Dezső Szabó (writer)

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This article is about the writer. For the athlete, see Dezső Szabó (athlete).
The native form of this personal name is Szabó Dezső. This article uses the Western name order.
Dezső Szabó monument in Budapest
Dezső Szabó monument by Tibor Szervátiusz, Budapest

Dezső Szabó (born June 10, 1879 in Kolozsvár/Klausenburg/Cluj, Austria-Hungary, present day Cluj-Napoca, Romania), (died January 5, 1945 in Budapest) was a Hungarian linguist and writer noted for his nationalist and anti-semitic views. Szabó has been considered one of the first "pioneers of Magyar populist literature".[1]

Szabó came to live in Budapest in 1918 and started publishing short essays in the literary revue Nyugat. Initially he supported the Hungarian Revolution of 1918. Arthur Koestler, at the time a high school pupil in Budapest, recalls Szabó as one of the new teachers brought to his school by the revolutionary regime - "A shy, soft spoken, somewhat absent-minded man, he told us of a subject more faraway than the Moon: the daily life of hired agricultural workers in the countryside" [2]

Support for the revolution was, however, a brief interlude in Szabó's life, and he soon developed into an outspoken and vehement opponent of the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic proclaimed by Béla Kun.

He was quick to become a well-known and highly influential and energetic writer, gaining fame for his 1919 three-volume novel "Az elsodort falu" ("The Eroded Village"), an expressionist work espousing the idea that hope for a Hungarian renaissance lay in the peasant class, as opposed to the middle class which Szabó believed was "corrupted by the mentalities of the assimilated Germans and Jews".[3] This novel enjoyed a considerable influence during the period of "White Terror" following suppression of the Communist revolution. Though he published many later books, this was considered as the peak of his literary achievements.

Historian Joseph Varga wrote:[4] "Szabo passionately represented the idea that the unique characteristics of the Magyar race and its national uniqueness could only be ensured through the Magyar peasantry. To him, the people were the peasants, its the best characteristics and virtues were embodied in the peasantry, a significant improvement in the financial and cultural status of the Magyar peasantry was an historical necessity, in the interest of the entire nation [since] the peasantry was the sole social segment that remained true to Hungary’s Christian and national traditions through the revolutions of 1918 and 1919".

Szabó has been considered the first "intellectual anti-Semite among Hungarian writers",[1] and he was a regular contributor to the journal Virradat, one of the most rabidly anti-semitic papers of the inter-war period, in which he published no less than 44 articles during three years. These articles were couched in highly apocalyptic and alarmist tones, reprimanding the Hungarian nation for its "feebleness".

There is a continuing debate about whether or not Szabó explicitly called for the physical extermination of the Hungarian Jews. According to Dr. Yehuda Marton, an Israeli-Hungarian scholar who wrote the article about Szabó in the Hebrew Encyclopedia, Szabó did make such a call for extermination at a public meeting in 1921.[5] Apologists for the writer note that in "The Eroded Village" Miklós (a key figure of this main work) says to an old Jewish friend: "If you should know that all my anger comes out from that I know that we depend on each other, because I love you" - which would seem incompatible with the author wanting to kill all Jews. Still, it is undoubted that Szabó wrote sharply antisemitic attacks on Jews, which helped undermine their position in Hungarian society and which could be said to have facilitated their actual extermination in 1944 - whether of not Szabó himself intended this result.

However, at the same time Szabó was also vehemently anti-German, embarking in 1923 on a "Campaign to eradicate German influence in Hungary". After 1932 he was also outspokenly opposed to the Arrow Cross Party, the Hungarian Fascists—without abandoning his anti-semitic views.

This combination of views was due to his own specific brand of racism, which Szabó termed "The Apotheosis of the Hungarian Race".

His influence, considerable during the 1920s, waned in the following decade.

Szabó died in January 1945, during the siege of Budapest by the Soviet Army.

Works[edit]

  • Az Elsodort Falu (1918)
  • Csodálatos élet (1920)
  • Jaj! (1925)
  • Feltámadás Makucskán´ (1925)
  • Karácsony Kolozsvárt (1931)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Lukacs, John. Budapest 1900. Grove Press, 1994. p.168
  2. ^ Arthur Koestler, "Arrow in the Blue - An Autobiography", London, 1953, Ch. 8
  3. ^ Held, Joseph. Columbia History of Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century. Columbia University Press, 1993. p. 196
  4. ^ Joseph Varga, "GUILTY NATION or UNWILLING ALLY? A short history of Hungary and the Danubian basin 1918-1939"
  5. ^ Dr. Yehuda Marton, Hebrew Encyclopedia, Jerusalem, 1974, Volume 25 p. 422 (in Hebrerw)