The child in me has always been curious about secret ways to communicate or protect things.  When we drive, I look for hidey-holes, conscious of an old Chinese saying that ‘The clever rabbit has three holes’. I imagine these places as safe, cosy and comfortable with secret stocks of tea, biscuits and books and some sort of kind, imperturbable custodian. 

So here is a technique for hiding your poems if you happen to live in a place where they might land you in prison or labour camp, such as post-war communist Hungary.  György Faludy creates an apparently fail-safe way to secrete them in the public library, though how he did this without being spotted by a librarian is a mystery. 

I wrote very few poems and, when I did, I hurried to the Széchenyi Library, asked for one of the bound volumes of dailies of the 1848-49 War of Independence and, beginning with the last page and working backwards, I underlined in the hundred-year-old newspaper the letters that added up to my poem.  On my way home I tore up my manuscript and, rolling up the slivers of paper, threw them one by one into manholes. 

Faludy doesn’t tell us if he later recovered the poems from their reverse word-order back-to-front embedding in old newspapers.  And if one were to go to the same library and ask to consult the bound volumes of 19th century dailies, circa 1848, would one find apparently random words underlined? 

Source: György Faludy, My Happy Days in Hell, trans. by Kathleen Szasz (London: Penguin Classics, 2010 (1962)), p. 273

Photo credit: Annie Spratt at unsplash


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