Mario and Cipolla in the Hungarian parliament

You may think that I have lost my mind. What on earth are Mario and Cipolla doing in the Hungarian parliament? The reference, for people who either forgot the story or never read it, is to Thomas Mann's short novella, Mario and the Magician. Cipolla was the disgusting conjurer and hypnotist who in the story forced Mario, the waiter, to do things against his will.  Mario after coming to his senses kills Cipolla in the middle of his act.

Thomas Mann's characters appeared in the Hungarian parliament by way of a poem written by a Fidesz parliamentary member, Tamás László. László is a 58-year-old architect with obvious literary ambitions. He must have a high opinion of his own talents because he proudly recited a poem he wrote in 2006 when he was a freshman member. Apparently Prime Minister Gyurcsány made such a negative impression on him–and the poem was written before Őszöd–that he could think only of Cavaliere Cipolla, the traveling virtuoso and entertainer who advertised himself on posters plastered all over the houses of Torre di Venere where the story's narrator was spending his vacation with his family. In his poem, Gyurcsány gets up and like Cipolla, the conjurer, tries to hypnotize his audience. László is praying for a Mario to put an end to his act.

It was Friday afternoon in the last few minutes of a sparsely attended parliamentary session. However, Zoltán Szabó, a mathematician obviously familiar with Thomas Mann's works, was there. He got up and in no uncertain terms said what he thought of his fellow member. He accused him of calling for the murder of Ferenc Gyurcsány. In later interviews Szabó expressed the opinion that what László did was worse than what Sándor Arnóth, another Fidesz member of parliament, did when he yelled to one of the members of government that "You'll be hanging!" According to Szabó it is worse because Arnóth simply threatened his political opponent while László called for the murder of the prime minister.

Of course, the answer from the other side could be that although at the beginning of the poem László equates Gyurcsány with Cipolla, he actually was talking about "communism." After all, László could argue, Cipolla is a symbol of ideologies that hypnotize people and that have to be resisted. At the end of his poem László does allude to "sixty years of lies." But once he put a human face on the sixty years of lies, it's hard to argue that the poem is simply about a failed ideology.

In any case, why are we surprised at the growing violence? All physical violence starts with words, and the Hungarian opposition is using provocative language. In some cases words are acts.