Symposium on Sándor Szathmári: videos revisited (3)

As the 6 June 2012 book launch of Voyage to Kazohinia at the Hungarian Consulate in New York begins, publisher and M.C. Paul Olchvary introduces me, and my introduction to Szathmári's life and ideas follow:

Ralph Dumain discusses the classic novel Voyage to Kazohinia

I mention Szathmári's investment in Esperanto as an expression of idealism in contradiction to his philosophical pessimism. His major influences were Jonathan Swift, Imre Madách, and Frigyes Karinthy. His trilogy In Vain (in Hungarian only), briefly outlined here, was abandoned and was published only posthumously. The checkered publishing history of Kazohinia punctuated by periods of political repression, is outlined. I summarize Szathmári's ideas expressed in his essays and interviews and the themes of his other fiction (all published in Esperanto), emphasizing Maŝinmondo (Machine World) as the logical conclusion of the rationalism expressed in Kazohinia.

Discussing Voyage to Kazohinia--June 6 book launch

In this segment Edie Maidav mentions Huxley's Brave New World and follows emphasizing the bifurcated u/dystopian structure of Szathmári's novel. She poses the question: why this original two-part structure? Gregory Moynahan responds that Swift also works with unresolved dichotomies. The example of the Hin and Behin approaches to sexuality is given.

I suggest that understanding is best achieved by taking things to extremes, in contradistinction to the muddy way we encounter tendencies in everyday life. I was engaged with these fundamental (utopian and extreme) questions as a teenager. In Kazohinia we find a triangulation of these extremes with Gulliver, and a further triangulation involving us as readers, who presumably see beyond Gulliver's clichéd view of the world. Key also are the successive iterations of the ability to see through the foibles of others coupled with the inability to see the same flaws in oneself. Consider the extreme rationalism combined with extreme literalism of the Hins contrasted with Behin society in which words never conform to reality, with an extremity that beats even the irrationality of human society. Analyzing these extremes is an exciting prospect. 

Szathmári himself never said there was anything wrong with Hin society. Several of the reviewers and critics (all in Esperanto) could not believe that Szathmári meant what he said. Some have been able to accept the notion that Szathmári's pessimism concords with the notion that Hin society gives us an unattainable standard of perfection against which to measure ourselves.

Szathmári was brilliant in presenting this dichotomy (very present in the 1930s), and we can benefit by taking Greg's remarks about the philosophy of science into account while revisiting this dichotomy as we ought to do.

Paul takes the microphone and recounts his discussion with an old Hungarian who took Szathmári as a socialist; other Hungarians also see Szathmári as a pessimistic socialist who sees socialism as an unattainable utopian ideal.

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