Anna Tüskés’s review about the book of Imre Nagy

december 1st, 2013 § 0 comments


Nagy Imre, Öt­to­rony: A pé­csi iro­dal­mi mű­velt­ség a kez­de­tek­től a hu­sza­dik szá­za­dig [Five Chur­ches: Li­te­racy in Pécs from the Be­g­in­ning to the 20th Cent­ury], Pécs, Kro­nosz, 2013.

In 2010 Imre Nagy, pro­fes­sor of the Uni­ver­sity of Pécs, pub­lis­hed A ma­gyar Athén: Pécs iro­dal­mi mű­velt­sé­ge 1009-től 1780-ig (The Hun­ga­ri­an Athens: Li­te­racy in Pécs from 1009 to 1780), which con­ta­ins the first twel­ve chap­ters of the book re­vie­wed here. In the fol­lo­wing ye­ars Nagy con­ti­nu­ed the work, and comp­le­ted his study with furt­her twel­ve chap­ters. The pre­sent book is di­vi­ded into two main sec­tions. Part I: The Hun­ga­ri­an Athens: Li­te­racy in Pécs from 1009 to 1780, and Part II: The So­uth Bast­ion: Li­te­racy in Pécs from 1780 to 1923. The main sec­tions are each di­vi­ded into twel­ve more chapters.

The scope and ma­s­tery of ins­ti­tu­ti­o­nal his­to­ry, rang­ing from scho­ol fo­un­da­tions to ecc­le­sia­s­ti­cal po­li­cy and edu­ca­ti­o­nal the­ori­es en­sure the aut­ho­rity of the book. Ch­ro­no­log­i­cally, Imre Nagy’s book co­vers the pe­ri­od from 1009, the fo­un­da­ti­on of the bishop­ric of Pécs by Step­hen I of Hun­gary to 1923, the re­lo­ca­ti­on of the El­isa­beth Uni­ver­sity from Bra­tis­la­va to Pécs, which crea­ted a new in­tel­lec­tu­al and cul­t­u­ral lands­cape in the city. It is a large-scale eff­ort to de­li­nea­te and analy­ze changes in deg­rees of li­te­racy th­ro­ug­ho­ut cent­uri­es, and in some cas­es up to 1923. Nagy’s book sug­gests a his­to­ry of li­te­racy pre­sent­ing the ins­ti­tu­tions, the ma­jor per­so­na­li­ti­es and works th­ro­ugh the­ir con­nec­ti­on to the city. In the pre­face he of­fers his de­fi­ni­ti­on of the li­te­ra­tu­re of Pécs: pi­e­ces eit­her writ­ten the­re or con­nec­ted to the city in ot­her ways (for examp­le from a the­ma­tic point of view). Aut­hors of Pécs are de­fi­ned as tho­se who were born or died the­re, or spent at lea­st one pe­ri­od of the­ir life li­ving in the city. The lack of lo­cal res­iden­ce is overw­rit­ten by cul­t­u­ral and ins­ti­tu­ti­o­nal con­nec­tions, for examp­le in the case of Mik­lós Te­leg­di, the bishop of Pécs du­ring the Tur­kish oc­cu­pa­ti­on. Alt­ho­ugh he had ne­ver li­ved in Pécs, on the title-page of his works he con­sis­tently emp­has­i­zed that he was the bishop of Pécs. Nagy raises the quest­ion “What is the city?”, “Li­te­ra­tu­re or li­te­racy?” and “Con­ti­nu­ity or interruption?”.



In Chap­ter I en­tit­led “Bishop Mór and the Ear­li­est Le­gends” Nagy writes abo­ut the bishop of Pécs from 1036 un­til his death at around 1075. The bishop wro­te the Le­gend of Sa­ints Be­ne­dict and And­rew Zo­rard, two her­mits who li­ved in the re­gi­on of Nyit­ra (Nit­ra, Slo­va­kia). Chap­ter II fo­cus­es on the me­di­e­val uni­ver­sity of Pécs and the “Uni­ver­sity Coll­ec­ti­on of Ser­mons of Pécs”. Not only did the Uni­ver­sity of Pra­gue re­ce­ive stu­dents from Pécs, but also the uni­ver­sity of Vi­en­na. We know that the first stu­dents at the Uni­ver­sity of Vi­en­na who were born in Pécs were Jo­han­nes and Mi­cha­el de Quin­qu­e­ecc­le­si­is, who star­ted the­ir stu­di­es the­re in 1377. Bet­ween 1377 and 1526 the­re were a to­tal of 84 stu­dents born in Pécs who stu­di­ed at the Uni­ver­sity of Vi­en­na (Die Mat­ri­kel der Uni­ver­sität Wien. I. Band 1377–1450, Wien, 1956; II. Band 1451–1518, Wien, 1967; III. Band 1518–1579, Wien, 1971. Qu­el­len zur Ge­schich­te der Uni­ver­sität Wien. 1. Ab­te­i­lung). The­re were also stu­dents who were born in ot­her pla­ces, but who in one pe­ri­od of the­ir life had ecc­le­sia­s­ti­cal role in Pécs, for examp­le Si­mon de Ba­cia, ca­non of Pécs bet­ween 1430–1448 and arch­dea­con of Pécs bet­ween 1435–1448; Al­ber­tus Ja­co­bi de Hang­ács, ca­non of Pécs in 1446, and Pa­u­lus de Gara, arch­dea­con of Pécs bet­ween 1451–1457 to name just a few.


Chap­ter III and IV pre­sents the per­so­na­lity and work of Ja­nus Pan­no­ni­us who stu­di­ed at the Uni­ver­sity of Pa­dua and who was bishop of Pécs bet­ween 1459–1472. Chap­ter III pre­sents the tra­di­ti­on of Ja­nus Pannonius’s texts (ma­nuscripts and edi­tions), the cult of Ja­nus in Pécs, espe­ci­ally the plays writ­ten for the 500th an­ni­ver­sary of his death in 1972. Chap­ter IV dis­cus­ses the po­ems of Ja­nus Pan­no­ni­us in con­nec­ti­on with Pécs, na­mely the Abi­ens val­ere iu­bet sanc­tos re­ges, Wa­ra­di­ni (Go­ing Away­from Vá­rad), Sil­va pa­n­egy­ri­ca ad Gu­a­ri­num Ve­ronen­sem pra­ecep­tor­em suum (Song of Praise­to Gu­a­ri­no of Ve­ro­na), Epi­tap­hi­um Bar­ba­rae mat­ris suae(Epi­taph of his Mother,Barbara) and some ot­hers not cert­ain to be lin­ked with the city.

The two sub­se­qu­ent chap­ters analy­ze two Hu­ma­nist fi­gu­res of the era post King Matt­hi­as: Chap­ter V fo­cus­es on György Szat­má­ri, bishop of Pécs bet­ween 1505–1521 and his circ­le of Hu­ma­nists in Pécs. Nagy emp­has­i­zes the Ita­li­an ten­dency of the pre­la­te which also ap­pe­ars in the ar­chi­tec­tu­ral com­mis­sions, such as the so called Szathmáry-tabernacle in the Cor­pus Ch­ris­ti cha­pel of the ba­si­li­ca, his sum­mer res­iden­ce in Tettye, and in his af­fec­ti­on for books, for examp­le his Bre­vi­a­ri­um Stri­go­ni­en­se (1510’s) who­se mi­nia­tu­res were att­ri­bu­ted ear­li­er to Att­avan­te and now to Bocc­ar­di­no il Vecc­hio. Chap­ter VI pre­sents Ist­ván Bro­da­rics and his main work, His­to­ria veris­si­ma (True Sto­ry), abo­ut the batt­le of Mo­hács bet­ween the Hun­ga­ri­ans and the Turks of Sul­tan Su­lej­man, writ­ten pos­sibly for the com­mis­si­on of King Sig­is­mun­dus of Po­land, unc­le of Lo­u­is II of Hun­gary, who died in the batt­le in 1526. Bro­da­rics stu­di­ed in Italy, and Szat­má­ri fa­ci­li­ta­ted his ca­re­er: in 1508 he be­came sec­re­tary of the bishop, and in 1524 pro­vost of Pécs. Nagy in­te­gra­tes the most up-to-date re­se­arch in the chap­ters on Hu­ma­nist li­te­racy in Pécs. He pre­sents the la­test re­sults abo­ut Ja­nus Pan­no­ni­us by Lász­ló Jan­ko­vits and abo­ut Bro­da­rics by Pé­ter Kasza.


The next th­ree chap­ters ac­cen­tu­a­te the im­por­tance of bishops in the li­te­racy of Pécs du­ring the Tur­kish oc­cu­pa­ti­on. Mik­lós Oláh was sec­re­tary of Szat­má­ri from 1510, and ca­non of Pécs from 1518. In his work Hun­ga­ria, pub­lis­hed first in 1735, Oláh descri­bes the geo­gra­phy of Hun­gary and gi­ves va­lu­ab­le de­ta­ils, among ot­hers, on the vin­tage on the vi­neyards of Me­csek. In his ot­her fa­mous work, Co­dex Epis­tol­aris, we find cor­res­pon­den­ce with Eras­mus. Nagy only bri­efly ment­ions An­tal Ve­ran­csics, bishop of Pécs af­ter the death of Oláh. The next bishop, And­rás Du­dith, called also the “Hun­ga­ri­an Eras­mus” pla­yed a cent­ral role in the late Hu­ma­nist Euro­pe. Chap­ter VIII pre­sents Pál Ist­ván­ffy, sub-prefect of Ba­ra­nya, his son Mik­lós Ist­ván­ffy, who was sent to the Uni­ver­sity of Pa­do­va by Oláh, and Mik­lós Te­leg­di, bishop of Pécs from 1579. The aut­hor sees the im­por­tance of the lat­ter in the fact that he aban­don­ed the La­tin li­te­racy of his pre­de­ces­sors, and wro­te and pub­lis­hed the th­ree vo­lumes of ser­mons in Hun­ga­ri­an. In Chap­ter IX Nagy dis­cus­ses the life and the Mus­lim cul­tu­re at the foot of the Me­csek moun­tains, as it is out­li­ned from the works of Tur­kish and Hun­ga­ri­an writers. The analy­sis is bas­ed on six Tur­kish aut­hors who were eit­her born in the city, li­ved the­re for a gi­ven pe­ri­od, wag­ed war in the sur­round­ings, or pas­sed th­ro­ugh Pécs. The­se aut­hors are Pe­cse­vi Ib­rahim, Gázi Giráj, Dz­sá­fer Ijá­ni, Ev­lia Cse­le­bi. Whi­le the gre­at tra­vel­ler Cse­le­bi cons­iders Pécs to be the pa­ra­di­se, an ano­ny­mous Do­mi­ni­can monk mo­urns the ru­ins of what was seen as the for­mer Hun­ga­ri­an Athens. Nagy emp­has­i­zes the im­por­tance of the re­li­gi­o­us dis­pu­tes, mostly fea­tu­ring Pro­tes­tant Mi­hály Sztá­rai and Uni­ta­ri­an György Vá­lasz­úti in the “Dis­pu­te of Pécs” in 1588.


The last th­ree chap­ters of the first part fo­cus on the pe­ri­od bet­ween 1686–1788. Af­ter ha­v­ing dri­ven out the Tur­kish tro­ops, Pécs did not have any ci­vil po­pu­la­ti­on. Af­ter one hund­red and fifty ye­ars of fo­rei­gn rule, Má­tyás Rad­a­nay was the first bishop res­iding in Pécs. He tried to re­or­ga­ni­ze re­li­gi­o­us life. Nagy sta­tes that the 18th cent­ury is the age of Jesu­its in Pécs who to­get­her with the Pa­u­li­nes revi­ta­li­zed the cul­t­u­ral life of the city. The main ca­talysts of li­ter­ary, his­to­ri­cal and sci­en­ti­fic ac­ti­vi­ti­es are Pál Ber­ta­lanf­fi, György Pray, And­rás Span­gár, La­jos Mit­ter­pacher, Fe­renc Fa­lu­di, Far­kas Tóth, Meny­hért Táncz, Pál Ányos and Be­ne­dek Vi­rág, Máté Si­mon. The pri­ma­ry aim of György Kli­mo, bishop of Pécs bet­ween 1751–1777, was the re­in­for­ce­ment of spi­ri­tu­al life, hen­ce why he fo­un­ded for examp­le the first scho­ol for yo­ung la­di­es in the clo­is­ter of Fran­cis­can nuns, and ope­ned the Bishop­ric Lib­rary to the ge­ne­ral public.


The tit­le of the se­cond part of the book “The So­uth Bast­ion” exp­res­ses the si­tu­a­ti­on of the city in the cul­t­u­ral space of Hun­gary vi­vidly, as Pécs is lo­ca­ted to­wards the So­ut­hern bor­der. Nagy expla­ins that this ec­cent­ric po­sit­i­on be­came very ap­pa­rent with the use of Hun­ga­ri­an lan­gu­age in cul­t­u­ral life. Chap­ter XIII pre­sents the first de­ca­des of the free ro­yal city of Pécs th­ro­ugh the eyes of fo­rei­gn and Hun­ga­ri­an tra­v­elers such as ba­ron Antoine-Joseph Zorn de Bu­lach, count Jo­hann Cent­uri­us Hof­mann­segg, phy­si­ci­an Ri­chard Bright, far­mer and aut­hor Jo­hann Gottfried El­sner, Adolf Grün­hold, Lász­ló Szent­jó­bi Sza­bó and Mi­hály Cso­ko­nai Vi­téz. Chap­ter XIV re­se­ar­ches li­te­racy from 1772, from the re­quest for the fo­un­da­ti­on of the Press En­gel to the early 1820’s, the “tri­ad of Pécs” as la­be­led by Mi­hály Vö­rös­mar­ty: the th­ree pri­ests (An­tal Egyed, Lász­ló Tes­lér and Ja­kab Kli­vé­nyi) who gave com­pany to the yo­ung poet, pri­vate tutor of the Perczel fa­mily at the time. Du­ring this pe­ri­od, the old-fashioned small town of Pécs be­came, if not a lar­ge city, but a cen­ter with in­di­vi­du­al exis­ten­ce and cha­rac­ter. The struc­tu­re of the culture-creating ins­ti­tu­tions had been est­ab­lis­hed by this time. Adapt­ing to the chang­ed sta­tus of the city,the bishop­ric had un­der­ta­ken ci­vi­li­an func­tions as well: bishop Ig­nác Sze­pesy (1828–1838) had a new buil­ding built to the Kli­mo Lib­rary, which func­ti­on­ed as pub­lic coll­ec­ti­on. The main per­sons of li­te­racy around Sze­pesy were Já­nos Ran­old­er and Mi­hály Haas du­ring the Re­form Era.

In chap­ters XVIXVIII, Nagy pre­sents the be­g­in­nings of ci­vil li­te­ra­tu­re: the Bie­der­mei­er of Pécs. The Aca­demy of Law, the Cis­ter­ci­an se­con­dary scho­ol, the con­vent scho­ol and the se­con­dary scho­ol with spe­ci­a­li­za­ti­on in sci­en­ce pro­vi­ded a deg­ree of com­pen­sa­ti­on for the lack of the uni­ver­sity. Out­stand­ing ar­tists of Hun­ga­ri­an­li­te­ra­tu­res­tu­di­e­din the­se scho­ols: Sán­dor Ko­czi­án, Ilo­na Ka­ray, and the Len­kei bro­thers. The aut­hor pre­sents the li­te­racy of Pécs of the se­cond half of the 19th cent­ury th­ro­ugh the cent­ral cha­rac­ter of Fló­ri­án Má­tyás, the out­stand­ing scientist.

Chap­ter XIX ar­gues that Pécs was the stepping-stone for many ta­len­ted writers and scho­lars at the turn of the 20th cent­ury. The examp­les of Sán­dor Bak­say, Béla Vi­kár, Kor­nél Szen­te­le­ky and Mi­ros­lav Krleža are gi­ven as ty­pi­cal: they were born or stu­di­ed in Pécs and la­ter left the city be­hind to go to Bu­da­pest or el­sew­he­re. In ad­di­ti­on to the diocese,the lib­rary and schools,the lo­cal press was ty­pi­cally or­ga­ni­sed as a ci­vil ins­ti­tu­ti­on, for examp­le the ac­ti­vity of me­dia out­lets Pé­csi Fi­gye­lő, Pé­csi Nap­ló, Pé­csi Füg­get­len Uj­ság. The next two chap­ters give a view of the press of Pécs in the se­cond half of the 19th cent­ury and at the turn of the cent­ury (Ödön Gerő, Fe­renc Vá­rady, La­jos Len­kei, Zol­tán Thury, Zol­tán Som­lyó, La­jos Ka­to­na, La­jos Bar­ta), as well as the bi­lin­gu­al (Hun­ga­ri­an and Ger­man) 19th-cent­ury theater.


The last th­ree chap­ters pre­sent four aut­hors who had strong con­nec­tions with and were inf­lu­en­ced by Pécs in one pe­ri­od of the­ir life: Mi­hály Ba­bits, Mik­lós Su­rá­nyi, La­jos Bar­ta and Já­nos Ko­do­lá­nyi. Ba­bits stu­di­ed here for a de­ca­de and some of his works, espe­ci­ally his fa­mily no­vel Ha­lál­fi­ai (The Sons of Death, pub­lis­hed first in 1927, last vers­ion in 1938) were lar­gely ins­pi­red by his mem­ori­es of Pécs. Su­rá­nyi also stu­di­ed in Pécs and many of his pro­se works, the first of them the no­vel Kan­ta­te (1918), are in con­nec­ti­on with the city. Chap­ter XXIV is cen­te­red on mo­der­nist cur­rents and path se­e­king bet­ween 1915–1925: Ac­ti­vism and Bau­ha­us. The mem­bers of the Circ­le of Ar­tists of Pécs were such out­stand­ing people as Far­kas Mol­nár, Jenő Gá­bor and An­dor Wei­nin­ger. Nagy ex­pan­ds our know­ledge re­mar­ka­bly, im­port­ing the la­test re­se­arch re­sults of the ex­hi­bit­ions on the Hun­ga­ri­an Bauhaus.

The vo­lu­me is il­lustra­ted with many black and white ima­ges in the text, and 16 co­lo­ur tab­les at the end of the book rep­re­sent­ing ma­inly ma­jor li­ter­ary per­sons, do­cu­ments and sig­ni­fi­cant li­ter­ary events. Bib­lio­gra­phy, in­dex and sum­ma­ry in Eng­lish, Ger­man and Cro­a­ti­an help ori­en­ta­te the re­ader at the end of the book.

Nagy descri­bes the changes th­ro­ugh his institution-centered point of view and sum­ma­ri­zes the li­ter­ary the­ori­es of va­ri­o­us thin­kers of nine cent­uri­es. He also calls at­tent­ion to to­pics for furt­her re­se­arch in al­most every chap­ter, for examp­le the oeuvre of Jó­zsef Kol­ler and Ist­ván Sza­lá­gyi in Chap­ter XII or the ac­ti­vity of Mik­lós Su­rá­nyi in Chap­ter XXII. He does not li­mit his scope to li­te­ra­tu­re but pro­vi­des an out­lo­ok to the ar­tis­tic and ar­chi­tec­tu­ral de­ve­lop­ments as well. He re­gards the city as a spi­ri­tu­al and men­tal space.

Howe­ver, the­re is still space for imp­ro­ve­ment in some mi­nor mat­ters. The sty­le is nar­ra­tive and un­der­stan­d­ab­le also for the ge­ne­ral pub­lic, but on oc­cas­ions Nagy is too simp­lis­tic, for examp­le: “However,one may not be sur­pri­sed, be­ca­u­se the va­lues of that era were dif­fe­rent from tho­se of la­ter times.” (Ezen azon­ban nem kell cso­dál­koz­nunk, mert an­nak a kor­nak az ér­ték­rend­je el­tért a ké­sőb­bi­től. P.18.) or “Do not be sur­pri­sed, the­re­fo­re: we are in the 11thcent­ury, in the mid­st of an era of as­ce­tic spi­rit” (Ne le­pőd­jünk meg te­hát: a 11. szá­zad­ban va­gyunk, egy asz­ke­ti­kus szel­le­mű kor kel­lős kö­ze­pén. P.18.) I have fo­und only a few typist’s er­rors in the text.

On one hand, I re­com­mend the book for the res­idents of Pécs,whose re­la­ti­onship with the city will de­fi­ni­tely chan­ge by read­ing it, pos­sibly re­sult­ing in a more nu­an­ced view. On the ot­her hand, the book can of­fer im­por­tant in­sights for all the eth­nic and cul­t­u­ral gro­ups con­nec­ted to Pécs, as well as to tho­se who study the his­to­ry of the­se groups.


We can only wish that Nagy con­ti­nues his work pre­sent­ing the li­ter­ary life of Pécs from 1923 to the end of the 20th cent­ury. We have al­re­ady been gi­ven a tas­te of this pe­ri­od in va­ri­o­us chap­ters of the pre­sent book as well, for examp­le he ment­ions the plays writ­ten for the 500th an­ni­ver­sary of the death of Ja­nus in 1972, or li­ter­ary his­to­ri­an End­re An­gyal in re­la­ti­on to the Bie­der­mei­er of Pécs.


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