By Peter O'Leary

1. Franz Kafka, quoted in Susan Handelman, "Jacques Derrida and the Heretic Hermeneutic," in Displacements, edited by Mark Krupnick (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983), p. 126.

2. E-mail to the author, October 22, 2004.

3. Soren Kierkegaard, The Concept of Irony, translated by Howard V. Hong & Edna H. Hong (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), pp. 247, 248.

4. Márton Koppány, back jacket, The Other Side (Bratislava: Kalligram, 1999). To me, there is a hidden joke in this statement, at least to Márton's western readers: table tennis is a popular sport in Budapest, as it is all over the former and present communist world. Throughout the parks of Budapest, one comes across table tennis "courts" where pick-up games are as actively underway as on basketball courts in U.S. cities.

5. Budapest boasts some of the best mineral water in the world, available in a bewildering variety of tastes and potencies, from dozens of the different hot springs that bubble under the crust of the city. I favor the highly carbonated variety — szénsavas; Márton prefers the smoother non-carbonated version — szénsavmentes

6. A small park we discovered in the heart of the old Jewish quarter, with lots of activity and good playground equipment, where we regularly took our son that summer, in 2003, and then again for the two months we lived in Budapest in 2004, we later discovered to be one of the sites from which Hungarian Jews were deported, packed into trucks and trains for detention/concentration camps.

7. The condition of Király utca is changing dramatically these days. Upscale boutiques, restaurants, trendy cafes. This is true of much of Budapest, which is getting a New Europe makeover.

8. Now seems as good a time as ever to provide a simple, layman's pronunciation guide to Hungarian. Accents on vowels indicate sound, not stress. á is held longer than a, for instance. s is pronounced "sh," and c is pronounced somewhat like a z (actually, like a German z): so, Király utca is pronounced "kee-rai utza," or the name Férenc is pronounced "ferahnz," rather close to the German Franz. sz is pronounced "s," so one of Hungary's most famous son's names is pronounced "list ferahnz," for Franz Liszt. zs is like "zh"; so, the first name of another famous Hungarian export is pronounced "zha zha" for Zsa Zsa Gabor.

9. The issue of Hungary's boundaries is complex. There are parts of Austria, Slovakia, Romania (Transylvania, specifically), and present-day Serbia and Croatia, that at times have been included in Hungary, and where Hungarian is spoken and its cultural traditions are passed down. In the twentieth century, this issue is layered with further complexity because of Hungary's role in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, one of whose effects is that German was widely spoken in these Hungarian areas, especially among the Jews who lived in the Empire.

10. Márton Koppány, "Two Letters," Investigations & Other Sequences (Tokyo/Toronto: Ahadada Books, 2003), p. 69.

11. Hungary, like many European countries prior to World War II, determined its Jewish population according to racial laws. While 80,000 Jews dwarfs the populations in nearly every other European country (most Hungarian Jews live in Budapest), it is less than a tenth of the population before the war, which stood at 850,000. In comparison, one can look to the current Jewish population in Vienna, arguably the most important Jewish city in Europe before the war, which stood close to one million and which today has less than 10,000 Jews.

12. Eric L. Santner, On the Psychotheology of Everyday Life: Reflections on Freud and Rosenzweig (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001), pp. 33-4; 36.

13. ibid., 40, 41.

14. But even this permanence is transient. Since I met him in 1997, Márton's English has improved dramatically. He makes his living, in part, translating best-sellers from English into Hungarian, which accounts for part of the improvement. But diligence in reading poetry in English accounts for a greater portion. He said to me in April, 2004, that he never dreamed he would be able to enjoy poetry in English, as English, but that it had been happening to him.

15. These poems appear in his last collection, Ground Work II: In the Dark (New York: New Directions, 1988).

16. Márton is not alone in experiencing the spontaneous generosity of Karl and Anne. When I first met Karl in 1996, he wrote me a sizeable check for LVNC, almost as if it were something perfunctory. Amazing.

17. I owe my friendship with Márton to Woodland Pattern. It was there, seeing an advertisement for a Ronald Johnson broadside, underneath a pinned-up specimen of the broadside itself, that Márton decided to send his work to LVNG for us to consider.

18. Robert Lax, 33 Poems, New York: New Directions, 1988, p. 63.

19. Márton notes, pointedly, that the "Jewish-freemasonic conspiracy" is a leitmotif in Hungarian anti-Semitism.

20. In A Big Jewish Book, edited by Jerome Rothenberg, with Harris Lenowitz and Charles Doria (Garden City, NY: Anchor/Doubleday, 1978), p. 631.

Click here to return to essay

Go to Marton Koppány Survey
Go to Institute of Broken and Reduced Languages

Go to Light and Dust Anthology of Poetry