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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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11. The “Jewish Question” – and the National One. Preliminary Conclusions


457 11. The “Jewish Question” – and the National One Preliminary Conclusions According to the Hungarian-American musical and cultural historian Judit Frigyesi, one of the distinctive features of Endre Ady s´ poetry is the “inherent symbolism” of the message of the poetic associations carried by the particular words and the way they are composed in the poem. In some words symbolism is more evident, but most of them suggest a whole range of images and mean- ings that, superimposed and interacting, create a special lyrical atmosphere. The imagery has a “surplus” of symbolic references forcing the reader to focus on the interacting symbolic content of the single word. At the same time, Ady s´ language is full of everyday usages that lack elegance and are emphatically unpoetical, at time even rude, silly or primitive. Ady uses the language to its full capacity and improvises words and syntax, sometimes taking the context as inspiration for a neologism, always creating an ambiguity that becomes part of the symbolic message.1239 According to his friend Lajos Hatvany, Ady knocked on the door of the Unknown, what is beyond the capacity of comprehension, the secret of what is beyond everything,1240 that is God, the innermost substance of existence, ac- cording to Frigyesi, the center of the universe, the all-embracing totality or the all-governing “Nothing”, that which does not have volume, form nor shape – I carry my load: the heaviest Nothing, My path: the great Nihil, the None, My fate: to go, to go, to go,...

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