Sunday, 7 February 2010

My father, László Szirtes 1917-2010


Dad, Andrew and I

My father died yesterday.He was ninety-two and would have been ninety-three in August. His death was quite sudden after a long period of acute illness from which he seemed to be recovering. I don't want to say very much about it now but I will use this space to compile a kind of obituary for him out of the conversations we shared, particularly after my mother's death. I will illustrate it with a few photographs - and maybe some parts of the many poems I wrote for and about him. I will add parts intermittently, not every day, but it will be a thread running through the blog from now on. I have many tapes, of which I have transcribed about a third.

It is a strange space to be announcing things like this but he wasn't a public man, at least not once we arrived in England. I can't imagine how I would persuade a newspaper to print anything worthwhile. Nevertheless, his life was more than substantial, often exciting in the worst possible way. I have just had a lovely email from the daughter of a friend of his who had met him, in which she says "I remember thinking: this man has a twinkle in his eye when he speaks, as if he finds life an amusing adventure. It was just an impression. I didn't know him well."

Well, yes - my father had no religious faith except perhaps a faith in the power of good spirits. It was more than a matter of principle with him. He clung to good spirits the way others might cling to God. And this super/meta-principle saw him through times when good spirits were all anyone had at their disposal.

It is, to repeat, a strange space for such personal matters, but I am a writer. It is my job to give some shape in language to whatever happens. That shape is, inevitably, a public shape. A blog is a peculiarly floating space - both public and intimate - but it is a space where such things might be shaped. I will try.



32 comments:

Jonathan Wonham said...

My condolences George. I look forward to reading more about your father.

Tony Dougan said...

My deepest sympathies to you George.
You paint the briefest picture of a lovely man. That 'twinkle in the eye' comment from your friend says it all really. There's a sense of some of that in your own work so maybe that is one of his legacies to you. It is a quality I really admire in people, the courage of humour born out of some form of pain, the courage of truth born out of some humanity.
And I too look forward to hearing more of him in your writing.

Courage mon Coeur!

Poet in Residence said...

To "faith in the power of good spirits" I say, yes, and again Yes!

That's it.

Space Bar said...

My condolences, George.

George S said...

Thank you, all. I have gathered together some transcripts and will slowly start building a picture that, I hope, might do him justice and reflect him as he was.

G

Angela France said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, George.

"faith in the power of good spirits" - I say yes too. Good times, and the good in people, never die.

Ms Baroque said...

George, I'm SO sorry. I'm glad I got to meet him very briefly at your launch at the Hungarian Cultural Centre; he seemed a formidable character. I'm thinking of you. xx

Mark Granier said...

My thoughts are with you George.

Michelle said...

George, I'm thinking of you.

George S said...

Thank you all again. You are very kind. Tomorrow a lot of hard practical stuff. I'm glad you got to meet him, Katy.

Anthony said...

My sincere condolences, George.

The Plump said...

my father had no religious faith except perhaps a faith in the power of good spirits.

And what could be a finer tribute than that?

Hold on to your spirits too at a difficult time George.

My wholly inadequate thoughts are with you.

Hedgie said...

I'm truly sorry for your loss. You are fortunate to have had him with you for as long as you did. Condolences to you and your family.

Anindita said...

My sincere condolences, George.

thijsw said...

Such a sad coincidence: yesterday we celebrated my mother's 93th birthday, with her remaining 5sons, her daughters-in-law, a fair amount of her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren. That same day your father died.
Thank you for sharing your memories of him with us. I am very sorry for your loss.

Anne said...

So sorry to hear this, George. He sounds a remarkable man.

Since you mention newspapers,
The Independent (which I know isn't your favourite) has an occasional obituary feature called Lives Remembered for less public people and I'm sure they would be interested to hear from you:
max 500 words to Obituaries, 'The Independent', 2 Derry Street, London W8 5HF, by fax to 020 7005 2399 or by email to obituaries@independent.co.uk
- and probably other papers have something similar.

It is good that you will be posting about him here on your blog.

Thinking of you.
Anne xx

George S said...

Thank you very much, everyone. I am really grateful for your kind thoughts.

G

Billy C said...

It's times like this when words are difficult for many of us. I can only offer you my condolences, George, but they are sincere ones. I, too, look forward to reading more about your dad. R.I.P. László Szirtes.

Rachel Mikos said...

Please accept our most profound condolences from all of us, George. He looks like such a truly extraordinary man, I am really looking forawrd to reading more about him. God bless and take care in this difficult time. May your beloved father rest in peace.

"Who is my father in this world/At the spirit's base?"--W.Stevens

Diane said...

Dear George,

My warmest thoughts to you. We actually talked of your father last Tuesday evening and I could see you were worried despite, as you said, your Dad's seeming recovery and his daily walks to the shops.

My love to you and to Clarissa and to the family. As with your other friends, I will look forward to your speaking of your father in days, weeks, months ahead.

Dafydd John said...

Please accept my condolences as well.

That is a wonderful photograph; even a short walk seemed to be an adventure! And the young George's pride in his father is quite, quite obvious.

bakkenpoet said...

As George Herbert says:

"Sorry was all my soul, I scarce believed;
Till grief did tell me, roundly, that I lived."

Sympathies and strength,

Christopher

dana said...

I'm so sorry, George. My condolences and best wishes to you and your family. Take care.

Anonymous said...

My deepest and sincere condolences, dear Poet,
I also look forward to reading about your dear father> I would like to learm more about him and share my thoughts with you. This floating and intimate/public space of your blog can always bring to yoy listening ears, sharing feelings, hearts which move towards you.
Thinking of you at this present time of grief, I will not write more. In moments like these the rest is silence. Eleni

mise said...

I'm sorry to hear it, and a blog is certainly the space for saying exactly what you wish, and what needs to be said.

Stephen F said...

We are thinking of you George. He must have been proud of you, and ninety-three is a great age.

all our love, S&T xx

George S said...

<amy thanks to you again - all of you. Spent the day in London sorting through things.

Lucy said...

I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. That is such a lovely, life-filled photograph.

Take care.

Sue Ann Simar said...

He did everything right to bring you to who you are.

SueG said...

I've come to this a bit late, but I want to add my sincere condolences for your loss. The role he played in your life comes through so intensely in your poems. They are a beautiful tribute to him. Wishing you the best, Sue

Bálint said...

Sincere condolences, Mr Szirtes.
Bálint Tóth

Reading the Signs said...

My condolences also, and thanks for all you have shared here. My father was a refugee from Nazi Germany and also served the god of good spirits. Your father has a lovely face.