Hungarian Celebration


(2010. Musical drama in 2 plays. Characters: 5 men, 3 women)

The play begins with a celebration on the occasion of Hungary’s enlargement in 1940, when the nation regained one of the territories that was taken after World War I, North Transylvania. Janka Weiner, a photographer, is listening to the broadcast in Budapest, but then her guests for supper arrive with their personal experiences. Vince, the news correspondent, has a loud debate with officer Lieutenant-Colonel Imre about whether the Hungarian troops were greeted by Transylvanian citizens as rescuers or occupiers.  Imre’s brother, the journalist-poet Johann, prefers to praise the other political “success” of Hungary’s prime minister, the Jewish Law, which bars people from employment based on racial discrimination. Janka’s cousin Emma is left alone, because her husband Desi is serving in a labour camp. The company’s disputes are also strongly motivated by personal emotions – Janka’s lover is the soldier Imre, but his brother Johann is her hopeless admirer. Imre has another admirer, the young priest Otto, who is Janka’s brother. Imre later enlists Otto in the struggle to rescue Jews from deportation and death. The Christian churches, however, adopt a policy of “beneficial inactivity.” They are too busy with religious celebrations to pay attention to the persecuted, leaving Otto in desperation.  In 1944, Johann becomes secretary of state in the extreme right-wing, racist government, whereas Imre and Otto’s movement only manages to save a handful of people. Pauly survives, but his mother Emma is killed by the Hungarian Nazi Party. After the war, it is Communism that systematically overwhelms the characters’ noble and base aspirations. These events, however, are just indicative the future. Before Desi arrives home from labour service, dawn greets the entire circle of friends and family, as they were in 1940, seated around the dinner table. They claim that they should be on their way, and they rise.


Pál ZÁVADA (1954–)

He began his studies in Tótkomlós (1961-1978) and at the Radnóti Miklós High School in Szeged (1969-1973). He studied at the University of Economics in Pécs (1974-1978) and at the Sociology Department of ELTE (1980-1982). He was an associate lecturer at the Sociology Department of the Janus Pannonius University (1978-1982) and worked at the Sociology Research Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (1982-1993). He was the editor of Holmi literary magazine from 1990 to its closure. His principal awards and grants include: The Literary Grant of the Soros Foundation (1997), József Attila Prize (1998), Kossuth Prize (2005).