2013-02-26

Imre Madách: La Tragedio de l’Homo / The Tragedy of Man (6)

Madách, Imre. La Tragedio de l’ Homo: Drama Poemo, tradukis Kálmán Kalocsay. Budapest: Corvina, 1965. 259 p. Kun enkonduko "Imre Madách kaj La Tragedio de L’Homo" de István Sőtér (p. 5-14).

Ĉe la retejo referencita oni trovas la tekston de la dramo mem; mankas la enkonduko kaj mankas la Rimarkoj de la Tradukinto, la Komentaro (notoj pri la teksto), kaj la Glosaro.

La enkonduko de István Sőtér estas traduko de la hungara, de konata hungara verkisto. Sőtér donas la politikajn kaj intelektajn cirkonstancoj de tiu tempo kaj medio en kiu Madách verkis. Tio estis la malvenko de la revoluciaro de 1848, sed ankaŭ la transiro de romantikismo al mekanika materiismo. Aldone al tiuj streĉoj estis la streĉoj en la persona vivo de Madách. La kontraŭdiroj inter idealoj kaj la efektiva detruo de esperoj de tiu tempo (kaj de ĉiu epoko) respeguliĝas en la verko. Do la verko invitas pesimisman konkludon. Sőtér priskribas la dialekton de la tiutempa intelektularo kaj de la verko:

Tamen, ĝian veran sencon ni devas vidi en tio, ke la poeto ne povas rezignacii je tiu pesimismo, kaj ju pli kruelaj estas la faktoj de la historio, des pli malesperajn refutojn li servas kontraŭ ili. La refuto estas preskaŭ arbitra, eĉ transintelekta — sed sekve de tio la aspiro je refuto estas eĉ pli turmenta kaj urĝa.
Sőtér skizas la simbolajn rolojn de Adamo, Lucifero, kaj Eva. Fine de la dramo, La Sinjoro (Dio) aperas kaj diras ke ambaŭ perspektivoj — tiuj de Adamo (kredo) kaj Lucifero (neado) — estas bezonataj. Sed laŭ Sőtér, la savanto de la situacio estas Eva.
Eva intervenas en la senfrukta diskuto inter kredo kaj neado kaj faras tiun produktiva. Pro la falemo de Eva perdiĝis la Edeno, —sed sole Eva kapablas rekrei ion el la perdo. Jen estas la senkompara supereco de Eva kontraŭ Adamo kaj Lucifero, —kaj jen estas la finfina fortostreĉo de Madach, refuti la historion per io eksterhistoria.
La konkluda admono "Luktu, hom', kaj firme fidu!" ŝajne absurdas alfronte la pesimismigan disvolvon de la historio. Sed Sőtér trovas tiun konkludon tute konsekvenca el la logiko de la rakonto. . .
. . . eĉ, la serio de la fiaskoj kvazau servas por gin prepari. Madách ne povas akcepti la naturan kaj kaj historian determinismon.
Sőtér plu skizas la integriĝon de la principoj de la tri ĉefroluloj: kreado, neado, malperfekteco.

Fine, Sőtér kuntekstigas la evoluon de la hungara literaturo kune kun la alprenoj el la pli evoluintaj naciaj literaturoj.  Madách sintezas ĉion en la evoluo de la hungara literaturo kaj turnas sin ankaŭ al la tuta homaro.

Ĉi-okaze, post lego de la enkonduko, mi legis kelkajn bildojn (scenojn), laŭmemore la finan kaj tiun en kiu aperas Kepler. Legante la versojn, mi rimarkis la belecon de la traduko.

Mi konsentas taksojn de Sőtér kaj de Kalocsay, kaj ne povas konsenti la vidpunkton de Szathmári ke la verko estas nur pesimisma. Oni taksu la finajn vortojn de Dio nek ortodoksa nek pleonasma. Ĉar la historia sorto de la homaro okazas en sonĝo, la reala futura sorto de la homaro restas ambigua: mankas firma garantio de dia savo fine de la homa aventuro. Oni fidu finfine por lukti por la bono, eĉ kontraŭ malvenko. En la aprezo de Madách same kiel en la perspektivo de la mal/utopioj de Szathmári mankas dialektiko.

2013-02-22

Esperanto en germana krimromano

Mi dokumentas aperojn de Esperanto, Zamenhof, kaj aliaj artefaritaj lingvoj en anglalingva fikcio, sed tio, kio okazas en aliaj naciaj lingvoj, kutime restas nekonata miaflanke.  Do jen io nova:

Esperanto ĉefrolas en psikologia krimromano. Libera Folio, 2013-02-17

Temas pri romano Toter Lehrer, guter Lehrer (Morta instruisto, bona instruisto) de Thorsten Suesse. Legu mem pri la afero.

Neciklopedie mi!

Mi ĵus eltrovis, ke iu kreis paĝon pri Ralph Dumain en la vikio Neciklopedio.

Jen komenco de la artikolo:

Ralph la Ĝirafo Dumain, ankaŭ konata kiel "la bojetema hundeto el Vaŝingtono"  "la psikopata arkivisto de Washington", estas mistera usona esperantisto, Ministro pri Klitorlekado de Esperanta Respubliko.
Kia honoro!

2013-02-21

Transhumanism in the 1930s: Szathmári, Bernal, Horkheimer

While reviewing and researching Sándor Szathmári's classic Voyage to Kazohinia last year, I revisited and recognized the importance of this article:

Schäfer, Wolf. "Stranded at the Crossroads of Dehumanization: John Desmond Bernal and Max Horkheimer," in On Max Horkheimer: New Perspectives, edited by Seyla Benhabib, Wolfgang Bonß, and John McCole (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993) pp. 153-183.

Here is what I wrote on 28 December 2005 upon first reading this essay:

This is right in keeping with a major concern: i.e. the incapacity of the Frankfurt School to engage intelligently the natural sciences, an inadequacy yet to be repaired. Schafer is pointed in his diagnosis of how the split between the "two cultures" (anyone still remember C.P. Snow?) could not be more sharply manifested than in the fundamental orientation of these two individuals.

What is essential to understand here is not only an absolute antithesis between Bernal and Horkheimer II, but the fact that both were products of two cultures--science and humanistic--that did not intersect or understand one another. (170-1)

Schafer quotes Horkheimer's The Eclipse of Reason (p. 75) to point up his hopeless position:
"that the division of all human truth into science and humanities is itself a social product that was hypostatized by the organization of the universities and ultimately by some philosophical schools, particularly those of Rickert and Max Weber. The so-called practical world has no place for truth, and therefore splits it to conform it to its own image: the physical sciences are endowed with so-called objectivity, but emptied of human content; the humanities preserve the human content, but only as ideology, at the expense of truth."
Schafer's evaluation of Horkheimer's position is not kind:
"If one could regard this statement itself as true and as not being warped by ideology, then the professional fractalization of truth could be cured and made whole and healthy again by a new social product, perhaps by reorganizing the universities and our intellectual life according to the gospel of some holistic philosophical school. False objectivity and true ideology could be overcome; truths without human content could be rehumanized; and truths with untruthful human content could be corrected. But the view of Horkheimer II cannot be true since it was produced inside the humanities--those branches of learning that preserve the human content . . . as ideology." Horkheimer must situate his own thinking in this ideological context. We may as well conclude, therefore, that Horkheimer II fell victim to his own deconstruction of occidental reason--that he is part of the problem and not of the solution." [172-3]
Schafer also criticizes Bernal, but then he returns to the shortcomings of critical theory:
"But neither early, middle, nor current critical theory has paid, or is paying, enough attention to the sciences and technologies that feed into and shape the natural half of human history. The dreams, fantasies, and projects of our technoscientific culture thrive with very little or no internal technocritique that is not purely technical; our most eloquent technocritics are often crudely antitechnological; and relevant academic fields, like the professional history and sociology of science and technology, care more about their own problems and research fronts than about society at the crossroads into the future." [173]
I would have phrased this differently. The key here is the incompetence of the humanistic critics of science and technology, not their willingness to criticize.

Schafer concludes with what the universities might and could do to bridge the divide, but specialization is so firmly entrenched there are no signs of any remediation.

So in the end this essay is a cry of alarm about the "two cultures", rather than the specific shortcomings of Horkheimer's philosophical understanding of the natural sciences. But as far as he goes, I'm in near complete agreement.
Returning to this essay last year, I was not so interested in Horkheimer's shortcomings as I was in Bernal's and in a key contraposition in 20th-century intellectual history that the Horkheimer-Bernal juxtaposition exemplifies.

Though Horkheimer was on the warpath against positivism, as were his philosophical colleagues, it should be noted that the logical positivists that had recently come into prominence were on the left.  Bernal, a scientist and eventually a pioneer historiographer of science, himself became a Communist, I don't know when offhand. In question here is Bernal's 1929 work The World, the Flesh, and the Devil, in which Bernal projects the transcendence of human physical existence, presenting a transhumanist vision which can readily be classified as a precursor of Szathmári's 1964 novella Maŝinmondo (Machine World).

For an extensive overview of this theme, see: Christopher Coenen, "Utopian Aspects of the Debate on Converging Technologies"; Pre-Print: 13.11.2007.

One man's utopia is another man's dystopia. The basic themes of transhumanism, while still being debated, are old now, but there was a time when they were fresh, spanning a half-century from Wells to Orwell. Szathmári merits induction into the utopian/dystopian/transhumanist Hall of Fame as one of its central figures.

In the critical literature on Szathmári in Esperanto there are some incisive critiques of the philosophical assumptions underlying Kazohinia. While there exists in Esperanto a bit of material and references here and there to the philosophers of the Frankfurt School and related thinkers, no one has yet staged a confrontation of Critical Theory and Szathmári's work. The Frankfurt theorists drew on the irrationalist philosophical heritage but always with the goal of preserving Reason, which they saw as degraded by positivism. There are still lessons to be learned from the warring dichotomies of the past century.

2013-02-20

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.

Symposium on Sándor Szathmári: videos revisited (2)

The 6 June 2012 book launch of Voyage to Kazohinia included a staged reading, introduced and narrated by publisher and MC Paul Olchvary:

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As the YouTube description puts it: "Actors Adam Boncz and Andrea Sooch read an adaptation from Sándor Szathmári's masterpiece--from chapter 7, in which Gulliver makes the mistake of falling in love with a lovely but emotionless Zolema." And here is part 2:



Aside from Gulliver's conventional and unrealistic notions about romance, the need for a human connection is powerfully expressed. In the 1930s, Zolema's unadorned desire for sex would have been provocative. Note, however, that the impersonal, strictly utilitarian ethic of mechanical efficiency contradicts the motive of a purely pleasurable reaction to natural, physical stimuli which would naturally be embodied in an organic being. For its time this was still a novel scenario. It is a rationalism that is now easily recognizable, but hopefully also readily recognizable as pseudo-rationalism. This scenario can also be seen as positivism translated into the totality of human life, which few positivists who actually lived would have wanted to see taken to such a conclusion.

2013-02-19

Symposium on Sándor Szathmári: videos revisited (1)

The symposium on Hungarian Esperantist author Sándor Szathmári that took place on 6 June 2012 at the Hungarian Consulate in Manhattan was conducted entirely in English, but my most complete report on it was written in Esperanto:

Simpozio pri Sándor Szathmári

The entire proceedings were videorecorded. Segments of the raw footage were posted at the sites of New Europe Books web site and Facebook page and on YouTube. I reported on this in my Esperanto post, with direct embedding of the two videos in which I appear. It turns out that you will find that the available footage is more reliably to be found on YouTube, so I am going to review these video segments now.



Anna North claims that direct social criticism is so costly that communicating one's critique in the form of parables allows much more latitude in criticizing one's society.



Benjamin Hale highlights the political context of the time (Mussolini, Hitler) but also suggests that Szathmári offers a mechanical engineer's seemingly favorable view of a harmonious society, and then offers the Behins, a parody of normal human culture, which leads to the melancholy conclusion that while Szathmári is disturbed by irrational human behavior, he recognizes that as a human he belongs among the Behins.



Francesco Crocco says that this novel will blow away utopian scholarship, viz. the relation to ideas of harmony in relation to technocracy and futurology. Szathmári's scenario of the harmony of machine and nature is quite at odds with our contemporary perspective of machine civilization as dysfunctional with respect to nature. In the novel culture is seen as a physical dysfunction in which the brain is a disordered machine that gets distorted by the impact of cosmic rays. The society of the Hins can be read as a critique of socialist and communist utilitarian perfectionism, but this projection of such an order as utopian runs against the grain.

Prof. Crocco has made some important observations here, and let us hope that the impact on utopian scholarship becomes realized.  I disagree only that Hin society should be considered as socialist or communist, at least without qualification. This sort of beehive/anthill/mechanical society that is anathema to us (think of Star Trek's Borg, among countless examples) really has nothing to do with socialism; it's a common nightmare scenario of the ultimately dehumanized, robotized, totalitarian society prevalent in the 20th century irrespective of the concept of what political/economic form it takes.


Gregory Moynahan provides one of the most interesting perspectives to come out of this symposium. The novel begins with the very contemporary international political situation, but turns into two Swiftian parodies: hyperrealism and hyperconventionalism. The novel is dark, thematizing modern technological murder, bifurcated into hyperrealism (advanced science and technology, a strictly physicalist perspective of reality) and hyperconventionalism (in which meaning is chaotic and oblivious to referential reality). 

I find this perspective quite exciting and also refer you to Prof. Moynahan's new book Ernst Cassirer and the Critical Science of Germany, 1899–1919 (London: Anthem Press, 2013). Philosophy of science and notions about language are major concerns of Prof. Moynahan, which in his view could illuminate the background set of philosophical notions of the time to which Szathmári reacted.

2013-02-13

Red Esperanto

Red Esperanto by Paul D. Brazill is a noir novellette set in Warsaw.  It is most readily available in a Kindle edition via Amazon UK. Amazon lets you peek inside the work, and the publisher offers a sample, as well as a product description and author mini-biography.

From the publisher's web site:
In a ghostly and post communist Varsavia, that reminds us of Chicago during the ’30, Luke Case is spending his days with Ukrainian prostitutes, “medium level” gangsters and elderly English professors. During his days built on booze, casual sex and fleeting love, Luke will learn on his own skin that the city is more insidious that he had ever thought.
The product description at Amazon is composed in better English:
Red Esperanto and Death On A Hot Afternoon, written by Paul D. Brazill and published by Atlantis, are part of a series of noir novelettes that are set in various cities around the world. (Also available translated into Italian.)

Red Esperanto: Warsaw.

In snow smothered Warsaw, boozy English hack Luke Case encounters Jolanta, a beautiful young woman with a gangster husband.

Death On A Hot Afternoon: Madrid.

After the brutal events in Red Esperanto, Luke Case escapes Warsaw and heads off to the heat of Madrid where he meets a mysterious torch singer and an agreeing journalist with a violent past.

More Luke Case novelettes are coming soon ...