On Hungarian Literature

Four years ago, in June 1996, the World Conference on Language Rights held its session in Barcelona, the capital of the Spanish region Catalonia. As the result of several years' work of preparations, the Universal Declaration of Language Rights was adopted here. PEN, the writers' oldest, most comprehensive and highly respected international organization, initiated the elaboration of this outstandingly significant document, and writers, linguists, language sociologists, international lawyers and experts participated at its drafting. One basic principle of the widely echoed declaration is: language is not merely the technical means of communication, but a system of signs so specific that it carries world-interpretation, approach to values, way of thinking, historical-cultural traditions. This science-based starting point has a defining importance for the theory and practice of literature. It means, in fact, that literature, primarily as a phenomenon relating to language, is inseparable from the situation and fate of the historical community in the language of which the literary work is created. The natural conclusion would be that, for the creative personality, the community whose language and idea of reality expressed in it he first acknowledged is of defining significance. Language is not only a means of drafting thoughts, feelings, but also the shaper, molder of the interpretation of being, aesthetically presented in the works. Heidegger appropriately named the language the "house of the being" (das Haus des Seins). Therefore, the characteristics of literature can be approached above all through the coherence-system of the language. The Hungarian literature emerging from Romania is an inseparable part of the universal Hungarian literature, the same as Hungarian literature from Slovakia, Yugoslavia or Ukraine. Its typical characteristics are, of course, influenced by historical mutations, the social and political environment, the fate-defining relation-system of the numerically minority Hungarian communities. Hungarian literature from Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Yugoslavia cannot be included into another national literature's framework. The citizenship of Hungarian writers may differ, but they share national identity, historical consciousness, traditions, and values. The above presume that regional traditions and factors also shape the work of universal Hungarian literature creators living in various countries, yet these are elements that do not divide, but enrich, add nuances to the whole. Such element of regional nature would be, in the case of the Hungarian literature from Romania, the idea of transylvanism, crystallized during the period between the two world wars and today still comprising the mutual acquaintance of common values and interests and indispensable spiritual solidarity of the Hungarian, Romanian and German literate living in Transylvania. Workshops of universal Hungarian literature, functioning in various Central and Eastern-European countries, effectively increase the enriching interaction among cultures in the area, and dissolve isolation tendencies, all in the name of common endeavors and the idea of Europe. The cohabitation of different literatures within one country is a beneficial training for the tolerance that is an organic part of European integration. Preserving and mutually respecting the characteristics of spiritual values, the unity of variety, are also conditions that the controversial process of globalization does not neutralize: on the contrary, they enrich the constellation of the European spirit, promising us all to feel at home.

by Zsolt Gálfalvi