Naive readers may imagine that an ideology ostensibly serving the masses might have been glad to encounter an educated peasant.  But no, György Faludy describes his friend Janos Bulla as having had to hide his self-assembled library because the régime didn’t think peasants should go about educating themselves.  With a change of régime, he thought about bringing his library into the open, until he realised that communists didn’t approve any more than fascists. 

My friend Bulla was a self-educated man, who mixed Latin juridical expressions and Greek philosophical terms with his country dialect, always in their proper place but a little more frequently than necessary.  In the course of his life he had collected a library of several thousand volumes which, in the old days, he used to keep in the loft, because Horthy’s gendarmes disliked educated peasants.  When I had visited him three years earlier, he had been planning to move his library to the ground floor, but in the meantime he had discovered that secret policemen did not like educated peasants either, and had changed his mind. 

I hope that he and his library survived.  In outlandish hope, I even searched ‘Janos Bulla Library’ but it didn’t show up, though perhaps it’s still there, stashed away in the loft of his descendents.  I hope they go up and spend quiet afternoons reading under the rafters. 

Bulla, autodidact peasants everywhere salute you.  In fact, we will club together and create the Bulla Book Prize. 

Source: György Faludy, My Happy Days in Hell, trans. by Kathleen Szasz (London: Penguin Classics, 2010 (1962)), p. 238

Photo credit: Ed Robertson at unsplash


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