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The Sacred Cause

The Europe that was Lost – Thoughts on Central and Eastern European Modernism

Tom Sandqvist

«This book is about Modernism and Avant-Garde movements in Central and Eastern European art around the last turn of the century. It sketches a surrealistic, bewildering, irrational arena. At the same time, we are offered a differentiated view on the complex whole of the avantgarde scene in Eastern Europe. The author takes us to dark soirées, scandalous dada theatrical performances, drunken bouts with loudmouthed reformers. Subjectivity stands against rationality, ethnonationalism against internationalism. Yugoslavian zenitism, Czech poetism, Hungarian activism, and other less-known isms, are proposed in exstatic outbursts in shortlived magazines. The pace is hectic, the commitment enormous, and the sheer force of strongminded individuals overwhelming. All in all, the inversed perspective seems alluringly fresh, with Eastern Europe as the co-producer of ideological content, instead as the receiver, or, even worse, the passive reflection of Western thought. I am impressed by the tolerance of much of the audience before and after the First World War: To be a genius seems to be just a matter of course. Karel Teige in Prague, Ljubomir Micić in Zagreb, Lajos Kassák in Budapest, and Jacek Malczewski in Krakow were tireless propagators of avant-garde art – but also of nostalgic messianism. How did they get away with this, at times, monomaniac egoism, one wonders. Sandqvist finds the answer in that subjectivity was the remedy for avantgarde artists as a defence mechanism against the repressive society and destructive socioeconomical forces.» (Jan von Bonsdorff, Professor, Uppsala University)


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10. Back in Budapest. Mihály Munkácsy, Endre Ady, Hungarian Symbolism, and the City at the Danube


398 and state. Simultaneously the Slovakian demands were met with arrests, harass- ments, dismissals, and imprisonments of Slovakian activists. Catching great international attention the massacre in the village of Černová just outside Ružomberok on the slopes of the Tatra Mountains in October 1907 became a kind of an anti-climax, while it also became the starting shot of the notorious right-wing fascist movement led by Father Andrej Hlinka. A Roman Catholic church sponsored and built by the villagers was supposed to be inau- gurated by Father Hlinka, the priest of Ružomberok temporarily forbidden to carry out his duties. The parishioners appealed to Bishop Sándor Párvy, an ardent Hungarian nationalist, to revoke the “exclusion from service”, but the bishop pro- hibited Father Hlinka to participate, even though he gave his permission to the ceremony itself. The parishioners, according to Jozef Lettrich, deeply insulted, decided to postpone the inauguration, while the bishop persisted in his decision. When Hlinka arrived to the village, a Hungarian military force started shooting at the assembled villagers killing fifteen of them and arresting as many.1090 Hun- garian ethno-nationalism had showed how far is was prepared to go to, as it was put, defend the Hungarian people and the vital interests of the Hungarian nation against irredentist, revolutionary tendencies. The sacred crown of Saint Stephen would be defended at all costs. 1090 Lettrich 1955, p. 38-39. 399 10. Back in Budapest Mihály Munkácsy, Endre Ady, Hungarian Symbolism, and the City at the Danube...

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