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In Twofold Minority

Balassi Institute - HungarianCulturalCenter and the Consulate General of Hungary in New York invite you to a special evening featuring screenings and discussion with multiple award-winning author and commentator on Jewish affairs, Gábor T. Szántó. The event will be followed by a short wine reception.

The event is made possible by generous support from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Fund.

January 28, 2016, 7pm
Breuer Hall
Consulate General of Hungary
223 East 52nd Street (bw. 2nd and 3rd Ave.) New York, NY10022
Due to limited seating, kindly RSVP by 26 January, 2016 at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization-featured Hungarian Jewish author Gábor T. Szántó in discussion about European Jewish Literature after the Holocaust: Perspectives from the Third Generation

Gábor T. Szántó lives in Budapest and belongs to the third generation of postwar Jewish Hungarian writers, who appeared in the literary life of Hungary after a period of silence about Jewishness brought about by the reluctance of the second generation (the direct descendants of victims) to engage with this topic and also by the reluctance of the communist rulers of the Eastern bloc to bring complex issues of identities and national responsibility of past crimes into the limelight. In his books, Szántó writes mostly about the life, assimilation, moral disagreement and generation gap of Central European Jews, a life world marked by the torture suffered at the hands of subsequent far right and far left dictatorships.
 

A lawyer and political scientist by training, Szántó made a name for himself as a productive author and commentator on issue related to the Jewish "renaissance" that unfolded in the region - an ambivalent process he has been observing, voicing both support and criticism. He is the editor-in-chief of the Hungarian-Jewish cultural and political monthly Szombat, founded in 1989. Since 2008 he has also taught Modern Jewish Literature as a guest lecturer.

He published his first volume of stories, A tizedik ember (The Tenth Man), in 1995. A volume of two novellas, Mószer (The Informer) appeared in 1997. Szántó published a novel in 2003, titled Keletipályaudvar, végállomás (Eastern Station, Last Stop). His second short story volume Lágermikulás (The Crunch of Empty Boots) was published in 2004 followed by a collection of poems A szabadulásíze (The Taste of Escape) in 2010. His novel, Édeshármas (Threesome) appeared in May, 2012, followed by his latest novel Kafka macskái (Kafka's Cats) in 2014. His works have also been published in German, Russian and, more recently in English, including various anthologies and the prestigious The Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization (Yale University Press). In the works is the first feature film adaptation (working title: 1945) of one of his short stories (Homecoming), with a score by noted contemporary artist, Tibor Szemző, shot by cinematography legend ElemérRagályi (known for Jacob the Liar and scores of other films) and directed by Ferenc Török (Moszkvatér, Overnight).

Gábor T. Szántó:
In Twofold Minority - Does Modern European Jewish Literature exist after the Holocaust?

Modern European Jewish Literature was – we might say with some irony – born in America. Editor-in-chief Sander L. Gilman’s serial anthology Contemporary Jewish Writing was released at the turn of the 21st century by the University of Nebraska Press in ten volumes, offering a cross-section of several European countries’ Jewish belles lettres including the work of some Hungarian writers.

2008 saw the release of Contemporary Jewish Writing in Europe – with contributions from a dozen American and European scholars, presenting an overview of Jewish writing in post–World War II Europe. This book – published by the Indiana University Press – gives an insight for English-speaking readers into the productivity and diversity of Jewish writers and writing that has marked a revitalization of Jewish culture in France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Hungary, Poland, and Russia.

The 10th volume of the Posen Library of Jewish Culture and Civilization series was published in 2012 by Yale University Press, a retrospective anthology including modern Jewish literature from 1973 – 2005, with dozens of European authors.
We see far less of such grand, large-scale collections in Europe. This is, of course, not a matter of publishers’ capacities and money. Neither is it due to the relatively small population of European Jews: under 1.5 million strong and distributed over many smaller language communities, compared to the 5.3 million Jews in the US with a potential worldwide audience for their works in the English language. In the words of Bryan Cheyette, who was editor of the anthology Contemporary Jewish Writing in Britain and Ireland, and a regular publicist on the issue: „As Jewish writers are thought not to exist in Britain, the common reaction to my eccentric enthusiasm has been, until recent years incredulity. Such disbelief is shared by the surprisingly disparate group of bedfellows, from newspaper reviewers to academic critics. Workaday literary journalists, who are paid to avoid complexity, treat the Jewishness of British-born writers as a form of embarrassment, a guilty secret to be passed over with unseemly hate or ignored altogether. Jewish history, after all, is meant to take place on the battlefields of the Middle East or in the capitals of Europe or the urban centers of America, not in the heartlands of the English bourgeoisie.

If we were to replace British literature with other European literatures in the above text, we would likely be met with similar reactions. Many will find modern European Jewish literature uncomfortable and complicated that challenges well established structures and categories by creating a new narrative. And if such an undertaking is disturbing and difficult in the West, where the post-colonial world has made accommodations for newer, multicultural values, then it is all the more difficult in Eastern Europe, where many still have hopes of assimilation and dream of homogenous national cultures.

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