Conversation at the historical novel MMA headquarters

the MMA At his headquarters, Janus Pan’s conversation-starting question was what those present understood by the term historical novel. According to Geza Ardi, it is a very broad concept, while Zoltán Binh put it this way: Every work is a historical novel, because it takes place in a certain era, and the characteristics of that era are felt in it. Tibor Wiener Sene complemented what was said with the idea that the historical novel deals with common traumas.

Writer Janus Pan led a roundtable discussion on the historical novel at MMA headquarters. Photo: Mate Bach

According to the medium, the historical novel is a mixture of art and science, so the question of authenticity arises. Of the three writers, Geza Ardi has expressed the least lenient position on this issue: according to him, the historical novel should be fact-centered and based on studied facts rather than on fiction. The medium cited his own work as an example: the Hunyadi series presents an event in which no one knows how it actually happened. In his answer, Geza Ardi quoted the historian Gyula Zikvi, who said that all history writing is court history writing, so what the author considers authentic is an individual decision.

Zoltán Bene formulated a more lenient view: a work need not be original, but it must be original in its own right. In his view, the writer needs to know more about age than what is ultimately included in the novel, so that both writer and reader feel at home when reading the book. Tibor Wiener Ceni highlighted the author’s originality as his most important aspect: in his work Magyar Gólem, which deals with the trial of Emmanuel Law, given the sensitivity of the subject, he made sure that everything was as authentic as possible. .

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According to the suggestion of Janus Pan, a certain action draws attention to the era in which it takes place, to the people in which it appears.

In this regard, the question of the writer’s responsibility arises, since there are those who believe that everything happened as described. Zoltán Bene said he likes this genre precisely because it can fit a specific age. A good historical novel or perhaps a good historical movie can convey the reality of everyday life. It is the writer’s responsibility to accurately present the accuracy and zeitgeist, as well as to ensure that no ideological intent appears in the work.

In response, the moderator’s next question was whether there was a historical narrative independent of ideology. In this regard, Geza Ardi explained that the role of the historical novel is to form the social point of view, and its task is to develop the moral sense. According to Zoltán Bene, a writer can be immoral, but work must be moral, and literature must be moral. To this, Tibor Wiener Cini added that the particular novel must also be a good work, because it constitutes the national memory. Time will tell what will be valuable work and what will not.

Towards the end of the conversation, Janos Pan raises the issue of the historical film: there are many topics of Hungarian history that have not yet been covered in the film, such as King István or Matthias, as well as the history of the Trianon. And he posed the question: According to those present, is there an opportunity for Hungarian films to portray our history in a more diverse way?

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According to Geza Ardi, this will require good screenwriters and directors who understand a specific subject matter and can handle stories. Zoltán Bene put it this way: Nowadays, and especially since the proliferation of streaming services, film is the most important vehicle for shaping attitudes. High literature has always been a class culture, and Hungary is far behind in the field of film and series production. According to his hopes, the film series currently being made of the Hunyadi book series by János Bán will improve on this.

At the end of the evening, Janos Pann penned it as a kind of lesson: If we don’t make up our stories, others will, as we saw in the second season of Sülejmán’s series, which was far from reality. His portrayal of Laszlo or the deformed figure of Matthias in a film about Vlad Tepes in Romania.

Cover photo: Janus Bahn (Photo: Matte Bach)

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