I never cease to be amazed at Hungarian politicians’ capacity for multitasking. They are capable of amazing feats. For example, there is Lajos Kósa, the mayor of Debrecen (population over 200,000), who is a full time mayor, a full time member of parliament, and who holds an important position in the Fidesz party apparatus. And, in his spare time, he managed to create a worldwide financial panic (mind you, a mini one). Recall what happened in the summer of 2010 when he announced the imminent collapse of the Hungarian economy.
Antal Rogán is also a busy fellow. Full time mayor of Budapest’s District V and a full time member of parliament. But he’s not just an ordinary back bencher. He single-handedly turned out scores of bills. An amazing feat, especially considering that he had no legal training.
But at least one could say that these two and their colleagues of many talents specialize in politics. The real multitasker in the Hungarian parliament is László L. Simon, the new undersecretary for cultural affairs in the Ministry of Human Resources. He is a politician, a poet, a publisher, an editor, a photographer, an artist, a typographer, a university lecturer, a viticulturist, a hotel manager, and a fruit grower. One must indeed be awed reading this list. He also knows how to take advantage of his position when it comes to his and his family’s benefit. His political career, although short, has been spectacularly successful.
Who is this man? Although he is much younger than Viktor Orbán, it probably helped his career that he graduated from the same high school in Székesfehérvár as the prime minister did. Originally, his aspirations must have been fairly modest. His university studies qualified him as a high school teacher of Hungarian literature and history. But then he began writing poetry and prose. In his autobiography he claims to be the author of ten books on widely varied subjects: poetry, essays, monographs, viticulture, typography and art. And on the side he has a Ph.D. in literature and did all the course work for a degree at an agricultural college.
L. Simon is also a co-owner of Simon Guesthouse and Winery, a family business situated in the picturesque village of Agárd near Lake Velence. Both the guest house and the cellar look impressive.
The 13-room guesthouse is located 800 meters from a thermal spa. Business meetings and exhibitions are organized there. Wine tasting and dinner events are held in their wine cellar. The guesthouse is pretty nice but the wine cellar is truly impressive.
The winery is part of the Lake Velence wine tour, which naturally helps the traffic at the Simon Estate.
László L. Simon doesn’t fit our mental image of a poet. He looks more like a boxer whose face has seen some rough times. If his poetry that I managed to read is any indication of his work in general, it is not exactly genteel. Someone already quoted parts of an unspeakable line about the “Jewish whores,” but the line that says “I don’t even smell the stench of shit” perhaps more fittingingly describes some of these guys’ attitudes nowadays in Hungarian politics. Anyone who would like to get acquainted with this great poet can find samples here.
So, one poet (Géza Szőcs) left and another poet came as undersecretary in charge of culture. I do hope that Szőcs’s poetry is better than his successor’s, but I doubt that the state of cultural affairs will be in any better hands after his departure. Quite aside from Szőcs’s unacceptable role in the Nyirő reburial affair, the Orbán government’s attitude toward culture is far less generous than Viktor Orbán’s devotion to football. Everything was cut to the bones when the Fidesz ideologues began their Kulturkampf. Fidesz supporters in literature and in the arts don’t even hide their determination to take over the the field. Those who felt in the past that their talents were not truly appreciated are standing by waiting for rewards they feel they are entitled to. And I’m sure that L. Simon will be most obliging. He pretty well agreed to one of the principal demands of Jobbik, the departure of Róbert Alföldi from the post of director of the National Theater.
The hope in certain circles is that L. Simon will have an easier time getting the much needed funds that Szőcs was unable to obtain. One thing is sure: his relationship with Viktor Orbán seems to be extremely friendly. In addition to the geographical ties there are social ones. L. Simon and his wife–a German teacher originally but a fitness instructor of late–have four children. The Orbáns have five. And I’ll bet L. Simon loves football. I have the sneaking suspicion that Szőcs’s interest in football is minimal.
In fact, the two men are on such good terms that the prime minister visited L. Simon’s Guesthouse and Winery the day before yesterday. He looked around the orchards and talked to the workers, who happen to be the inmates of the jail in Baracska nearby. I’m all for inmates doing something useful, but the place of employment gives me pause. I’ll bet not everybody can arrange a ready work force, most likely on the cheap, like L. Simon managed.
L. Simon’s political career is also on a fast track. He became a member of parliament only in 2010 but he is already one of the deputy leaders of the Fidesz caucus. In addition, he is the chairman of the parliamentary committee on cultural affairs. And now he is also a member of the government.
In the past one could see meteoric rises in Fidesz when for one reason or other someone caught Viktor Orbán’s eye. Then a couple of years later the person was dropped or shoved aside. I wonder how long L. Simon will be one of the favorites.