents of the prose writer together with that of the graphic artist and the art historian – we are publishing excerpts from his breathtaking new book that explores the mesh of circumstances connected with the skull, only visible from special angles, that was painted on Holbein’s picture showing two French Ambassadors in Tudor Henry VIII’s Court.

There seems to be a consonance of ideas between the current contributions of the French philosopher Chantal Delsol and our publisher, historian György Granasztói. While the latter suggests that in a season of enfeebled European thought political correctness is sometimes regarded no more than a handy hatchet for daily political lessons in/from Brussels, the former points out that postmodern tenets like forgiveness for historical sins are designed for angels rather than humans, and, unfortunately, many of history’s direst lessons may go down unheeded, because that is the human condition.

American poet Donald Wesling experienced Hungarian life in the real on his two long recent sojourns in Hungary, and his poems The Search of Appearance chart the complex sensual beauties of daily life in a Central European country, as well as its harrowing communist past, which, let us hope, can be still redeemed.

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