Writer Ákos Kertész, 80, is seeking political asylum in Canada

Last night news spread in Hungarian Internet circles that the Kossuth Prize-winning novelist Ákos Kertész had arrived in Montreal, Canada on February 29 and had turned to immigration authorities asking for political asylum. A couple of hours earlier a Hungarian-language press release was sent to Hungarian media organs officially announcing Kertész's arrival in Canada.

"Following the appearance of Ákos Kertész's open letter in the Amerikai-Magyar Népszava [on August 29, 2011] a hate campaign was launched against him not only in the City Council of Budapest but also in Parliament. At the insistence of Jobbik, the anti-Semite Hungarian Nazi party, the City Council's pro-government majority deprived him of his Freedom of Budapest award. The pro-government media openly incited the extremists against him. As a result he was exposed to constant physical harassment and threats. He was physically attacked in public. He felt that his life was in danger.

"There must be grave reasons for an eighty-year-old writer who is attached to his birthplace in a million ways to come to such a decision and to take such a step full of risks. Kertész's case says a lot about a country from which a writer must escape because of one of his writings. 

"Kertész said'I came to this conclusion with grave difficulty because for me the Hungarian language means life. Hungary is my birthplace, my home. I made this painful decision not against Hungary and the Hungarian people with whom I always shared the same fate. I was forced to make this decision because of the current Hungarian government. I hope that one day I will be able to return to a democratic, tolerant, humane Hungary.' Otherwise, for the time being the writer is not going to make public statements concerning his decision."

What did Ákos Kertész do that upset the Hungarian right so much? He wrote an open letter to László Bartus, editor-in-chief of American-Hungarian Népszava, the oldest Hungarian-language paper in the United States, in which he bitterly complained about Hungarians who are "genetically servile" and who therefore allow the dictatorial Viktor Orbán to rule over them. He said a few harsh things, no doubt about it. He compared his fellow Hungarians to pigs who for the slop the farmer puts in front of them happily grunt, not realizing that they will be killed.

Kertesz Akos3

It was the word "genetically" that caused consternation even in liberal circles because it looked as if Kertész was a racist. However, I read an article by a lexicographer according to whom in Hungarian there is a distinction between "genetikus" and "genetikai." Kertész used the former word. According to the lexicographer, in all existing Hungarian dictionaries "genetikus" simply means "something indicating derivation, origin, development" and not something "relating to genetics or genes." I might add here that the English word "genetic" also has these two meanings. Its second meaning is "of, relating to, or influenced by the origin or development of something." So, strictly speaking, Kertész was talking about an attitude that was influenced by historical development.

wrote about the "Kertész affair" on September 7, 2011, where I indicated that most likely a protracted hate campaign could be expected in the wake of this letter. I brought up the Landeszman case. In 1993 Rabbi Landeszman, after reading István Csurka's attack on Hungarian Jewry, said something negative about Hungarian literature without the input of Jewish writers. Because of the furious attacks, Rabbi Landeszman left for Canada. But I must admit that I didn't think that Ákos Kertész would also end up there.

The attacks in the right-wing media went on for two solid months. The last article I read about the "consequences" of Ákos Kertész's sin was on October 24. Almost two months after the appearance of the infamous letter. As I mentioned in my earlier post it took only a few days for Jobbik to suggest to István Tarlós, mayor of Budapest, that Kertész be deprived of his "Freedom of Budapest" award. Tarlós seemed to be game because "he was appalled." On September 6 he promised that he would discuss the matter with the city fathers. Obviously they didn't need much convincing. On September 21 Kertész lost his "freedom of the city" together with Stalin. Mind you, as it turned out, Stalin's name wasn't even on the rostrum but better safe than sorry, and Tarlós insisted on stripping the Soviet dictator of his nonexistent award. Twenty people (Fidesz and Jobbik) voted for the decision, nine against it, and two abstained. 

Meanwhile others were busy as well. The question of Ákos Kertész's letter was a topic even in parliament. On September 12 a Jobbik member of parliament asked János Halász, political undersecretary of the Ministry of National Resources, whether the government was contemplating stripping Kertész of his Kossuth Prize, the most prestigious artistic award in Hungary. Halász's answer was that Kertész should apologize; if not, "he is not worthy of it." The Jobbik MP was insistent. He asked whether the government was thinking about turning to President Pál Schmitt, who seemed to be quite eager to cooperate in this joint effort. In fact, on September 14, he asked that the government examine the possibility of withdrawing state awards from those who had become unworthy of them. In his letter to Viktor Orbán, Schmitt wrote that an awardee becomes unworthy of the recognition if his behavior "violates the constitutional values of Hungary and of the nation." (In light of Pál Schmitt's alleged plagiarism case, one cannot help but wonder about his own unworthiness of all those awards, including the honorary degrees he received.)

Under the barrage of criticism Kertész admitted that he made a mistake because the phrase "genetically servile" makes no sense. But the attacks didn't stop. On October 24 another Jobbik MP, Sándor Pörzse, asked Viktor Orbán whether the government was planning to do anything about this abomination. "A man [férfiember] cannot suffer abuse without saying something in two cases: if his family is reviled or his nation is assailed." Orbán's answer was that "right-wing, Christian, Hungarian politicians must get accustomed to often ignoble, stupid, racist, abusive comments against Hungarians. And one should decide astutely when to pick up the glove and when to hit back and when not." Surely, one is not happy when a writer who had been awarded the Kossuth Prize "entertains us with racist stupidities." However, he added that there are greater problems in this country than Kertész's case. For example, Ernő Gerő, former first secretary of the Hungarian Communist party at the time of the 1956 Revolution, still hasn't been stripped of his Kossuth Prize. Considering that Gerő died in 1980, it would seem superfluous to strip him of his prize although, as we could see, Tarlós wasn't deterred by Stalin's death. If someone after reading Orbán's answer to Pörzse thought that the prime minister had decided to drop the issue he would have been mistaken. Orbán announced that there will be a new law governing prizes that can be debated in parliament.

The reaction of the right-wing media to Kertész's departure went according to script. Szentkorona Rádió (a station that has no frequency problems) wrote: "One fewer: Ákos Kertész went after Viktória Mohácsi." Mohácsi, of Roma origin, was a liberal member of the European Parliament between 2004 and 2009. A few months ago she also sought political asylum in Canada. Szentkorona Rádió included a picture of a pig with the caption: "He can go to Canada to grunt." Right wingers also flooded Népszabadság's article announcing Kertész's move to Canada with hundreds of similar comments. After a few hours the newspaper decided to take them off and closed the article to comment.

It doesn't matter how often government officials or Fidesz politicians, including the Jewish Ágnes Hankiss, Fidesz member of the European Parliament, try to convince the world that there is no anti-Semitism in Hungary, it will be very difficult to maintain that fiction.

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Petofi
Guest

How different is this haunting of an 80 year old writer in the streets of Budapest from the attacks of brown-shirts on jews in Hitler’s Germany?
Is there any doubt the Orban and Fidesz has redefined “society” as not a collection of peoples for the betterment of each member, but as a grouping of servile, base individuals ready to act out in anger and mindlessness at those it have been directed to victimize.

An
Guest

The bullying that is going on in Hungary by the far and not-so-far right is outrageous. The government’s job would be to stop the bullies, not to encourage them.

Member

“Es gibt heute viel weniger Hass in der ungarischen Gesellschaft als früher.”
“Today there are a lot less hate in the Hungarian society than before.”
From a Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung interview yesterday (March 3, 2012) with Viktor Orban, Prime Minister of Hungary.
Shame.

Dzsusztin
Guest

Apparently Hungary is now the leading source of refugee claims in Canada. But if that weren’t bad enough, it often gets mentioned in the same sentence as Sri Lanka and Mexico — not exactly good company to be keeping.

Living with it in Hungary
Guest
Living with it in Hungary

@Dzausztin, Yup and it’s a PITA that Hungarians are now seen as abusing the Canadian immigration system (a view to which I agree with). Most of the “refugees” from Hungary often face deportation or voluntarily return. There is one girl in my daughters private English in this situation and she doesn’t seem oppressed.
Not saying it doesn’t happen as I have personally seen the Guarda walking about but… I this light I wonder how likely it is that will be seen more as political positioning by Ákos Kertész and he will be returned. He’s looking at 3 years for this to die down before that could happen if it does.

attila001122
Guest

If my memory serves me well, it created some problem, when someone stated that the “jews are geneticly inferior”…
Is that a problem, if the Hungarians worrying that these things getting out of hand?
If the 80 years old writer REALLY knows so deeply his fellow Hungarians as he says, then probably he calculated really well the responses to his article. He should not be suprised.
As of Canada…
By now, after the wawes of roma refugees, they having a quite clear pictures about the honesty of those who coming from Hungary and complaining about racism.
Canadian Immigration and Citizenship Minister, Jason Kenney says that Roma refugees are “bogus” and that Roma have come in large numbers to Canada s a result of human trafficking, resulting from organized crime in the Roma community.
If Mr Kertész wish to join this line in front of the immigration office, it is his decision.

riviera1
Guest
@attila001122…”If Mr. Kertesz wish…” You’re a piece of work, attila, right in line with the heroic Orban and Schmitt. Some real human quality there. As is usual with angry but lame-minded Hungarians, you do no research and mix apples and oranges. The word “genetically” can be used in two different senses–one of them is physiological, the other is historical, as Eva’s article makes clear. But of course, why wouldn’t you ‘misread’ that to serve your angry outburst? Second, how do you come to equate the Roma’s fraudulent claims to to that of an 80-year old, much decorated, writer? Try and bring your anger to a lesser boil and attempt to think clearly. Kertesz was hounded around the city at the behest of right wing, government officials. Now, read my lips: the only way that the average Hungarian can stomach the doings of Orban and Fidesz is to have given up any attempt at dealing with the complexities of modern life by the effort of their individual thought. Much easier to give in to the pleasing simplicities of Fidesz and Jobbik. People like you have become attack dogs…with barry a resemblance to civilized human beings. Hence the reason why Hungary and… Read more »
Kingfisher
Guest

I’m swimming against the tide here I think.
First, I thought Kertész’s original writing was pretty dreadful. It reminded me of Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech which was a similarly crass piece of attention seeking, made all more offensive because of the undeniable intelligence of the speaker. I found Kertész’s pieec offensive and I’m not a right wing nationalist Hungarian.
But nor am I particularly impressed by this latest stunt. If he announced he is leaving Hungary, then fair enough. I can accept that (and have done that myself). But to claim political asylum? That’s is a deliberate provocation, and quite why the Canadian taxpayer has to pick up the bill for what is essentially a political protest, is beyond me.
Political asylum is a valuable and precious thing and not to be abused. And incidentally, I thought it was pretty shabby of Viktoria Mohácsi, as a former MEP, to claim asylum.
Here is a link to an article from a left of center writer whose views about Kertész agree with mine: http://tinyurl.com/7oprl6k

attila001122
Guest
Riviera, No… it is too late to play with words. I am one of those “lame-minded” Hungarian, who does not read every newspaer article with a LEXICOGRAPHER. And I do not need analyse the latin text when it is sounded with words compare me to a pig. I don’t know where do you writng from, but I suggest, if that is an anglosaxon country, (judging by the language), make a poster of inferior Englishman or american and take a walk in the capital city… From a liberal point, I see the worries… And it is more or less right. But the liberal values what Mr Kertész represents were woted out VERY strongly, and I guess it is expected to appear in the public writings accordingly. If it is rubbed in anyway into the face of the public, I guess the reaction should be calculated. Hungary is not a laughing stock. It rather worries the left-liberal servants of the globalist elit, and gives hope to the masses of Europe that there is a way out of the interest-slavery. It is not a laughing matter, that after Hungary, in Germany and in France introduces the bank taxes, Obama also considering it, Francis… Read more »
Wondercat
Guest

OT: http://kurier.at/nachrichten/4487366-ungarn-anonymous-schreibt-verfassung-um.php
Hacking the website of the constitution — will physical attacks on “tables of the constitution” throughout Hungary be next?

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

To Kingfisher, I just read that someone tried to strangle Kertész in the swimming pool and when he didn’t succeed he left a note on the windshield of Kertész’s car with a suggestion to swim in the Red Sea to be eaten by sharks. Once someone tried to push him under a coming streetcar. These are serious threats.
But I agree that Kertész wanted to make a statement. The question is whether the Hungarian situation warrants such a statement or not.

Kingfisher
Guest

Eva, if someone tried to strangle an 80 year old man in a public swimming pool, that is attempted murder and presumably Kertész and those who witnessed it went to the police. If the police did nothing, then that is a very serious matter. But I’m a little puzzled why this did not make the headlines, which is why I’m more than a little sceptical.

Living with it in Hungary
Guest
Living with it in Hungary

@Attila, I think you’ve misquoted the minister. For sure there was a case of human trafficking in Hamilton that involved Hungarians being trafficked by Hungarians. And that is Hungarians in passport holding government documented citizens of Hungary. That is what a Hungarian is. But I certain he didn’t say that most of the cases are a result of human trafficking because that simply wouldn’t be true.
I’ve now done a enough research to be dangerous ;-).
I don’t know what Kertész’s motivation was purpose was in writing this article but shame on him for doing so. If there is any truths to the attacks, shame on them and shame on the authorities for not protecting this 80 year man.
As for his case, IMHO, it will not qualify as a political refuge. Mr Kertész is not suffering from political prosecution from a country (and now I have to bite my tongue a wee bit) with a long history repression. At best this will be seen as a failure of the authorities to investigate if a complaint had been filed.

Joseph Simon
Guest

Rabbi Landeszman said something far more provocative than what Éva mentions here. He said that when you look at a Hungarian, think of ‘bő gatya és szilva pálinka’. All else in the country’s culture was contributed by Jews. Even Göncz Árpád, a mellow man, considered this statement outrageous.

Eva S. Balogh
Guest

To Kingfisher, my initial reaction to someone’s claim is not that he is lying. So, I take Kertész’s claims at face value. I will change my opinion only if there is credible information to the contrary.
As for whether Kertész paid a visit to the police we have no information on. It is very possible that he did but it is very difficult to find the culprit. I doubt whether Kertész could identify the people involved. Especially the one who tried to push him under a streetcar. Normally one pushes a person from behind.

Penny Sue Oswalt
Guest

Hey Wondercat? Are you talking about the Hungarian Constituition Website? Because I have never heard of such a thing. If you are talking about Hungarian Parliament it is public access & common knowledge here in the USA @ our public library to bring up any Constuition, even ours. All you need is a library card and go to periodical dept. By the way don’t you want to know what is not being released about the new Constiuition?

Member

@ Kingfisher, SO I assume you would put up with all the threats and abuse, attempted murder against you for a country who does not give a rat’s a$$ about you, and allow this to go on. It is your choice. Most political refugees seeks asylum for the exact same reason, and I just do not understand what makes Kertesz any different from your point of view. Do you love in Hungary? Did anyone tried to murder you, attack you, thrown death treats at you? Let me tell you one thing, from first hand experience from Hungary, being attacked, receiving threats, having your family threatened is not pretty. It is frightening. I left Hungary because of that in 1988. I did not agree with Kertesz about the way he put things at the time of his article (you can look back at my posts), but I 100% support him now for wanting to get of there.

An
Guest

Kertesz is not the first person being chased away from Hungary with threats and intimidation . Similar thing happened to Mr Field, who rescued the Roma in Gyongyospata.
The fact in itself that people are bullied away from a country is beyond shameful… I don’t even see why we spend time on analyzing what Kertesz did. Do you think what’s happening to him would be justified under any circumstances??

Wondercat
Guest

@Penny Sue — My bad. Website of the constitutional court, Verfassungsgericht, (“Dabei griff das Hacker-Kollektiv in den auf der Webseite des ungarischen Verfassungsgerichtes zugänglichen Text des umstrittenen Grundgesetzes ein”), not of the constitution.

Member

It’s not really surprising, that in an anti-semitic country, a Jew doesn’t run to the police when somebody tries to kill him for “being hostile to Hungarians”. Why would the police be different? There is nothing surprising that many imply here that Kertesz is lying. It’s an anti-semitic country after all. Gipsies don’t run to the police either when they are insulted. Go ask them why.
Also the argument that says “what did this guy expect” is very telling. He offended us – we have the right to smash his face. Again no surprise here.
These poor creatures on Planet Hungary are such easy targets. A few lines in a blog then the whole intelligent european country disguise disappears.
Quo Vadis “bő gatya”?

attila001122
Guest
Living with it in Hungary : If I missquoted the minister, it is Mss Gina Csanyi-Robah’s ( Executive Director, Roma Community Centre ) fault… I quoted from her… It is hard to find authentic sources… isn’t it? But it is true, the news of complaints of rising crime levels in Canada from this time parallelled the immigration. Mr. Kertész is not a stupid man. He knew very well, that his article will cause outrage in times when nationalistic feelings are growing, as people getting increasingly fed up wit the blessings of globalisation, liberalisatiom, privatisation and deregulation, together wut the more and more strangling european rules. I am sure, if you take a light stroll after midnight in Harlem in a Ku Klux Klan T-shirt noone will blame the NYPD for failing to protect you… If you look the “whole picture” you can not miss the fact, that Mr Kertész action is very nicely fitting into the effot to discredit the Hungarian govenment. Obviously, it is not possible to state openly that Orbán crossed a line by taxing the “protected” segments. So the good old ticks of racism, anti-semitism coupled with the speculators attack on the Hungarian currency delivered the bloody… Read more »
Guest

The news about Kertesz also made it into German newspapers – of course with a reference to the Hungarian being a typical “Untertan”, the title of a famous book by Heinrich Mann as I already mentioned…
BTW: I know he is not related to the Noble prize winner, but is there any relation to famous director Kertész aka Michael Curtiz ?

attila001122
Guest

An ,
Mr Field “rescued” Roma froma village, where 10 years old children were taking “bridge money”, regularly snatched shopping bags from old ladies, where everything disappeared what was not tied down, where the pesants stopped producing goods, because they never had the chance to harvest.
Mr Field made sophisticated media stunt, alerted all the mainstream, the political players and so on.
Only the Roma knew in the last minute that they going to be recued for the easter holliday to the old kommunist “úttörőváros” Csillebérc.
On the end, we should be grateful for Mr Field, that we had the chance to show the REAL issues in Gyöngyöspata.
And, as the cream on the cake, since there is a Jobbik town mayor in the village there is order and quiet, even the Roma people are happy… (apart of those few who need to go further to steal.)

attila001122
Guest

Matt Damon
If the “intelligent” is copyrighted in the Mr. Kertész sense, I guess it is good thing that it is not fit for the Hungarians.

Kingfisher
Guest

@Mutt Damon, are you seriously suggesting that Hungary is institutionally anti-semitic? That someone of Jewish extraction can’t go to the police because of their ethnicity? That is utter nonsense and shameful nonsense at that. Yes, a lot of anti-semitic remarks can be heard, particularly in the countryside (curiously, the Gypsies themselves are profoundly anti-semitic which has always exasperated me) but to say that the police are not willing to take Jewish people seriously is rubbish. Are you speaking from personal experience? I know a great many Hungarians with a Jewish background (none are religiously Jewish and most only have relatives on one side of the family but regard themselves as Jewish) and that is not their experience either.

Member
THe same time when Jobbik, anti-semite and the neo-naci thinking Hungarians want all Jews to be gone, while trumpeting to the world that Hungary is a cohesive, loving society. While even Jews, like Hankiss says that there is no ant-semitism in Hungary, and they just stop short of declaring Orban as the new saint for Jews, AT the time when Orban and his gang were busy ripping off Kertesz’ awards, there were some dirty business going on behind the scenes that does not seem to bother a single sole. In remembrance of October 23rd, there were some awards given out to György Ekrem-Kemál (posthumous) and to Péter Szentmihályi Szabó. What were these fine Hungarian specimens done to the road to the awards? Ekrem-Kemá was one of the most recognized figure of the extreme right movement in Hungary. In the early nineties he took part in the “awakening” of the new Hungarian Nazi movement, and in the company of Albert Szabo and Istvan Györkös he reformed Hungarist Movement where he served co-president. In 2001 he was sentenced for two years of jail (five years of probation) for the organizing of anti-constitutional activities and for illegal gun usage. THat did not stop… Read more »
Eva S. Balogh
Guest

Wolfi: “I know he is not related to the Noble prize winner, but is there any relation to famous director Kertész aka Michael Curtiz ?”
No. Kertész means gardener in Hungarian and I assume that these Jewish families’ original German name was Garten and that it was a fairly common one. Tony Curtis’s family name was also originally Kertész which they anglicized.

An
Guest

@attila001122: Oh, sure, all is dandy at Gyongyospata… Did you get your info from HirTV?
http://jogtalanul.blog.hu/2012/02/28/kimelet_nelkul_1

Member

@Kingfisher
Yes, I’m seriously suggesting that Hungary is institutionally anti-semitic. Not to the extent of the 1944 deportations of course, but the attitude of the ruling elite is very telling. Of course we can play with the definition of “institutionally”. For starters the new constitution is a good proof.
“Are you speaking from personal experience?”
Would you like to know if I’m Jewish?
@Attila
Yeah, gipsies are like this: “snatched shopping bags from old ladies”. Hungarian Roma strategy in action. I especially like the “old lady” part.

attila001122
Guest

Kingfisher,
I guess, it need to be said, that since the Fides took the power, many people lost juicy jobs and influences, and many of the worried about the crominal investigations what follows the freefall of the Hungarian economy from the best in the group to the worse…
These people lost all of their base in Hungary, therefore using their foreign connections to discredit the govenment.
These connections are (evidently?) in the fields of media and finace…
But… there are those who do know the reality.
Because it was in Israel, where many Hungarian origin people welcomed the new possibility of dual citizenship.
They don’t getting information from propaganda.

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