Monday, December 21, 2015

Was Miklos Ligeti Jewish?

Last spring, I wrote a post on Miklos Ligeti's sculpture.  I first became acquainted with Ligeti's sculpture in the Kerepesi Cemetery in Budapest.  The Kerepesi Cemetery was the main Christian cemetery in Budapest at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries.  Behind the Kerepesi Cemetery is the Jewish Salgotarjani Cemetery, much less kept up, much more difficult to enter and view,  The tombs by Ligeti in the Kerepesi Cemetery feature the nude human body and physical manifestations of angels--both quite distinct from the Jewish tradition of funeral art:

Ligeti also sculpted important politicians, artists, and even the royal Austro-Hungarian family.  But his most famous statue is Anonymous, which for many captures the essential Hungarian identity.

It was thus a complete surprise for me to read in Jewish Budapest: Monuments, Rites, History (by Kinga Frojimovics, Geza Komoroczy, Victoria Pustai and Andrea Strbik) the following passage:

"The Regent [Miklos Horty] issued privileges at special requests for some people who now fell under the (Anti-) Jewish Laws but who had outsanding scholarly, artistic, economic achievements to their credit or who filled prominent public roles.  . . .  Among them were several prominent. . . writers and artists, [including] . . Miklos LIgeti, the sculptor of the statue (1903) of the first Hungarian chronicler, Anonymous, located in Varosligeti (City Park)" (p. 402).

That Ligeti could be Jewish seemed almost impossible.

So I did some research.  Miklos Ligeti, sculptor is listed in the Maygar Zsido Lexicon (Hungarian Jewish Encylopedia), published in 1929 in Hungarian.  Ligeti is also listed on ArtCult: Around Jewish Art,

The answer to how Ligeti could be Jewish but seem (in his art) so un-Jewish is of course the widespread cultural assimilation of Hungarian Jews in the last part of the 19C and first part of the 20C.  The historian and political writer Ferenc Festo, who includes Ligeti in his discussion, explains this more thoroughly.

Ligeti died in 1944 (the death year for so many Budapest Jews). As Jewish Budapest goes on to explain, the special "accommodation" for outstanding Jewish citizens declined after the Arrow Sword terrors. ArtCult says that Ligeti "disappeared" in Budapest in 1944.  His wikipedia page and other websites place his death on December 10, 1944, the day the Budapest Ghetto was sealed.  Interestingly, in a book published by the museum his family runs, Ligeti Miklos by Prohaszka Laszlo, Ligeti's death is also placed on December 10, 1944--though there is no mention (as far as I can tell using Google translate) of his residing in the Ghetto or dying because of the Holocaust.

Ligeti's own funeral monument is located in Kerepesi Cemetery, though his body (which was lost) is not.  The monument sculpted by his friend Jeno Bory poignantly depicts the missing presence.

In the abstract to her doctoral thesis, Treat ment of Miklós Ligeti ,sculptor’s ouvre, Judit Mazányi writes that "Surveying his oeuvre, it became indisputable that we were not kept waiting for the rediscovery of the life-work of a forgotten genius sunken into oblivion":

"Sadly, no drawn sketches have survived from the artist, nor sculpture studies of a notable number, through which the evolution of his ideas could have been traced. Many hundreds of his drawings fell victim to the mistaken judgment of his family members, who, in the cultural-political situation following the war might have thought that there would not be any chance to present his oeuvre as integrated into Hungarian art. I do not know which of his works were placed in a private safe during World War II as planned by the artist, but it is common knowledge that the valuables preserved in these were hardly spared in the course of wartime plunder, and these works have most probably been destroyed."

The hooded face, the body-less monument, the Jewish identification, the non-Jewish artist: it is tempting to draw these together.  But the truth of Ligeti's life is surely more complex than these teasing traces suggest.  It is also as incompletely known as those of so many Hungarian artists who are no longer familiar to us or to their fellow citizens--either because of history, neglect, or accident.

 Whomever Ligeti was is now gone.


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Walking Across the Ohio River Bridge from Kentucky to Indiana

Last week, Susan and I walked across the old George Rogers Clark Bridge, that has been re-opened for pedestrians.  Louisville still has 3 other bridges for traffic, but this one has been refurbished for walkers.


And in another unexpected view of Louisville, I saw the most beautiful sunset of the season from my house.  No lake to reflect it in, but patterns of trees against the colors.


Saturday, December 5, 2015

We are Home!

We got home on Thursday about 3:30 and the first thing we did was go to the movies!  At 4:15 we were sitting in the Baxter getting ready to watch Trumbo. Besides our friends, can you guess what we missed most about Louisville?

Basically, we were too tired to do anything else, I guess, because the next day and today we pretty much slept and slowly unpacked.

But on Monday life begins: dentist and doctors appointments,  lunches with friends, hair-cut [!], dinners, parties, clearing out the house in the hopes that soon we will buy a condo and it will be on the market.  

It is nice to be home.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Thanksgiving aka Chaos aka Family aka Togetherness

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving.  We met my brother Ben and his wife and three children, my sister Sandy, her husband and her four children and two grandchildren and the partner of one of my nelphews just outside of Madison Wisconsin.  Since none of us have a big enough home for all of us to fit in, my brother and sister usually "meet in the middle," between St. Paul MN and Terre Haute IN.  Tony and I haven't been for a while because it was too long a drive for us from Louisville.  But this year we stayed at the Lake til Thanksgiving and then drove to Deerfield WI to join in.

If you are counting, we had TG for 15 people plus two babies.  That is a LOT of people and a LOT of cooking and a LOT of noise and a LOT of fun.  Here are some of the highlights.

Ben and Annie stuffing the turkey.  Ben always makes the turkey because he's the only one of us who knows how to do it right.

The turkey:

Nina making the pies.

One of Nina's pies.  (I hate pecan pie, but this was so beautiful I had to take a picture.)

The after dinner mess.

After dinner we cleaned up to the Big Chill soundtrack.  Ben and Nina dancing and making out! Can't stop singing those songs!


Too many kids to picture, so I will just end with a few pictures of the third generation: my great-nieces Miriam and Rebecca.

Miriam and Rebecca making a mess.

Rebecca retreating

Rebecca and her mommy Kasandra

Rebecca eating dinner.

I would have included more pictures of Rebecca's big sister Miriam, but every time I came near her she either told me to "stop talking" or burst into tears.


Friday, November 27, 2015

Over the River and Through the Woods

To Thanksgiving House We Go!

The last week in MIchigan, it snowed and snowed.

But we made it out and arrived safe and sound in Deerfield Wisconsin, where we are spending Thanksgiving with my brother Ben, sister Sandy, and all their immediate family.  Fifteen "adults" and two babies. We have gone from isolation to a lot of togetherness!

We were sorry to leave Lade Medora, but we knew our time there was done as it got colder and colder and snowier and snowier.

Back in Louisville on December 4 (after a few days with Dickie and Cindy).

#Lake Medora

Friday, November 20, 2015

Messy Modernism. D.H. Lawrence. The Rainbow.

The other big modernist book I read this summer was D. H. Lawwrence's The Rainbow, a book I had not read in 35 years.  The Rainbow has been an important book for me at various times in my life, and played a much more central role  than Joyce's Ulysses.

I first read The Rainbow between 1968 and 1969. I came to it having read Sons and Lovers a year earlier, when I was in Britain in my Junior Year Abroad.  Falling in love with Lawrence, I naturally next went to his then most famous novel, Lady Chatterley's Lover. After Lady Chatterley, I returned to Newcomb College (Tulane) as a senior and decided to write my Honors Thesis on Lawernce. I was invited into a graduate seminar by my thesis advisor, Dr.Phillip Bollier.  

In Dr. Bollier's seminar, I read The Rainbow, Women in Love,  My first reading of Lawrence (despite I'm sure Dr. Bollier's intentions) was for what I thought Lawrence could teach me about life.  I was 19 and desperately looking for someone to help me figure out who I was.  I was moving from what I saw as a conventional life,  Family, college, sororities, dating and not much more: these were the conventions of life for most of the people I knew in a southern college for women in 1968.  But I also knew there was a larger life out there.  I wanted to live in Berkeley.  I wanted to be part of something larger.  I wanted to have deep passionate relationships.  I wanted to understand the almost sacred mysteries of sexuality.  My young reading of Lawrence promised those things.  

I next read and re-read Lawrence, particularly The Rainbow and Women in Love, between about 1970, when I first entered graduate school, and 1980, when I finally defended my dissertation.  This time I read Lawrence for scholarship and analysis.  I read it in the context of two of Lawrence's major essays, "The Study of Thomas Hardy" and "The Crown," and Lawrence criticism.  I even got to the point where I had a color chart outlining all the various image patterns in the novels. One might say I read The Rainbow to death.

After I got my Ph.D.  I never read The Rainbow again until this summer.  It felt in a way spoilt for me.  I was embarassed by my early reading of Lawrence for life-lessons, and I was throroughly sick of the structural analyses I had so painfully created.  It seemed to me that whatever The Rainbow was, it had pretty much died for me. Then this summer, thirty-five years later, I returned to the The Rainbow, hoping that I would be long enough past those earlier readings and able to see it again in some real and direct way.  I purposely chose a copy that had no annotations; I did not read with a pencil in my hand; and I made no return to criticism.  

In this latest reading there were lingering traces of earlier readings, but I felt far enough away to be able to enact different a relationship with e book.  There were many passages (most of which had figured in my dissertation) that I remembered almost word-for-word.  But there were other passages that I did not remember at all.  Read again in the larger context of the novel, the familiar and the unfamiliar worked differently.  There were new discoveries, particularly the extraordinary descriptions of nature, most of which I had paid scant attention to, since I was earlier reading for character or theme.  I also felt I had a better understanding of some of the more opaque experiences described in the novel, mostly because I am 35 years older and have a much greater range of experiences through which to understand them.  I also realized (in a way I was earlier hesitant to admit) that the book is uneven.  On the other hand, some parts that truly eluded me earlier now seemed much more accessible.  

The Rainbow as a material object has not changed (other than the new Cambridge edition that was published--thankfully--after my dissertation was finished).  The words I read in the 1960s and 1970s are the same.  But the meaning of value or the book has changed constantly.  For one thing, I am now 23 years older than Lawrence was when he died, and 37 years older than he was when he published The Rainbow.  I have tried to teach generations of students that a book only "means" through the interaction with its readers.  And it is curious to consider what contemporary students might make of The Rainbow.  (Which is not to say that all readings are equally valid or robust).  But thinking about my three very (but not completely) different readings makes me wonder not only about how the thousands of books I have read over my life have shaped me, but also how I have I have shaped them.


Monday, November 16, 2015

Hungarian Architecture Book: Chapter 1. Historicism. (Or What I Did on my Summer Vacation).

I have spent a good part of the summer drafting the first chapter of my Hungarian Architecture book.  It's not completely done (and I did promise I would get it done before left, and maybe I will. . . . )  I am posting the first section.  The next sections will be Eclectic Historicism and New Possibilities for Urban Development.  In many ways they are more interesting than this first section, but they're not ready to show anyone.  I would love to get feedback from anybody.  Sorry the format is so wonky.  It's been formatted for Kindle and it's hard to cut and paste it to blogger.  Also I have to edit for typos, etc.  So, here goes. . .

1.    Historicism:  Hungarian Architecture 1848-1900.

In 1848, as part of the larger European revolutionary movement, Hungary challenged its status as part of the Habsburg Empire.  In  1849, Hungarian forces were defeated.  As a result, the new Habsburg emperor, Franz Joseph, dissolved the traditional Hungarian administration and tried to absorb Hungary into a politically homogeneous Empire.  Hungarians reacted mostly with passive resistance.  Among other ways, this resistance shows up in the architecture of the second half of the nineteenth century. Spurning Vienna as an architectural model, Hungarians instead turned to other western European architectural traditions.

Hungary had throughout its history borrowed major architectural styles of western Europe, including French Gothic, Romanesque, Italian Baroque, and Neo-Classical.  In the nineteenth century, it returned to these style--not to recreate the past, but to use and transform older styles in order to create a new sense of national identity. 

The time was right for Hungary to establish its identity as a European nation in its own right, and not just a part of the Empire.  In 1872, Buda, Obuda, and Pest were joined to form the national capital city Budapest.  A few years later, the 1876 Compromise resulted in the Dual-Monarchy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, personified in Franz Joseph, called Emperor in Austria and King in Hungary.  The 1876 Compromise gave Hungary its own national government (except for foreign affairs which it shared with Austria), a parliamentary democracy, and a liberal political and economic ideology.  Additionally, it reunited Hungary with Transylvania, a region essential to Hungary’s sense of itself as a nation. This political stability brought about an economic boom unparalleled in Hungary’s history, resulting in growth in infrastructure and industrial development.  Concomitantly Budapest’s population grew, going from 30,000 in 1872 to almost  1,000,000 by 1900, resulting in an unprecedented building boom.  In the midst of all this growth and development, Hungary wanted to define itself not simply as an adjunct to other countries, but as a nation in and of itself.  Part of that desire is manifested in its architecture.

Historicist Styles.  Prior to the end of the 19th century, stylistic purity made it possible to distinguish among “neo” styles of Hungarian buildings, such as neo Classical, Gothic, Renaissance, or Baroque.  In general, Classicism was connected with civic buildings, Gothic with sacred buildings, and Baroque with palaces and villas.  Hungarian architects turned to these historicist styles because they believed Hungary lacked a national style of its own.  Imre Steindl (1839-1902), a professor of architecture and later architect of the Hungarian Parliament argued in his inagural at the Royal Joseph Technical University (later the Budapest Technical University), argued in his inaugural speech that “there is no trace anywhere of a national character for architectural forms applied in stone” (qtd. in Sisa, p. 14).  Thus, the official validation of Historicism. 

The greatest figure of post 1848 historicist architecture was Miklós Ybl (1814-1891).  Ybl built many of Budapest’s most important public monuments, including the neo Italian Renaissance Hungarian Opera House (Fig, 1.1) and the neo-Classical St. Stephen’s Basilica (Fig. 1.2).  He was also a prodigious builder (and entrepreneur) of “palaces” for Hungary’s aristocracy.  The Károlyi Palace is a beautiful example of Italian Renaissance, Ybl’s preferred style (Figs. 1.2-3).  Ybl’s work presents, for the most part, a kind of pure historicism, in which he adopts a specific style, usually Italian Renaissance.  However, the goal of such work is not simply to preserve the past.  Rather, Ybl’s grand buildings show Hungary’s aspirations—political, ecclesiastical, and aristocratic—in the second half of the 19th century: the face it wished to present to the world. 

Figure 11.  Hungarian Opera House (1867-1891: begun by Joszef Hild and finished by J. Kauser).  Miklos Ybl. 

Figure 12.  St. Stephens Basilica (1851-1905).  Miklos Ybl; completed by Jozsef Kauser.
Figure 13.  Karolyi Palace(1863).  Miklos Ybl.

Figure 14.  Detail of the gate,  Karolyi Palace (1863).  Miklos Ybl.

Ybl’s most important contemporary was Friges Feszl (11884) who was also an historicist architect.  Feszl’s  work, however, was less historically “pure,” and contained hints of the future.  Feszl was trained in Germany and used the German rundbogondstil (Romanesque rounded arches that also vaguely suggested the "east"--the purported origin of Hungarian people). Feszl also collected  drawings of what he called "Hungarian motifs."  Feszl's most famous building, the Vigado (or Assembly Rooms, now a concert hall) features a facade that gestures towards Byzantine or vaguely "Moorish"  style.  And on the north side of the building are enlarged copies of “vitezkotes, the ornamental cord of traditional Hungarian costume (Sisa, "Hungarian," 175).  (Get picture).  In his evocation of  Eastern styles and Hungarian folk motifs, Feszl is considered by some as a precursor to Odon Lechner (see Chapter 2.)

Fig. 1.5.  Figure 15.  Vigado (1860-1865), Frigyes Feszl.

The question of the search for a national style came to the fore in 1860-1862, during the competition for the Hungarian Academy of Sciences when it developed into a “national polemic” (Sisa, Lechner, 13).  The major theorist in this debate was Imre Henszlmann (1813-1888), an architect and one of the first historians of architecture in Hungary.  (Feszl did not present a theoretical argument for his choices in the Vigado).  Henszlmann specifically advocated neo-Gothic as the style for public buildings.  This was a hotly debated issue because, on the one hand, many felt that Gothic was appropriate only for religious buildings, and, on the other, many argued that the potential for a unique Hungarian style existed and should be developed.   In response to this competition, Henszlmann gave lectures and wrote papers in defense of neo-Gothic.  His rationale was that Gothic flourished in the Middle Ages, which was Hungary’s golden period, and that he did not believe Hungary had a national style.  Others responded, arguing that a national style did exist, whose origins were “oriental” and best reflected in the Byzantine (Rundbogenstil) manner.  In the end, neither side won, as Count Emil Desweffy, the chair of the committee , preferred Venetian Renaissance and awarded the competition to the Prussian architect Frederich August  Stuler (1800-1865).  (For a fuller discussion of the tension between historicism and national style, see Sis, "Hungarian.)GET PIC

The tension in historical styles is evident even in the premiere national building of the nineteenth century: the Hungarian Parliament.  The contest to design Hungary’s Parliament was issued in 1882.  The commission was awarded to the  historicist advocate and architect Imre Steindl.  Steindl offered the following rationale for his choice, repeating Henszelmann’s argument that the Gothic corresponded with Hungary’s golden medieval past:  “While designing the Parliament, I made no attempt to create a new style; such a monumental structure, built to survive centuries, cannot display ephemeral details.  I rather strove to implant national and individual spirit into the majestic style of the Middle Ages, as art always requires, in a modest and careful manner” (qtd. in Moravansky, p. 68).  There was much dissent.  However, the planning committee for the new Parliament endorsed Steindl’s rationale:  “Gothic is not a national style; but since we have no national style, [the committee] agrees to select this style of not German but French origin, to represent the most majestic ideals of freedom and power” (emphasis mine; qtd. in Moravansky p. 68).  

Figure 16.  Hungarian Parliament (1885-1904).  Imre Steindl.

But while the Hungarian Parliament does borrow from French Gothic, it is not stylistically pure.  The Gothic elements, for example, suggest the quasi-religious character of the promise of parliamentary democracy but are at odds with the building’s baroque size and arrangement of the interior spaces (particularly the dome).  Akos Moravanszky argues that “the difficulties of adopting Gothic structural elements and details to the baroque principles of spatial and mass composition arise from the symbolic program” and cannot “be explained as an adaptation of a historic model to solve a new building task.”  Rather (like the new Viennese Parliament), the Budapest Parliament “appear[s] as didactic assemblages, presenting history as seen from a rearview mirror that condenses the view into a compact scope.”  In particular, the “Gothic of the Budapest Parliament was a clear rejection of Ringstrassenstil and a reaffirmation of the reformist goals of Gothic revival with all its  associations of joyful labor, craftsmanship, and national virtures.  But finally it was the baroque principle of theatrical special arrangement of fragments as parts of a new spatial identity that dominated. . . . “ (69-70). The signature building of Hungarian Historicism thus signals not only the historicist program, but also points to its constraints as Hungarian national goals developed in the twentieth century.  Hungary, however,  did not immediately reject historicism.  Instead it combined historical styles to create new aesthetics and functional possibilities. 

Next up:  Eclectic Historicism.  

Friday, November 13, 2015

Real Snow!

Real Snow.  Something under six inches.  But already (happily) melting. We are about ten days away from leaving, so fingers crossed.

Randy and Jill and Cocker are coming for dinner and spending the night with us. Boeuf en daube and bourbon icecream.  So cozy.

#snow #LakeMedora #PureMichigan

Thursday, November 12, 2015

We Are Going Back to Budapest in the Spring!

Here is the long and the short of it:

We have been fruitless (so far) searching for a condo to buy, probably because our requirements are so specific.  We will start renovations on our house, to get it ready for the market in January. We are hopeful that the season will pick up post-holidays and that we will find something.

We had thought that we would have to just stay in Louisville til we bought condo and sold house.  So we had reluctantly put aside plans to go to Budapest in February.  But then Tony thought March!  House repairs should be done then.  Which means that if we buy something in January or February, we could leave with our house up for sale.  If we haven't bought something by March, then we will just take the risk of missing the a possible purchase.  The truth is, we aren't under the gun to move, and the worst that could happen is that we go into another summer.  But if we do, this time the house is ready to go on the market directly after the condo sale.  Probably not the most efficient plan, but it makes us happy.

We immediately contacted our wonderful friend and landlord, John Farago.  He told us what was available, quoted us a reasonable price, and put us on the schedule.  He will let us have the best apartment available; it probably won't be the same place we sayed last year, Apartment Andrei, but wherever it is, it will be wonderful, As soon as we made the decision and John confirmed availability in our price range, I immediately became happy in the way that only an anticipated trip can make one,  I looked up what operas will be playing in March (Manon, Die Walkure, Faust, Banc Ban), what concerts, etc.

Our long-range plan is to try to go to Europe once each spring.  Ideally, we would like to stay a month in Budapest (we just love the city and feel so at home there), then do a week or so somewhere else, e.g. Vienna, Munich, small Italian cities, etc.  Whether we do the add-on or not this year is yet to be determined.

One other small item.  I have decided to write a book on Hungarian architecture and self-publish it on Amazon.  I realized I really needed another writing project in retirement, and I had no desire to go back to the kind of scholarship I did as an academic.  I have just about drafted the first chapter (part of which I will post on the blog soon, hoping to get some feedback).  So I really NEED to go back to Budapest to take more pictures.  (Insert smily face here.)

 #Budapest #RetirementProject

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Big Lake

As we are getting ready to leave Lake Medora for Louisville, I have been going through this year's pictures for labelling and organizing.  I am reminded of how lucky we are to live so near the "Big Lake,"--i.e., Lake Superior.  It is a Superior lake in so many ways: size, depth, beauty.  And it embodies so many different kinds of weather.  Here are some images from various points in last summer and fall.

Idylically pretty.  

Stormy like the ocean

Misty and mysterious

Rocky in so many interesting ways.

I am going to miss it.


Sunday, November 1, 2015

It's Getting Cold!

We are now spending our first ever November day at Lake Medora. (We will leave a couple of days before Thanksgiving.)  The weather has been getting colder.  And though our house has central heat, it's not really built for winter.  (Two story high ceilings, lots of glass windows and doors.)

We like to sleep in a cold room with lots of covers.  Over the past couple of weeks we have slowly been building our layers.  Not too much left unless we start heaping on our clothes!

This is how we started:

We gradually added an afghan

Then another blanket

Another quilt

And then a tartan blanket.  This is where we are now.

#winter #blankets