Thursday, 4 July 2013

In Berlin for DW Agenda programme

More time passes. On Friday Deutsche Welle sent me an email to try to arrange another occasion for a studio talk show about current affairs, in my case about Hungary. There had been three previous attempts to bring me over but I was busy each time. At last the time was clear and I could go.  I caught a plane on Monday and returned late Tuesday evening.

Arriving in Berlin about 4:30, I took the train to Berlin Zoo, then it was one stop on the U-Bahn and a short walk to the motel. The idea was to settle in and then to meet dear friend and fellow writer K at 7pm, but when she didn't turn up I rang her. It seems she hadn't read my email properly and that she thought I meant Tuesday evening. She was staying outside Berlin and she said she'd come in by car - about an hour's journey. I tried to dissuade her but she insisted. Then, about fifteen minutes later there was another call from her to say the engine was dead. So we cancelled and I went to eat by myself around the corner on a rapidly darkening night.

Soon enough there were rumbles of thunder and lightning began to play in the distance. It was quite a smart restaurant. Nearest to me was a German-speaking white mother and an English-speaking black father with a young black child who spoke both languages. The boy clearly wanted a lot of attention and kept interrupting their conversation, needling them. They handled it pretty well. I might have lost my temper. Two smiling wraith-like waiters attended on me. The food was very good. The lightning flashed. The child shouted. There was just the odd spot of rain. I ate a Wiener Schnitzel - very good it was too - with a glass of Pilsner, ran to a sweet and a coffee then headed back to the hotel and tried to sleep. The room was stuffy, but when I opened the window the traffic roared. It was about 2 or 3 before I nodded off. Breakfast was full of young people helping themselves to the continental necessities, with one or two older types like me.

After breakfast and packing I walked over to the DW studio where I discovered - I should have known - that it was TV not radio. I was made up, had gel applied to my hair, then sat in the studio with my fellow guests, a Wikileaks spokesman and a Professor of computing and robots at the Free University. It was odd to be flown over from East Anglia to Germany to be part of an entirely political programme in English. Melinda, the anchor, was a sharp minded and sharp eyed chair.

The programme was forty-five minutes long and I didn't make a fool of myself though I did pull a lot of silly faces - maybe I am always doing that, just not seeing myself do it. I liked my fellow panellists, both clearly good intelligent people. We talked about USA surveillance and about the potentially good use of drones. My own starting point was the Councl of Europe's decision not to put Hungary under formal monitoring.

This was the programme, that is if this link still works, and continues to work in the future. I enjoyed it. So much to say, so many details, so little time. It's hard to pace yourself and to select the best possible detail. You don't know the questions in advance and must think fast. They seemed pleased, but maybe it's theur business to seem pleased. I was labelled Poet and Translator at one point and Commentator at another. Was I becoming the latter?

But there will be more to talk about regarding Hungary soon. I also want to write about the Meir of Norwich launch and will try to do so tomorrow.


Gwil W said...

Watched and enjoyed the first two sections. I think I would have placed you in one of the end seats and the drone expert in the middle.

Many thanks for sharing.

I was reminded of my own trip to Berlin some years ago. My telephone wouldn't work in the East where I stumbled into a brightly lit bar. It was like being inside a slot machine. There were photos of Lennon and Stalin on the same wall. Football was on the fuzzy TV and a faded plastic carnation on each table. Hertha playing. I believe they won.

havantaclu said...

Long time since I was in Berlin - 1966 to be exact. The Wall, the checkpoints - then on to Poland by a train. One of carriages's wheels was cracked. Out of that carriage and standing room only for self and colleagues.

Compartment door opens. 'English?'

'World Cup? It is Final!'

We packed into compartment with many Poles, all offering apricot brandy. We had to drink the health of every England player. Then for each goal scored.

I think England won -eventually! But I don't really remember.

Memories of Berlin - and after!

Anonymous said...

Hello George

Émigré Hungarians are again becoming the custodians of the soul of Hungary. Again the local "party line" makes it difficult for Hungarians resident in Hungary to resist. Think about it, as under guylyás communism, it is easier and safer to just go along with things and keep quiet. Local Hungarians, such as journalists, artists, lawyers, businessmen, etc. are being careful about what they say and to whom, because of the possible consequence.

As with Kádar's liberal communism, this liberal fascism will probably not kill or imprison people, but living again "a béka segge alatt" (under the frog's arse - more about Tibor Fisher below) will at the very least lead to a repeat the institutionalised mediocrity.

As to your Academy membership (congrats!), enjoy it as long as you can. The tradition of dismissing/invalidating émigré Hungarians who do not follow the party line has been revived with a vengeance. There are few countries which openly revile a Nobel prize winner (Imre Kertész)
and I am not comfortable that, in this respect, Hungary is in the company of such countries as China and Iran.

Anybody who is worried about the soul of Hungary, is labelled un-patriotic (hey, Senator McCarthy has crawled out of his grave! I have a Hammer horror movie in my mind's eye and think Béla Lugosi would be ideal for the part ... but I digress). An émigré is made into an outsider or worse (Pál Lendvai). I despise Tibor Fisher for cuddling up to the regime and accuse him openly of opportunism to improve on his status (he is but a one-hit-wonder desperately trying for more).

There you go, I am off to Budapest and the Balaton soon, I am determined not to let things grind me down. Moreover, I shall positively use my status as an "outsider" (even though I am a Hungarian citizen) to say and do things local residents nowadays might think twice about ...

Tarka a Magyar! (lit.: the Hungarian is variegated!)


George S said...

Thank you, Gwilym and Jeni. Berlin has a kind of magic, a leftover of 20s glamour, 30s political struggle, then the war, the wall, and the development of a genuine, productive artistic milieu.

Ernesto, I believe you are right and that is exactly where we are, that while Orbán and co continue to berate the repressiveness of the old system, including Kádárism, they are in fact precisely mirroring it. I hope to be something of a gadfly for them. The honour of the academy for me is not in its status as such as in knowing that so many people I admire voted for me. Whether the academy enjoys national prestige in a state such as Hungary is aspiring to be is beside the point. Nor do I imagine the state und,erstands that.

I myself can't see how Tubor F, a man I rather liked, can keep repeating the party line, which is precisely the same party line on every occasion and yet another excuse for fomenting xenophobia.

Enjoy Balaton!