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Sandor Marai: English Translation

Sándor Márai [1900-1989], born Sándor Károly Henrik Grosschmied de Mára, was a Hungarian poet, writer and journalist. He was the first person to write reviews of the work of Kafka. He was also a staunch opponent of fascism and communism. After the communists seized control of Hungary, he became a refugee from his native land, living first in Italy, then in San Diego until his death by suicide on February 22, 1989.

Christmas 1956: Angel from Heaven
by Sandor Marai
loose translation by Michael R. Burch

All the world discusses the miracle.
Priests rave about their bravery.
Some politicians claim the case is closed.
The Pope blesses the Hungarian people.
And each group, each class, each individual
Asks why these things transpired as they did.
Why didn't they just submit as expected, and die?
Why didn't they meekly accept their fate?
Why was the sky ripped apart?
Because a people cried, ''Enough!''
Those who were born free cannot understand,
They fail to comprehend that
''Freedom is so important, so very important!''

The 1956 Hungarian Revolution was the first tear in the Iron Curtain. Hungarians from all walks of life rose up against insurmountable odds to fight the brutal Soviet-installed Hungarian communist government. Thousands died fighting, others tortured and executed, while 200,000 were forced to flee. 2006 marked the 50th Anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution.—The American Hungarian Federation

For what they have done has been to expose the brutal hypocrisy of Communism for all mankind''—the American poet Archibald McLeish writing for Life Magazine in 1957

October 23, 1956 is a day that will forever live in the annals of free men and free nations. It was a day of courage, conscience and triumph. No other day since history began has shown more clearly the eternal unquenchability of man's desire to be free, whatever the odds against success, whatever the sacrifice required.—John F. Kennedy

The Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was a true revolution of, by and for the people. Its motivations were humanity's universal longings to live, worship, and work in peace and to determine one's own destiny. The Hungarian Revolution forever gave the lie to communism's claim to represent the people, and told the world that brave hearts still exist to challenge injustice.—Ronald Reagan

From the shadows of blood, iron bars, gallows and simple wooden crosses we step today into the sunshine of remembrance, hope, duty and responsibility. During the past sixteen years the ideas, guiding principles, heroes and martyrs of 1956 gained amends. The moral and political legacy of the Hungarian Revolution, however, still, even today, is misunderstood, misrepresented and waiting to be fully appreciated. We remember ... our friends, the Kids of Pest, the colleagues, the relatives, the familiar strangers. The brave Hungarians. Let's remember the dead here, thousands of miles away from their graves but close to their soul, grieving woefully, but full with hope. We pray for those who in their defeat became triumphant.—Istvan Gereben

The changes in Poland mean the triumph of national Communism, which in a different form we have seen in Yugoslavia. The Hungarian uprising is something more, a new phenomenon, perhaps no less meaningful than the French or Russian Revolutions ... The revolution in Hungary means the beginning of the end of Communism."—Milovan Djilas

We accuse the Soviet Government of murder. We accuse it of the foulest treachery and the basest deceit known to man. We accuse it of having committed so monstrous crime against the Hungarian people yesterday that its infamy can never be forgiven or forgotten.''—The New York Times, in a November 1956 editorial.)

Albert Camus' "The Blood of the Hungarians"

I am not one of those who wish to see the people of Hungary take up arms again in a rising certain to be crushed, under the eyes of the nations of the world, who would spare them neither applause nor pious tears, but who would go back at one to their slippers by the fireside like a football crowd on a Sunday evening after a cup final.
There are already too many dead on the field, and we cannot be generous with any but our own blood. The blood of Hungary has re-emerged too precious to Europe and to freedom for us not to be jealous of it to the last drop.

But I am not one of those who think that there can be a compromise, even one made with resignation, even provisional, with a regime of terror which has as much right to call itself socialist as the executioners of the Inquisition had to call themselves Christians.

And on this anniversary of liberty, I hope with all my heart that the silent resistance of the people of Hungary will endure, will grow stronger, and, reinforced by all the voices which we can raise on their behalf, will induce unanimous international opinion to boycott their oppressors.
And if world opinion is too feeble or egoistical to do justice to a martyred people, and if our voices also are too weak, I hope that Hungary’s resistance will endure until the counter-revolutionary State collapses everywhere in the East under the weight of its lies and contradictions.

Hungary conquered and in chains has done more for freedom and justice than any people for twenty years. But for this lesson to get through and convince those in the West who shut their eyes and ears, it was necessary, and it can be no comfort to us, for the people of Hungary to shed so much blood which is already drying in our memories.
In Europe’s isolation today, we have only one way of being true to Hungary, and that is never to betray, among ourselves and everywhere, what the Hungarian heroes died for, never to condone, among ourselves and everywhere, even indirectly, those who killed them.

It would indeed be difficult for us to be worthy of such sacrifices. But we can try to be so, in uniting Europe at last, in forgetting our quarrels, in correcting our own errors, in increasing our creativeness, and our solidarity. We have faith that there is on the march in the world, parallel with the forces of oppression and death which are darkening our history, a force of conviction and life, an immense movement of emancipation which is culture and which is born of freedom to create and of freedom to work.
Those Hungarian workers and intellectuals, beside whom we stand today with such impotent sorrow, understood this and have made us the better understand it. That is why, if their distress is ours, their hope is ours also. In spite of their misery, their chains, their exile, they have left us a glorious heritage which we must deserve: freedom, which they did not win, but which in one single day they gave back to us.

The following are links to various translations by Michael R. Burch:

Wulf and Eadwacer
Sweet Rose of Virtue
How Long the Night
Caedmon's Hymn
The Wife's Lament
Deor's Lament
Lament for the Makaris
Ancient Greek Epigrams and Epitaphs
Oriental Masters/Haiku
Miklós Radnóti
Rainer Maria Rilke
Renée Vivien
Ono no Komachi
Allama Iqbal
Bertolt Brecht
Ber Horvitz
Paul Celan
Primo Levi
Tegner's Drapa
Robert Burns
Ahmad Faraz
Sandor Marai
Wladyslaw Szlengel

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