Zamenhof Symposium at UN, George Soros, & me (1)

15 December 2010

(From the left / de maldekstre): Sam Green, Ralph Dumain, Humphrey Tonkin, George Soros, Françoise Cestac (former Assistant General Secretary of the UN / eksa Asista Ĝenerala Sekretario de UN), Esther Schor, Neil Blonstein, Jonathan Soros.

I was the second speaker at From Zamenhof to Soros: A Symposium held at the United Nations on 15 December, Zamenhof's birthdate.

Esther Schor spoke about Zamenhof's perspectives on the future short-term and long-term.

My topic was "Esperanto, Washington, and the World in 1910", a thematic presentation of the various interests represented at the first Esperanto Congress outside of Europe and Zamenhof's only visit to the United States, with the novel addition of the missing perspective, that of African Americans in Jim Crow America. I introduced the public to major civil rights leader, classics scholar, and the first known African-American Esperantist, William Pickens.

Sam Green presented the rough cut of a new half-hour documentary on Esperanto, continuing the utopian theme presented in his previous documentary Utopia in Four Movements, with more interview material of contemporary Esperantists and film footage of Esperanto conferences in the 20th century.

Humphrey Tonkin spoke about Tivadar Soros, who changed his name from Theodore Schwartz (in Esperanto Teodoro Ŝvarc), key Esperanto publisher of the interwar period and survivor of both a World War I POW camp and Nazi-occupied Hungary, each the subject of a memoir published in Esperanto. ("Soros" in Esperanto means "to soar".) The latter memoir, Maskerado Ĉirkaŭ la Morto, which I read in the original Esperanto 40 years ago, was translated into English as Masquerade some years ago. Soros' 1923 memoir Modernaj Robinzonoj is newly published in English translation as Crusoes in Siberia along with another piece "The Fairest Judgment". Dr. Tonkin spoke at length about Soros' trek from Siberia to Moscow, his character, achievements as a writer and publisher and the circumstances of publication of these memoirs. (For political reasons, he could not have published the Siberian memoir in Hungarian).

Following the formal program, the son of Tivadar, the famous billionaire George Soros, arrived to accept the presentation of his father's memoir in English translation. He spoke warmly about his father and shared some childhood memories. George's son Jonathan was also present. Immediately thereafter the photos you see were taken.

Also introduced at this symposium was another book just off the press from Mondial Books, Zamenhof: The Life, Works and Ideas of the Author of Esperanto by Aleksander Korzhenkov, an abridgment of the original biography published in Esperanto.

So far in the American press we have this news item from the New York Times: How Do You Say 'Billionaire' (Soros) in Esperanto? by Alison Leigh Cowan (Dec 16, 2010).

Other reports have surfaced in English and Esperanto, mostly on Facebook. This report is bilingual: George Soros vizitas Esperanto-simpozion en Novjorko (December 18, 2010).

Also in Esperanto we have this report published by Esperanta Civito: Soros ĉe Zamenhof-Tago en Nov-Jorko (18 Dec 2010).


Brian Barker said...

Although I am not an Esperantist, because I do not want to be part of a sect - I do speak Esperanto flently.

Do gratulon al la skipo en Novjorko !

rughverdulo said...

Kara Ralph,

mi tre ghojas ke per tiu shanco prelegi oni agnokas vian dauran aktivadon kiel elstara E-lingva intelektulo.


José Antonio Vergara

Tonyo said...

Ralpg, mi ne atendis ke vi tiom proksime rilatis kun financistoj ;-)

Gratulon pro la simpozio

Ralph Dumain said...

Dankon! Estas ankaŭ surprizo al mi.

David Gaines said...

Ralph, gratulon. Bona laboro!

Brian, would you care to elaborate on your hit and run comment equating being an Esperantist with being "part of a sect?" I've been an Esperantist for over thirty years without realizing that I've been a member of a sect all these years. Also, you're perfectly free to speak/write/use Esperanto in any manner you please without having to shoulder the burdensome label "Esperantist". Zamenhof himself gave away the language to the world for free with no strings attached. Hardly seems like something someone creating a sect would do.

Ralph Dumain said...

I wonder whether Brian's comment is based on some unpleasant experience or linguistic discontent. Could "ist" (implying "ism") be the culprit? Here we have an example of the imprecision of language to which Esperanto as all human languages are subject. "Esperantist" has become a thoroughly conventionalized term not necessarily implying a doctrinal affiliation. It could be considered an idiomatic expression, since we don't ordinarily talk about Englishists, Frenchists in this way, and we don't use words like these to express the corresponding concepts. Perhaps Brian would prefer "Esperanto-speaker", or the awkward and formal but precise "Esperantophone", though few English speakers actually use terms like "anglophone" or "francophone". Coincidentally, I just explained the meaning of "Esperantist" as I understand it to a journalist.

David Gaines said...

As you know, Ralph, the historical meaning of "Esperantist" is quite different from the simple description "Esperanto speaker." It relates (perhaps no longer, but it certainly did once upon a time) to the much-balleyhooed "interna ideo" which as I recall you despise passionately. :-) But even the most fervent adherent to the cult of personality that has grown up around Dr. Z would not, in my opinion, qualify as a member of a "sect."

Ralph Dumain said...

I don't despise the concept of 'interna ideo'. I process it as I do all ideological concepts. I'm a great admirer of the courage and dedication of the people who learned Esperanto in the first 60 years of its existence, so many of whom faced exacting conditions in Europe, the Russian empire/USSR, and East Asia.

"Esperantisto" of course has the "ism" attached to its history. I think though that even back in the highly idealistic days, "Esperantisto" was used generally for Esperanto speakers as well. I think Julio Baghy's satirical poem with the refrain "Estas mi esperantisto" would be an example of a more generic use of the term.

There are Esperantophones who react much more strongly than I do, complaining about a cult of Zamenhof, etc. I have no qualms about celebrating Zamenhof and his birthday, and I look forward to doing so this evening.

David Gaines said...

Then you've mellowed over the years. ;-)

zooplah said...

Ralph, do oni eldevigas la amorvekajn virojn stari ĉe la ekstremaĵoj?

Brian, Esperantisto estas nur homo, kiu scipovas kaj uzas Esperanton. Ne ekzistas kunsenco religia aŭ politika ekster de tio, kion oni nenecese almetas.

David, mi iomege certas, ke Zamenhofo uzis la terminon Esperantisto. Tamen Don HARLOW proponis la pli logikan formon Esperantano, kiun mi neniam efektive vidis.

Ralph Dumain said...

Do, ĉu temas pri Sam Green & Jonathan Soros? Fakte, komence mi kaptis pozicion apud Soros, sed mi devis cedi al Humphrey Tonkin. Eble iam ni vidos aliajn fotojn kaj videojn. Mi havas propran mallongan videon.