Back, oh, some five or six years ago, my brother Baldy asked if I could lay my hands on some books in Hungarian. He had met a Hungarian Benedictine monk at St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison, KS who liked to read in his mother tongue. I managed to find two or three and sent them off. Then, later, I chanced across yet more—and once more a recycled Amazon container took them on its way to Brother Peter. And thus, one or two at a time, ever since a intervals.
Little did I realize just how many such books I had in my great forest of volumes. Now what with unpacking still steadily moving forward, I unearthed another dozen or so—but with some twelve or so boxes still unopened, there may be more yet.
The initial books I’d sent were actually some that I had been reading, off and on, either for content or for reference in preparing our family history—our great transition from Europe to America (see this link here). The current batch includes a gardening book, a cookbook (it contains several quite elaborate recipes for preparing snails), a book on traditional weaving and embroidering, the elaborate and highly scholarly yearbook for a Museum, a photographic work titled Storm-beaten Castles, an essay collection by Dezső Szabó (1879-1945) titled Kill! and dated 1922, and two volumes titled Diary by Sándor Márai (1900-1989) extending from 1945 to 1967.
Márai’s life to some extent carries an aura of our own transition. He was a poet, writer, and journalist who was both passionately patriotic but yet, oddly (but this is normal if you live it) also much attached to the greater multi-ethnic unity that the Austro-Hungarian monarchy represented. He much mourned its passing—and hated the communist regime that followed Hungary’s independence so that that country ejected him. He then lived in Italy for a while and ended up in—San Diego. Life for some Hungarians during the twentieth century. Great change, great disruptions, and strange feelings for cultures dying and emergent.
Now these books—which managed somehow to migrate from Hungary to Kansas City, to Washington, Minneapolis, and finally to Detroit—are once more on the verge of another trip across the country, to Atchison, KS. Not a bad place to end their life, in a Benedictine abbey. That may be the genuine future which will emerge from the present turmoil of modernity.