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Literary and Cultural Relations

Ireland, Hungary and Central and Eastern Europe


Edited By Maria Kurdi

The lively, informative and incisive collection of essays sheds fascinating new light on the literary interrelations between Ireland, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and the Czech Republic. It charts a hitherto under-explored history of the reception of modern Irish culture in Central and Eastern Europe and also investigates how key authors have been translated, performed, and adapted. The work of Jonathan Swift, John Millington Synge, Flann O'Brien, Samuel Beckett, Brian Friel, Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon and Martin McDonagh, it is indicated, has particularly inspired writers, directors, and translators. The searching analyses presented here illuminatingly reflect on the far-reaching political and social import of multicultural exchange. It is shown to be a process that is at best mutually defining and that raises questions about received forms of identity, the semiotics of genre and the possibilities and limits of linguistic translation. In addition, the histories compiled here of critical commentary on Irish literature in Hungary or of the staging of contemporary Irish plays in Hungary and in the Czech Republic, for example, uncover the haphazardness of intercultural exchange and the extent to which it is vulnerable to political ideology, social fashion, and the vagaries of state funding. The revealing explorations undertaken in this volume of a wide array of Irish dramatic and literary texts, ranging from Gulliver's Travels to Translations and The Pillowman, tease out the subtly altered nuances that they acquire in a Central European context. By the same token, it is demonstrated that Ireland has been changed by the recent migration of workers from Eastern Europe and that consequently projections of the figure of the emigrant or asylum seeker in current drama warrant scrutiny. This original and combative collection demonstrates, not only that literary exchange between Hungary, Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Ireland has been prolonged, multifaceted and, above all, enriching, but also that it exposes blind-spots, and forces confrontation with issues of racism, failure of empathy and cultural misprision.

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2 | Samuel Beckett Comes to Transylvania: the ‘Absurdoid’ Plays of Géza Páskándi

2 |   Samuel Beckett Comes to Transylvania: the ‘Absurdoid’ Plays of Géza Páskándi


Donald E. Morse

Estragon. The absurd is dead. It’s not even fashionable any more.1

The plays of the Transylvanian-Hungarian playwright, philosopher, and writer Géza Páskándi (1933-1995) have proven typical of Central European Absurd Theatre. Thanks to the exiled Romanian playwright, Eugene Ionesco’s popular plays beginning with La cantatrice chauve (1949),2 the western Theatre of the Absurd came quickly to post-war Romania where it was radically modified to fit the existing conditions of a harsh police state. Rather than finding subject matter for plays, as Ionesco living in Paris once said he found his ‘in my dreams, in my anxieties, in my obscure desires, in my internal contradictions’.3 Páskándi found his in the external world of the police state that itself determined dreams, created anxieties, limited desires, and projected contradictions. In his plays, language functions as a distorted mirror of contemporary reality; that is, language becomes ‘a weapon to disintegrate personality and to eliminate the individual’, exactly as language within the communist police state functioned publicly as ‘a means of control and manipulation’.4 That language, together with brilliant visual images, projects a world absurd in its make-up, absurd in its power over the individual, and above all absurd in the ←31 | 32→dog-eat-dog nature of human relations that, in turn, raises crucial questions of morality and individual responsibility.

If Ionesco paved a way, far more influential on Páskándi’s thinking and writing were the translations and local productions...

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