In early August 2010 a Hungarian scholar was on a study tour of British Columbia. Dr Gertrud Szamosi, Professor of English literatures and cultures at the University of Pécs in Hungary was on a two week study tour to enrich her knowledge of Canadian studies and meet with Canadian writers and academics in her field. In addition to meeting with a number of writers (some of Hungarian origin), she also gave a talk to the Victoria Hungarian Society on August 7th. John Miska, editorial adviser and regional correspondent of the Hungarian Presence website has sent us the following report on Dr Szamosi’s talk. We have also contacted Dr Szamosi herself to ask how she views her experience in Canada and she kindly sent us a few lines which are also included here. We hope to be able to maintain contact with Dr Szamosi as with other Hungarian scholars who are working in the ever growing field of Canadian studies in Hungary and Central Europe.
Hungarian Scholar Visits British Columbia
August 24th 2010
Dr. Gertrud Szamosi, professor of English Literature and Culture at the University of Pécs, visited British Columbia in early August 2010 to study the work of Hungarian-Canadian novelists writing in English in the province. Dr. Szamosi informed us that she is planning to extend her interests to include Hungarian-Canadian memoirs and further sources of Hungarian-Canadian literature in both English and French, in addition to the fields of English Literature and Culture, Post-colonial and Post-modern fiction, and, more recently, Canadian Studies, which she has explored during her distinguished career.
During her two-week stay, Professor Szamosi conducted extensive interviews with such second-generation figures as George Payerle, author of several novels and collections of poetry, and the prominent artist, historian and editor of The New Hungarian Voice, Peter Czink; and with the first-generation novelist and painter Gabriel Szohner. In Victoria she interviewed yours truly, the author and bibliographer often referred to as the prime mover of Hungarian-Canadian literature.
On August 7, Trudi, as she became known to many people in B.C., gave a presentation on Canadian studies at Hungarian universities to a special gathering of the Victoria-based Friends of Hungarian Literature. This subject has wide representation at the universities of Szeged, Debrecen, Pécs, Budapest and Székesfehérvár. Prominent scholars – including Katalin Kürtösi, Judit Molnár, Mária Palla, and Szamosi herself, to name but a few – participate in organizing conferences attended by Canada-specialists from the Central and Eastern European countries, publishing anthologies of research studies and literature.
The presentation was followed by lively discussion. Members of the Victorian audience were interested to learn about the state of Hungarian-Canadian studies in the Old Country, as well as about the reception of Hungarian-Canadian authors in their ancestral home. Professor Szamosi told us that she believes the English-language novels of John Marlyn, Marika Robert, George Jonás, George Payerle and Gabriel Szohner should be translated into Magyar to facilitate access by a readership in Hungary. However, collections of some of the Hungarian-Canadian poets writing in the Magyar language, including those of Tamás T?z, György Vitéz, László Kemenes Géfin, Ágnes Simándi, Ferenc Veszely and others, have been published in Hungary for some time and have enjoyed critical acclaim as expressed by such eminent literary historians as Miklós Béládi, Béla Pomogáts and László Rónay.
Ms. Szamosi’s presentation was preceded by supper in Samuel’s Restaurant. Gertrude returned to Hungary on August 14, expressing her thanks for the warm reception she received wherever she went in British Columbia.
You can also read an article in Hungarian about Dr Szamosi’s visit published in Montreal’s Magyar Kronika.
Dr Szamosi really enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity she had of meeting with a number of writers and members of the Victoria Hungarian community. She reflected on her visit and sent us the following comments.
My Canadian visit is "at the back of my mind" all the time, as it provided me with some of the most formative experience, even what I would call epiphanic moments of revelation, in terms of my own sense of national identity. I still need some time to decide what to do with the rich "material" I brought home.
My talk in Victoria was dedicated to the theme of re-defining my concept and understanding of Hungarian identity in relation to the Hungarian-Canadian artists and their works I encountered. With the help of George Payerle's poem, "Ancestry" I pointed to some of its Hungarian cultural references and emphasised that the artist does not really speak or write in Hungarian. I also referred to Gábor Szohner, and highlighted how deeply he felt about his Hungarian roots, in spite of the historical traumas he underwent. I read out an early poem of his "Az emigrációhoz" (1957) and introduced one of his paintings under the same theme. I also emphasized how crucially this visit questioned my own sense of Hungarianness of which one of the emblematic moments has been when my 10 year old daughter saw the Hungarian crown for the first time in Vancouver. I praised Peter Czink's devotion and dedication to sustaining Hungarian historical and cultural allience. I explained that I thought it was crucially important to draw the new borders of national identity by including rather than excluding. This attitude is especially vital in the case of the Hungarian diaspora, as its viability depends on it. I read out a few passages from Dobozy's short-story, "The Inert Landscapes of György Ferenczi," that ridiculed the often insular attitudes of Hungarians living abroad. I concluded by suggesting that the rethinking of Hungarian national identity was vital for the viability of our cultural and personal belongings. The dilemma seems to be whether to stick to the old roots and to the primacy of language and perhaps face extinction, or opening up and exploiting the world-wide advantages and publicity that the English language offers.
In relation to my visit I am most grateful for John Miska's help as he was the one who put me in contact with all the wonderful people I had, or did not have a chance to meet. ....