The fate of Gergely Prőhle: From diplomat to museum director

At the end of August came the news that the new director-general of the Petőfi Irodalmi Múzeum (Petőfi Literary Museum) will be Gergely Prőhle, who is best known as a diplomat. He began his diplomatic career in 1998, and by 2000 he served as Hungary’s ambassador to Berlin. Fidesz’s loss of the election in 2002 didn’t put an end to Prőhle’s career. In 2003, during the Medgyessy administration, he was named ambassador to Switzerland. He left the diplomatic service only in 2006. The socialists were certainly nicer to him after 2002 than Péter Szijjártó was in 2014, who as the new minister of foreign affairs unceremoniously fired him from his job as assistant undersecretary in the foreign ministry, together with about 300 career diplomats who were not considered to be faithful enough servants of the Orbán regime. Prőhle, the father of four, was apparently desperate. His career was so closely intertwined with the Orbán regime that it was difficult to imagine what he could possibly do outside of this charmed circle.

But, as is well known, Orbán is good to those people who were once useful, faithful servants of his regime but who for one reason or another become outcasts. So, in the last minute, Prőhle was offered a job in the ministry of human resources as assistant undersecretary in charge of “international and European Union affairs.” It looks as if the position was created specifically for Prőhle. The ministry has two undersecretaries: the “administrative undersecretary,” who can be compared to Britain’s “permanent undersecretary,” and the “parliamentary undersecretary,” who normally represents the minister in parliament. The parliamentary undersecretary is in fact the deputy minister. For some strange reason, the position created for Prőhle was placed directly under the parliamentary undersecretary, although the two positions had nothing to do with one another. In fact, it was difficult to figure out exactly what Prőhle did in this ministry. In any case, now that he is becoming a museum director, the ministry decided to change the structure. Prőhle’s successor, who is coming from Századvég, will report to the undersecretary in charge of family and youth.

The move from undersecretary to museum director was a simple procedure considering that Zoltán Balog, Prőhle’s boss in the ministry, is also in charge of the Petőfi Irodalmi Múzeum. It was on his recommendation that the committee picked Prőhle. The museum, which was established in 1954, has become the most important depository of material related to Hungarian literature. For the past ten years it was headed by Csilla E. Csorba, who has written extensively on literary history and the history of art. In literary circles Prőhle’s appointment created quite a stir. What does he know about literature?

Actually, Prőhle has a degree in German and Hungarian literature, but then he moved on to Corvinus University to became a student of international relations and diplomacy. He was director of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation between 1992 and 1998, but he has no other experience running a large institution with well over a hundred employees. But, I guess, one can always learn, as he has already begun to do. Although he will start his new assignment only on January 1, 2017, he is spending the coming months getting acquainted with the work of the museum.

What are the museum’s plans for the coming years? The staff is already working on a large exhibit on the life and art of János Arany (1817-1882), for which Prőhle expects the help of the current director. But he himself has a couple of new ideas, which he apparently outlined in his application for the job. One is an exhibit on Albert Wass (1908-1998), the other on Lajos Kassák (1887-1967). An interesting juxtaposition of political and literary careers. The former is a nationalistic, anti-Semitic writer who is considered to be a literary mediocrity. The latter is a poet, novelist, painter, essayist, editor, and theoretician of the avant-garde. He was one of the first genuine working-class writers in Hungarian literature, closely associated with the socialist movement.

Prőhle’s plan for an Albert Wass exhibit raised quite a few eyebrows, given the man’s controversial reputation. But the newly appointed director defended his choice with the following spurious justification: “If a writer has so many statues in the country, we will have to do something with the phenomenon.” He wants to know why Wass has such a cult in Hungary. “Why doesn’t Dezső Kosztolányi have 200 statues and why does Wass?” For those unfamiliar with Hungarian literature, Dezső Kosztolányi (1885-1936) is one of the mainstays of twentieth-century Hungarian literature, a writer of both poetry and prose. The question Prőhle poses doesn’t belong to the world of literary inquiries. It is clearly political and sociological.

One of the more hidious Wass statues in Csepel

One of the more hideous Wass statues, in Csepel

András Bozóki, minister of culture in the first Gyurcsány government, would love to see more characters of the Orbán regime “in museums.” Péter Krasztev, a literary historian, described Prőhle as a “party soldier” who serves where he is placed. István Kerékgyártó, a writer, sarcastically noted that “actually we can be grateful for this appointment because this government could just as easily have decided to close the museum altogether because they are not interested in literature. After all, it is not a place where too much money can be found to steal.”

Finally, C. György Kálmán, a literary historian, wrote an opinion piece on Prőhle’s appointment titled “Jóindulat” (Good will), the upshot of which is that he is trying not to be suspicious and hopes that Prőhle will be satisfied sitting in his office and will not interfere with the work of professionals who know something about literature. He is also hoping, although he has some fears, that the planned exhibition on Wass will be a balanced evaluation of Wass’s work, which Kálmán considers ”abominable and junk.” It is possible that Prőhle wants to stage “problem exhibits.” In this case, the “director doesn’t want to celebrate Wass but wants to reveal the phenomenon, the cult, the damage that cult inflicts on society or perhaps the possible virtues of the writer.” But, he adds, “we have every reason to suppose that the exhibit will not deal with the Wass problem but with Wass’s celebration.”

September 11, 2016
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e-2016
Guest

These fidesz plots must be answered every morning.

Nothing can be easier than to discredit their loyal footsoldiers.

The Gyurcsanys and co. must be in the media every day, to give historical lesson to realign the miseducated Hungarians.

The Fidesz/church propaganda machine uses the Kremlin style “direct measures” to confuse and dupe the citizenship/zemberek.

Guest

Re: ‘That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Museums indeed with their art and artifacts highlight the drive and propensity to create among humans and show that they ‘belong’ in thought and action to specific communities. And with that comes a preference in those communities for some kinds of art.

Mr. Prohle’s literary investigations as museum director would seem to have a focus on exploring say contentious (vile) areas and personages in the writer’s art. Surely not beyond supposition to see literary trial balloons flying high to capture stimulus and response to a ‘belonging’ of thoughts and feelings and ideas inherent in the works of specific authors. Perhaps Prohle’s charge at the museum: developing ‘lonely people with longings to belong’ and have tea at the intersection of art and the call of crass politics.
A terribly bad mix.

webber
Guest

“Prőhle has a degree in German and Hungarian literature…”
Oh, great…. so an undergraduate degree, with no experience whatsoever in the field, is enough to be named museum director in which other country in the world?
Can’t think of one.

Observer
Guest

Why, the ridiculous minister Szijjártó was a message boy 10 years ago, had never worked a day in his life outside the party and his only experience is of the “parrot commando” chanting propaganda messages.

As the regime newly baked ” …minister of foreign affairs unceremoniously fired [Pröle] .. from his job as assistant undersecretary in the foreign ministry, together with about 300 career diplomats who were not considered to be faithful enough servants of the Orbán regime.”
Next the former parrot in chief appointed several of his footsall mates to various posts in the Foreign Ministry, e,g, one of them has no education or experience beyond a provincial high school diploma.

Guest

Re:
‘Next the former parrot in chief appointed several of his footsall mates to various posts in the Foreign Ministry, e,g, one of them has no education or experience beyond a provincial high school diploma’

I believe that it was said particular countries had a troublesome ‘existential’ question in the face of the global tumult impingng on it. From the above it could be understandable that others couldn’t be faulted to note that maybe nothing matters but for a nation to snag and bag futbol championships…;-)…. The mantra: ‘Vee vill vin!’
Fogunk meghalni ha nem tudunk nyerni!

Observer
Guest

Pröle even played so dumb to talk in a radio interview about how he spontaneously decided to apply for this museum job since this was what he would have liked to do for some time.

Once appointed the eager Pröle immediately started to earn his new modest keep by pushing the already somewhat worn out little fascist Albert Wass. His is an incredibly cynical (or dumb, again) argument that he has to do something with the existing popular cult (as if it was not created by his regime).

Here we are at the gypsy horse trader level again.

Istvan
Guest
As Eva and others may know Huba Wass de Czege the son of Albert Wass was a brigadier general of significant importance in the US Army. I met him, as have many in the military community, he played a very significant role in the United States Army Command and General Staff College (CGSC). He served in combat in Vietnam with great honor and he was actually somewhat of a role model for me being about 8 years older than myself and a higher ranking officer of significant military and intellectual achievement. However, his father’s emigration to the USA was part of a pattern of Arrow Cross and Horthyite affiliated Hungarians who fought to the last with the Germans who emigrated into the USA. I will not discuss the accusations against Wass made by the Romanian government they are easy enough for readers of this blog to look up as is the history of the failed Romanian attempt to have him deported back to stand trial for war crimes. I will say, as I have said before, numerous Hungarian fascist sympathizers or actual former Arrow Cross members were admitted to the USA in the 1950s because they were also ferocious anti-communists… Read more »
webber
Guest

In my humble opinion, the biggest problem with Wass is that he was such a poor writer. Everything I’ve tried from him was practically unreadable. Mediocre isn’t the word. I pity kids who are required to read that stuff.

We all read works by people who had objectionable views. Dostoyevsky, for example, was a foul anti-semite. He also is one of the greatest novelists of all time. We read his works for their intrinsic value, not because of the author’s political views.

Things are turned around with Wass. Hungary has put a man on a pedestal who created nothing of lasting value, and the only conclusion can be that it is because of his appalling political views. Shame on the Hungarian government.

Guest
Re: ‘I believe to this day that the old Hungarian fascists largely kept their American families in the dark about their past history’ Once again as we follow the trail of the years the peeling of that Magyar historical ‘onion’ contnues on here in my tramping grounds. I would have to say that my experience in NY east of the ‘windy city’ seemed to have followed the discussion of politics that I had in the Kadar principiate: hush hush or absolutely nothing said. For me if there were former Arrow Cross in my vicinity all the secrets in their behavior and consequences went to the graves with those of my inner and outer circle who for the most part are now all gone. Who knows who I was talking to at times? I get Magyar history second and third hand now. Some cannot know how sickening it is to plumb the uncovering of a ghastly history. Each page uncovered from the past uncovers such a moral calamity with a history that was subject to gross amnesia and is now going through calculated revision. In a way I can understand the illness. We do see then how a stultified and critically… Read more »
Guest

A bit OT:

Many secrets have been buried with those people – of course we have a similar (or maybe even worse …) situation in Germany where some people were surprised and shocked by revelations about their father’s or even mother’s activities in the Nazi regime.

I was so happy many years ago when my father showed me his “denazification papers” which he had got from the “French Occupiers” in order to get a job with some state institution.

He had been a soldier/officer and the paper clearly said he was an “also ran”, the lowest possible grade for someone like him. He hadn’t even been a party member.

Guest

You know wolfie in my opinion I think that if Magyarorszag is to perhaps address the direction it is going in it will have to do what I think Germany has been doing all along the post-war years. And that is to come to terms with a past that needs to be explored, examined and sifted through without recrimination and additional agendas that have say factions clamoring to ‘make a point’. Until that self-realization occurs which would let the stale ‘air’ out of a society maybe then it could be said Magyarorszag could move on to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’. (and that isn’t necessarily a ‘US thing’). Right now the stars don’t seem to be aligned for that future. The only stars I see are little red csillags floating high in the East with Vlad as one of the Magi. Those cisillags seem to fill the Magyar sky. Jaysus, how’d that happen?

Guest

Hear hear

Guest

I can see your lying eyes..

And your smile is a thin disguise…

Istvan
Guest

Eagles – igen, jó

Guest

Ah some rock’n’roll aficionados! Good choice. I will add another. One of the joys i found in Janos K’s time. He must’ve liked the beat! The fellow let the kids rock you know. Heard this on Margitszegit for the first time. Loved the song. Nice lyrics. Made me learn my ‘magyar’. Another time another place. Another Magyarorszag.

https://youtu.be/wCw9AeFx6fs

Guest

Stop this!

I find this track great fun – from allegedly the worst rockers in Hungary! The lead singer sadly died from heart problems. I haven’t a clue what they’re singing about but I heard it around Christmas and I keep adding ‘Happy Christmas’ at the vital moment! It’s better live but I can’t find a decent version. Don’t cringe please!

Guest

Try this link if above doesn’t work?

Guest
Istvan
Guest

magyar Beatles Really good voices too

Istvan
Guest

Well here is one with English subtitles about the youth rebellion and rock during Kadar days. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=e-oauNPnmLk

Guest

Thanks for those great musicallooks. Really enjoyed the references to ‘youth’ music in the country ‘yesterday and today’.

I was curious who the ‘elders’ were who commented on the music scene. Politician? Music critic? One observation I had was that ‘youth’ music namely rock’n’roll’ didn’t get the interference as other elements in the society did. It almost as if it had a free pass. Kadar seemed to understand what to interfere with and what to leave alone.

Culturally, we still this today where the music seems to be as strong as ever. That Western invention is even more embraced in the country now than before. Ironic that ‘rock’ has always been about a relationship to freedom and rebellion for now it exists in an atmosphere which is a quite antithetical to it.

pappp
Guest

Viktor Orban:

“If the referendum is unsuccessful [ie. below 50% participation rate] the migrants will be settled in municipalities with left-wing leadership”.

Will the lefties swallow the bait and go to vote and thereby make the referendum valid?

Today’s polls seem to indicate that people – despite the unprecedented campaign – might not be so enthusiastic to vote after all.

http://index.hu/belfold/2016/09/12/orban_viktor_beinditja_a_politikai_oszt/orban_szerint_baloldali_telepulesekre_hoznak_migransokat/

webber
Guest

“Lefties” aren’t swallowing anything from that direction – but the majority of people (in any country) are neither left nor right. They feel this way about this, that way about that, and labels aren’t too useful.

Guest

That’s a good point. Or another way of looking at it: conservative vs liberal. Fidesz sure then seems to have a much better magnet drawing those ‘lefties’ to their fold. The latter could help themselves by understanding better ‘left-right’ brain wave interaction to move the needle to their end of the political tent. At the least for ‘balance’ in the competition for hearts and minds.

Guest

Yes – this fact escapes our trolls (and not only our trolls) whose mantras rely on the unrealistic belief that there is a defined stratification of political beliefs, probably influenced by their communist experiences, firmly embedded in robotic Hungarians.

Like a glass lighthouse filled with Isle of Wight coloured sand.

Unfortunately with the single-issue-skewed-slanted-foregone-conclusion referendum – there is only one colour of sand in the glass lighthouse.

Orban will get a resounding Viktory.

But a Pyrrhic one – and I believe it will come back to haunt him – and the people of Hungary.

Guest

The issue has united Hungarians more than any other – especially out in the sticks.

pappp
Guest

There are actually people who identify themselves as left-wing. Their number is dwindling I guess, but such people do exist. What’s the big deal about this? Not everybody is an undecided voter in the middle, with no ideological attachment.

Orban figures he only needs to scare 1-2% points of people (he will also have a few hundred thousand votes from abroad who are not included in the polls) who will – regardless of whether they vote yes of no – will bring the turnout over 50% which is his goal.

Orban uses any means he deems necessary including blackmailing Szeged (lead by an MSZP mayor) to go and vote or face thousands of poor, unemployed Muslim immigrants who will – Orban implies – “rape their daughters and wives”. I hope this blatant scare tactic won’t work, but fear is one of the most effective motivators.

webber
Guest

The “big deal” is that in point of fact most people do not fit left-wing or right-wing. It’s a myth in Hungary that they do – something you’ve perpetrated with your silly comments about “lefties” (incidentally, the correct term is “leftists” – a “lefty” is a left-handed person). The majority of people just aren’t interested in those labels. It’s silly to use them. In one election people will vote for this party, in another for a different one, and they don’t think “left-right”, they think “right-wrong” (for them, personally).

Another thing you might like to get your head around: The majority of people don’t actually LIKE the parties or politicians they vote for. They generally just dislike the ones they vote for less than the ones they don’t vote for.

Those who are committed, those who are in love with one politician, are often just fanatics (compared with the majority, anyway).

So, sad news for diehard Fideszniks: Hungarians aren’t r-wing or l-wing. They are just Hungarians frustrated with the lousy choices they have to make in elections.

(Incidentally, that goes for most Americans too – and Brits, etc.)

pappp
Guest

I get that, but it’s self identification that matters, some people would say they are right-wing (regardless of the party they might or might not vote for) some are left-wing. There are many people I know who would never vote for any party calling itself left-wing. They are people with a right-wing identity and they will always choose from the right-wing parties. I guess there are many in Hungary who would never vote for a right-wing party even if they are not die-hard MSZP or DK fans.

As to leftists and lefties, if you say so I accept that but I have seen countless times “lefties” used as the plural of left-leaning people. I felt it was a synonim of sorts of leftists.

Guest

‘left’, ‘right’, ‘liberal’, ‘communist’, ‘Jew’, ‘the west’, ‘Soros’ and ‘independent’ all have different meanings from how they are understood in the West.

Each is a moveable feast and even to the user has differing meanings depending in how they are spat out.

Confusing to a Westerner!

Hungarians’ understanding of these basic polital epithets have been honed from their experiences of communism – and only (mis) understood from their relatively inexperienced period of so-called democracy.

It is amusing to hear Orban, Kövér, Ader, Pal & Maria Schmitt and others insult their opposition as ‘communists’ knowing that they themselves are a product – and are benefactors – from the very cradle of communism.

webber
Guest

I have only seen “lefties” from non-native speakers of English. They seem to have gotten the word from American slang for a left-handed baseball pitcher – from films, I guess.

pappp
Guest

It seems to exist as a genuine word in English.

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/leftie

Guest

Re: ‘That left handed baseball pitcher’

Ok webber…Here’s the great Hall of Fame pitcher Lefty Grove showing off his ‘mechanics’.

Lefty’s a great model for the ‘left’. He sticks to his pitching principles…;-)….

Keep the eyes and head looking ahead at the target. No extraneous head movement. Be in balance in the act of power and propulsion as action beginning in the legs goes forward. And last but not least bring the arm and body to follow through. And think ‘strikes’…;-)… You have to pitch strikes to get those batters out.

Apologies for mixing ‘Lefty’ baseball and politics….;-)… But really Lefty was real good at his ‘southpaw’ game! And ‘southpaw’ .. That would make an interesting translation.

https://youtu.be/t2QOdlFY8c4

Observer
Guest

@Webber

Pls let’s not mix the right/conservativism of the Adenauer, E. Heath, Chirac, Kohl, etc. kind with Orban’s provincial fascism cum thievery.

We have democrats of many shades here, left, right and center, none to be confused with a fidesznik thief (or dumbo).

webber
Guest

Whose mixing up anything with anything else?

You can’t have misread my comment that badly, surely?

webber
Guest

Who’s – My spelling is going all to pieces here.

Guest

London Calling!

Completely O/T!

The man who enabled the Brits to vote in a referendum – and influenced Orban’s sad effort has resigned as an MP and he will be leaving politics – probably to take a lucrative post in the city.

History won’t be kind to him: ‘The man who caused Brexit’ – but he was regarded in England as steadying the sameship and bringing realism back to the financial outlook.

(However *** WARNING***** look out for some warped views on here.)

Guest

Of course you know! David Cameron

Guest

I don’t know. Maybe Dave will be the British ‘Gorby?’ I hope he bought himself some good fitting mail and a suit of armour. I’d think he could pick a set up gratis in the British Museum. Being a former PM should count for something…;-)…

PALIKA
Guest

If you watched him giving his reason for quitting being that you should not have an ex pm on the backbenches because it might obstruct government etc. I paraphrase.

Winston stayed in the Commons for nearly 10 years after he quit as PM. Heath likewise. Also Major unless my memory plays tricks.

It is no time for tributes, certainly not from me unless you want to read some unvarnished comments on fool of Downing Street

PALIKA
Guest

Rightly he wil be slated. The economic measures are judged by the bog standard decisions where they were on common ground with the mainstream.

On EU he had made a colossal error of judgment. Blair got it wrong on Iraq. His motivation is unclear. CB had not even begun to think it through. Like so many of his other decisions.

uborka
Guest

The EU will settle Paks2 with Hungary (the EU OKed the project) which is anyway progressing as we speak. Lazar Jani gets things done.

http://index.hu/gazdasag/2016/09/12/leokezhatja_az_eu_paksot/

webber
Guest

“Jani?” Your friend?

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