The Hungarian poet György Faludy (1910-2006) decides what to write on the eve of his execution.  In the event, he wasn’t hanged in the morning as they told him, and he survived the following three years in a labour camp.  

Part of his survival kit, apart from sheer random luck here and there, was an astonishing mental fortitude and discipline. Even deprived of writing materials and subjected to totalitarian secret-police treatment, he trained himself to compose poetry in his head and then memorize it at a rate of 50 lines a day.  Realising that the only manuscripts were mentalscripts gave him another reason to survive. 

Here, following the departure of the three young secret-police guards who announced his death sentence, he focuses on what he will write with the materials they kindly granted him as a condemned man. 

I already knew what I was going to write about the moment the three impostors left my cell.  My grandfather’s house in northern Hungary emerged before my eyes, and the pine-covered mountain opposite.  Whenever I was in trouble I thought of this house …


I always knew that I would return to this house; I knew it from the time I was seven and was put to bed in the guest room at Christmas and noticed the light of the stove.  This happened after my grandmother had come in, tall and thin, with a dish filled with oranges and candied fruits.  She sat down on my bed and fed me the fruit bit by bit, because there too I was the favourite, as I was the favourite at my parent’s house, at Vambéry’s house and presumably even here at the AVO’s house. 

Source: György Faludy, My Happy Days in Hell, trans. by Kathleen Szasz (London: Penguin Classics, 2010 (1962)), p. 336

Photo credit: Lolame at pixabay


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