Kulturkampf?

I'm back with an entirely different topic. Something that we might call the orbanite Kulturkampf. Nothing is being spared. First came the philosophers, then the historians, and now the artists–sculptors, an orchestra, and filmmakers.

Gyula Budai is "investigating" seventy-eight contemporary artists who received grants under the Universitas Program. It was Bálint Magyar, liberal minister of education, who came up with the idea. Crumbling university buildings were being renovated on a large scale. Magyar thought that perhaps the presidents and the senates of the universities would also like to decorate the campuses with contemporary fine arts. Mostly modern statues. I already wrote about the Hungarian right's detestation of modern art. There is a certain pressure from Fidesz supporters to return to the kind of art done in the nineteenth century. Therefore I'm not at all surprised that Budai's attention turned to this, according to him, totally useless project. 

In the world of music there are two famous Hungarian orchestras: the Budapest Festival Orchestra and the National Philharmonic. The conductor of the former is Iván Fischer and Zoltán Kocsis, also a renowned pianist, conducts the National Philharmonic. Kocsis is a favorite of the right. Already during the first Orbán government he received an incredible amount of money to "redo" the orchestra. And when I say "redo" I mean it literally. Apparently before he became the music director and conductor of the orchestra the Philharmonic had worked on a seniority system. Once you got a job there as a young man you stayed and stayed. Kocsis got rid of about half of the orchestra and hired new talent. I'm sure that this was a necessary move and that Kocsis's reforms made the orchestra much better. The problem was that while the Philharmonic got a great deal more money the Budapest Festival Orchestra got less than before. Now that Orbán is back in power, Kocsis is again the favorite. The Philharmonic will receive 300 million forints more than before while the Budapest Festival Orchestra will receive 170 million forints less than last year. Whether the Fischer brothers' outspoken criticism of the government has anything to do with it I don't know, but I have my suspicions.

The Hungarian film industry is highly regarded, but obviously the work of the Hungarian filmmakers is not to the liking of those who are conducting the Kulturkampf. They would like to return to the kinds of films that are entertaining and patriotic. Historical blockbusters are especially to their liking. During the first Orbán government they put an awful lot of money into a film version of István Széchenyi's life and because the actor playing Széchenyi is a bigoted Catholic for his sake even history was falsified. The actor refused to play the role if the truth that Széchenyi committed suicide was revealed in the film. It was at that point that Domokos Kosáry, the doyen of Hungarian history and an expert on Széchenyi who was supposed to be the watchdog over the film's historical accuracy, quit in disgust. The second Orbán government's historical blockbuster will be another very expensive and most likely easily forgettable film on the life of Ferenc Liszt.

The Hungarian government is apparently putting money into a production of the country's national opera, Ferenc Erkel's Bánk bán, that will be staged in Los Angeles. Bánk bán is another hobbyhorse of Fidesz. Besides the movie about Széchenyi, they made a huge financial commitment to a screen version of the opera. Another flop. And now the Hungarian government is footing the bill for a U.S. premier of Bánk bán. One must wonder why no American opera company performed this opera in the last one hundred and fifty years and why the Hungarian government thinks it is necessary to help finance the Los Angeles production.

But back to the Hungarian film industry. A government commissioner in the person of Andrew Vajna, the American film producer who has been an ardent supporter of Viktor Orbán and his party, was named to oversee the industry. Hungarian filmmakers are outraged. While the financing of Hungarian filmmaking was on fairly equitable and solid professional basis in the last four or five years, the industry is in total limbo at the moment. I assume the chaos is not only in the ministries but also in all facets of cultural life.

On February 9th a number of Hungarian filmmakers, including Béla Tarr who just won the Silver Bear at the Berlinale, wrote an open letter in which they rejected the appointment of Vajna as an overseer of Hungarian cinema. After all, they are different filmmakers with different ideas, but now the government wants to "direct" Hungarian filmmaking. After receiving the prize Tarr gave an interview to Der Tagesspiegel. In the interview he made a few very critical remarks about Viktor Orbán's Hungary. For example, that "he lives in a country that is no longer free."The government hates the intellectuals and harrasses them. He brought up the example of the eighty-one-year-old Ágnes Heller. 

Then he went on about the woes of the Hungarian film industry. He himself has three approved projects and although the Hungarian government in writing promised a certain amount of money to support them, everything "was put on ice." In any case, for this government "signed contracts are no more than toilet paper." Without mentioning Vajna's name he called him "a kind a censor who can single handedly make decisions." When the interviewer asked him whether he is considering leaving Hungary and continuing his work abroad, Tarr answered: "I am a Hungarian. This government is changing the constitution and is settling down for twenty years in office. But it is the government that must go–not me."

I guess I don't have to detail the reaction at home. One official after another immediately attacked Tarr. The head of MOKÉP, distributor of Hungarian films, announced that he was very distraught by Tarr's thoughtless remarks. Next came the head of the association of Hungarian movie producers, Gábor Kálomista, who has strong ties to Fidesz. And finally Géza Szőcs, the undersecretary for cultural affairs, announced that when he phoned Tarr to congratulate him the film director told him that what appeared in Der Tagesspiegel was not quite what he said. In fact, it was exactly the opposite.

Apparently Der Tagesspiegel's journalist has the tape of the conversation and the paper has no intention of publishing the correction demanded by Tarr. I'm certain that the filmmaker said exactly what appeared in print. Why is he retreating? I guess because he truly doesn't want to leave Hungary. Orbán doesn't easily forgive or forget. Moreover, criticism of him and his regime has serious consequences. Even so, I regret that Tarr didn't have the guts to stand up and remaining standing.

 

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Johnny Boy
Guest

Maybe finally the right is putting up its own efforts to counter the persistent destructive, (“liberal”), anti-national Kulturkampf.
Your friends are afraid of losing their never-deserved huge majority and overwhelming voice. I sincerely hope their fears are founded. Time to succumb to the will of the vast majority.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Johnny Boy: “Maybe finally the right is putting up its own efforts to counter the persistent destructive, (“liberal”), anti-national Kulturkampf.”
I assume you have some idea about the history of Hungarian literature. Could you please list those wonderful right-wing nationalist who are giants of Hungarian literature?

GW
Guest

The orchestra funding nicely demonstrates how far from a real conservative, market-oriented party Fidesz has become. The Festival Orchestra was a private initiative with a strong marketing program, including touring, recording, programs attached to tourism, and also has some modest interest in unusual repertoire, while the National Philharmonic essentially maintains the old Soviet-block-style state-run and -subsidized orchestra with very conservative programming and little pressure to fill halls, tour, or to develop an international reputation for their programming. The Festival Orchestra has done a brilliant job of presenting the best musical face of Hungary to the world while the Philharmonic is essentially playing safely to the folks at home in the royal box seats.

Paul
Guest

What “vast majority”?
Two thirds of parliamentary seats is a freak result of Hungary’s strange election system, Fidesz’s actual popular vote was just under 53%.
An excellent result, no arguing wiIth that, and a majority, but only just, and certainly not “vast”. And, of course, only a majority of those who voted, not the population as a whole. And a vote that has slipped by 10% since, according to the latest opinion polls.
It is actually the non-Fidesz view that has the majority, now the purple dust has settled a bit.

Member

Johnny Boy: I am with Eva. Also, do you think we should start burning books, paintings and films? What would we be left with at the end, Johnny Boy? You were so worried what the World will think of Hungarians because of all the lefties (as you name them) stir up this unfounded propaganda against the Fidesz’ doing. When people read your comments, they will get a very good idea. In order to protect Hungarians in general, I would like to put a disclaimer here for everyone, that Johnny Boy’s comments do not even reflect the believes of all members of the Fidesz let alone the general Hungarian population.

Jano
Guest
Eva: What about starting with Petőfi? Were not left-wingers for sure (although the right wing-left wing dichotomy is not exactly applicable to the beginning of the 19th century, I know) Btw, how you formulated your sentence implies that you yourself are fighting a Kulturkampf. I’m kinda confused about this “Kulturkampf”. Unlike you, I don’t assume automatic innocence in any of the cases just because the Orbán goverment of which I don’t have a very high opinion is the one making the accusation. And I’m kind of tempted to beleive Tarr as well didn’t exactly said what was written down (as I have a few experience with journalists not exactly writing down what the interviewed said especially if they have an agenda). As far as I know it’s common courtesy in case of an exclusive interview to send the final version to the interviewed for a final permission, it would be interesting to know if such a thing happened here. On the other hand, if the Orbán government is really just on a hunt for these guys it’s just utter stupidity again. Why? Because it’s unnecessary. They have already successfully discredited them in the public eye (with a lot of help… Read more »
Member

Kocsis gave an interview a week ago in the Süddeutsche Zeitung that pretty much made him the laughingstock of the country. He was asked about the political climate in Hungary and specifically about the growing anti-Semitism and homophoby. Of course everything is rosy, the government is awesome. Regarding racism he said “I have eleven jews and eleven roma musicians in my orchestra”. This reminded everybody on the classic soviet era joke when the soviets were bragging about the sixty something jews in the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra and then asked the Americans how many jews are in the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra … “we have no idea”.

latefor
Guest

Eva,
I have to agree with some Fidesz supporters re: return to the kind of art done in the 19th century.
The art world is going through a drastic change at present. Yes, there is a return to REALISM, with an interesting twist. The country where I live, the most prestigious art price was won by an artist who nearly copied (or shall I say was influenced by) a 16th century great master! Yes, people are hungry for beauty, they want an immediate visual fix…who can blame them?

Vidra
Guest

Ironic, then, that Fidesz is supporting art that gives “an immediate visual fix” at the same time as it’s proposing a tax on junk food. Or is the difference that one is American junk and the other is Hungarian?

J
Guest

Here is the interview (in Polish so maybe google translator would be needed) with Marta Meszaros. Great summary of the whole situation in Hungarian cineama. http://wyborcza.pl/1,75480,9036808,Madame_Curie_miala_wazne_romanse.html
In all, this is exactly what was happening in Poland when PiS (the twins) were in power. Trying to stop production of the WWII movie that was accurately portraying polish soldiers stance at Westerplatte. Also, all things cultural had to be “patriotic”.

Kirsten
Guest

Éva: “And finally Géza Szőcs, the undersecretary for cultural affairs, announced that when he phoned Tarr to congratulate him the film director told him that what appeared in Der Tagesspiegel was not quite what he said. In fact, it was exactly the opposite.”
I am not yet convinced that this is true. Mr. Szocs is the gracious one who congratulated Mr Tarr although he criticised the current government while at the same time taking back (for Mr. Tarr) this criticism? I think the phonecall will have had a slightly different tone. Given the current atmosphere Mr. Tarr does not do anything wrong if he does not try to “correct” this one. Too weird, and public support for him would still be minimal. I think that who wanted to understand what he thinks, does know now.

Kirsten
Guest

@”In fact, it was exactly the opposite.”
For me the opposite is: “It is not the government that has to go – but me.” That is meaningless.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Latefor: “Eva, I have to agree with some Fidesz supporters re: return to the kind of art done in the 19th century.”
You cannot return to an art that is two-hundred years old. Can you imagine if painters today painted in the genre of romantic landscapes? In a way it would be sign of backwardness. Before you start arguing, let me give you an example. In the West Roman architecture is replaced by the Gothic but Hungary way behind is still building in the old style either because they have never gotten the word that it is passé or because they are far too old-fashioned.
Something like that would happen if statues were erected in the style of the late nineteenth century.

Johnny Boy
Guest
Eva: “Could you please list those wonderful right-wing nationalist who are giants of Hungarian literature?” Let’s start it the other way around. Please list those left-winged giants. EVERY giant in Hungarian literature was a patriot and nationalist, in the good sense of the word. Your anti-Hungarian type was simply non-existent before WW1. Petőfi: “Foglalod a kurv’anyádat, de nem ám a mi hazánkat”; Ady: “Nekünk Mohács kell”; Radnóti (the Jew): “Nekem szülőhazám itt e lángoktől ölelt kis ország, messzeringó gyerekkorom világa”; Kölcsey: “Isten, áldd meg a magyart”; and I could go on with Vörösmarty, Arany and others. ALL these giants would be instantly classified by you as Nazi. Maybe this is enough to show you how a bizarre and distorted mental world you lefties live in. Paul: “Two thirds of parliamentary seats is a freak result of Hungary’s strange election system, Fidesz’s actual popular vote was just under 53%.” I was not specifically referring to the voting results. I rather meant how the ‘cultural’ things in Hungary look like. And the vast majority (read: vast, IMO way over 80%) supports the ‘old-fashioned’ culture, not the contemporary ‘culture’ with pissing on crucifixes and exhibiting feces in pig blood. All types that lefties… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Vidra: “Or is the difference that one is American junk and the other is Hungarian?”
Well, it certainly sounds better to nationalistic ears. But the fact is that the trouble is not with unhealthy food but with unhealthy eating habits.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

J: “this is exactly what was happening in Poland when PiS (the twins) were in power.”
I will take a look at the article, I know a little Polish and of course I know Márta Mészáros, so I can well imagine what she had to say.
You’re right, Orbán’s Hungary resembles greatly of the Poland of Kaczynskis. The only difference is that the Poles got rid of them and I’m not so sure that the Hungarians have good enough sense to get rid of Orbán and Co.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Kirsten: “@”In fact, it was exactly the opposite.” For me the opposite is: “It is not the government that has to go – but me.” That is meaningless.”
I think he meant that everything he said about the government was the opposite that appeared in the paper.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Johnny Boy: Long list of “nationalists”…. First of all you have an odd notion of “nationalism.” Second, the emphasis is on right-wing nationalists. Surely, when one thinks of conservative, right-wingers such “giants” come to mind as Ferenc Herczeg. The literary hero of the Hungarian right today is an antisemitic Nazi. This is the problem.

true to yourself
Guest

Eva Balogh qualifies to me as the most worthy disciple of the greatest Hungarian, the non-violent reformer, Ferenc Deak.
She has no fear to direct clueless Hungarians to the path of the solid enlightened moral.
We have to lose our fear. We have to resist our narrowminded national majority, and leading politicians like Orban.
This is the only moral thing the nation of Deak can do in defense of the Hungarian pride.

Johnny Boy
Guest

Eva: “First of all you have an odd notion of “nationalism.””
No I don’t. It’s you twisting the words out of their meaning.
“Second, the emphasis is on right-wing nationalists. Surely, when one thinks of conservative, right-wingers such “giants” come to mind as Ferenc Herczeg. The literary hero of the Hungarian right today is an antisemitic Nazi. This is the problem.”
No, this is not the problem. He is not a literary hero of any kind, an we’re not talking about him but about those who today think they are ‘artists’ of any kind and imagine that anti-Nationalist and sickening garbage is art. This is what we’re against.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Johnny Boy: those who “imagine that anti-Nationalist and sickening garbage is art. This is what we’re against.”
So there is nationalist art and anti-nationalist art? Is that what you mean? And the anti-nationalist art is garbage. Oh, my god, it is really not worth talking with you about anything.

Johnny Boy
Guest

OK, if you put so much effort into not understanding what I say, then maybe not.

Member

Johnny Boy: “EVERY giant in Hungarian literature was a patriot and nationalist, in the good sense of the word. Your anti-Hungarian type was simply non-existent before WW1.” bahahaha Johnny Boy, those wonderful artists loved their homeland, and yes maybe in a good sense they were nationalist, before nationalism was given a bad name by the ultra right! Radnoti? Are you crazy? He was killed by the nazis, and was certainly not protected by the “nationalists” as a Hungarian! Petofi? Alexander Petrovics. His father was a Serb and his mother is Slovak. In your circles, he would be dispelled from Hungary as not a True Hungarian. He would be ashamed what the right wing uses his legacy of. Johnny Boy, you prove it over and over again what the right wing in Hungary is all about. Misinformation that is. In any reasonable person’s book, those wonderful people would of been crazy to support the right wing.

Johnny Boy
Guest

No, there are the ‘artists’ you defend who are anti-nationalist and produce garbage. Those for whom you’re shedding tears now.
But if you insist on putting so much effort into not understanding what I say, then maybe yes it’s not worth talking.

Jo Peattie
Guest

Stop feeding “him”….

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Johnny Boy: “Those for whom you’re shedding tears now. But if you insist on putting so much effort into not understanding what I say, then maybe yes it’s not worth talking.”
It sure isn’t worth it because you are talking nonsense.

GDF
Guest

Eva:” Surely, when one thinks of conservative, right-wingers such “giants” come to mind as Ferenc Herczeg. The literary hero of the Hungarian right today is an antisemitic Nazi. This is the problem.”
What do you expect from somebody who writes ‘Radnoti (the Jew)’?
In any case, it seems that this regime’s supporters are those who consider art to be a glass fish somewhere in the living room. And I am sure there still are many of them, thanks to the quality of art education in the school system.

Johnny Boy
Guest

GDF: “What do you expect from somebody who writes ‘Radnoti (the Jew)’?”
You should be ashamed of yourself, it should be obvious to you why I wrote “the Jew”. Because he died in conjunction with his nationality and it is really a shame that you don’t know the significance of his origin.

Johnny Boy
Guest

Eva: “It sure isn’t worth it because you are talking nonsense.”
Or, rather, you don’t have the mental capabilities to understand the message.
Or you pretend not understanding, which is pretty much equal.

Member

Johnny: No, I do not understand, but I really think I am not alone. I am done with this “conversation” with you.

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