Monday, 5 July 2010

New Links on Right and a piece of Sindbad

There are two more Link categories on the right of this post if you read down it:

1. George Szirtes Reading, where I will store recordings I make (The Courtyards is there);

2. Other GS Texts Online, where I will put anything I find of mine that seems to have crept online without me knowing, not including poems. I do this because I have found that most of my translation of Gyula Krúdy's The Adventures of Sindbad is available on Google Books. I think the Introduction (scroll down) to it is one of the best introductions I have written: maybe because it is to one of the books I have best loved. You can click through the book, which is an absolute classic, to get the stories.

It is also the basis of a fascinating film, itself a classic of its genre, Szindbad, directed by Zoltán Huszárik in 1971. Here is an excerpt from it.

Sindbad (as it appeared in the English translation) is over three hundred years old, a lover of women and fine food. Played here by Zoltán Latinovits, the most popular male actor of his day, he is in a country inn, indulging himself.

The dialogue is in Hungarian, of course and it is too long to translate here, but the essence is this: Sindbad keeps asking for more and more food, constantly declaring his preference for this or that way of making it, for this or that cut of meat or poultry, for this or that way of dressing or spicing it. He goes through his preference for the various kinds of mustard firmly declaring for English mustard (you see a jar of it on the table).

In the meantime he has asked the waiter whether he was married. The waiter sadly replies that he was but that his wife has left him. He tells how he met her at the casino where he was on good terms with the jockeys and how someone there decided to make a fortunate man of him by introducing him to the her.

And then what happened? asks Sindbad between ordering yet more platters and discoursing on food. The waiter answers that his marriage was the ruin of him. She ran away to a village and there she married some foolish member of the local gentry.

Sindbad frowns and takes another bite. I was that man, he tells the waiter.

And has she left you too? the waiter asks.

Yes, Sindbad replied. But no matter.

And carries on eating.

The food in the meanwhile serves as metaphor for the delights of sensuality, in silent close up, bubbling and dripping, swimming in its own juices.

If interested, do read the Introduction mentioned above.

The Krúdy book I have just reviewed for the TLS, Life is a Dream (review to appear soon) is full of meals and food and sensuality. I doubt whether there exists another book of stories so lovingly descriptive of food.


Also there is Tibor Déry's collection of stories Love, to which I also wrote an Introduction (again, scroll down).


Gwil W said...

George, to me "New Links* on Right" is quite funny because it's typical of the way I speak in real life; a strange mixture of German and English; it's a new language called Denglisch.

Links is of course the German word for left.

I therefore on first glance read your headline as "New Left on Right"

But I know what you mean. I'm still waiting for a reply from the Library re the book of Hungarian poems I reserved. I imagine the chaos of them lokking for a booklast borrowed in1999 or whenever. Hope they can find it.

George S said...

Gwilym, I am devastated at the scant readership of The Lost Rider in Austria!!! Does the world mean to tell me that Austrian libraries are not packed out with eager readers of a bilingual book of Hungarian verse in English translation. I must throw myself in the Danube next time I'm near enough to it.

I think New Left on Right has distinct political implications, though in England it would probably be New Right on Left.

Gwil W said...

Great footage. I've eaten in places like that. They are still around. The man is definitely a Feinschmeker. The Tafelspitz (sliced boiled beef) had me dribbling - I'd take it, not with mustard, but with freshly grated horse-radish. Very sharp.
The library lady said the book should be there in next 2 days.

Anonymous said...

Hi George.
I found this a bizarre excerpt of film. Initially, the still image reminded me of Basil Fawlty and Manuel in Fawlty Towers. I found the close-ups of the food pretty freaky. If ever, I decide to go on a diet, I shall watch this to put me off my dinner. Although I can see how the images could appear sexual. Interesting to see how different cultures approach seemingly everyday activities.

George S said...

If this seems bizarre you'll find the whole film bizarre, Kathy. I first saw Szindbád in a projection room at the Film School in Budapest along with an American poet who screwed up his face at the end and pronounced it kitsch. I didn't altogether disagree then. It is, I should say, the favourite film ever of many Hungarians, irrespective of gender (an issue which, to me then, seemed not irrelevant to the film). The director, Zoltán Huszárik, like many other gifted people - like his star here, Zolán Latinovits, died early. The first certainly by suicide, the second possibly.

The film has grown on me since to the extent that I bought the video and have watched it a few times. There is a good deal of the American underground movie in it, combined with fragmentary story-telling and the kind of lushness one might associate with advertisement or even soft-porn.

I still see those influences working in the film but now think it is valuable on two fronts: firstly, as an attetmpt to make a popular film using a complex artistic language and, secondly, as a kind of philosophy springing out of fascinating Central European desires and neuroses.

That sounds a little grand, I know, and I do speak as the translator of the Szindbad stories so may be biased, but I think it is well worth hanging with the film if you ever get a chance to see it, even if seems - and is - odd and self-indulgent. It is, nevertheless, nostalgically, creepily, movingly beautiful.