At first glance, Florian Wrangel sounds like the kind of person you’d love to have as an occasionally visiting uncle, dropping endless factoids drawn from an apparently boundless but lightly carried erudition. 

Florian was equally versed in pastry-making, strategy, archaeology, astrology and magic.  He prepared our horoscopes in his head and could talk just as instructively about whether at Cannae, in 216 BC, the Romans or the Carthaginians stood with their backs to the sea, as he could about the general customs of the second Roman legio auxiliaris stationed in Hungary, or about Kepler’s famous horoscope – printed in book form – that foretold Wallenstein’s death to the hour, even to the minute, many years before the warlord’s murder. 

Or someone to meet in a pub when you’re bent on forgetting your sorrows in philosophical conversations with passing strangers? 

Or an alchemist who might step out of a story book? 

And then you learn that in one of the key Soviet labour camps in Hungary, this same Florian was known to be one of the principal informers. 

Source: György Faludy, My Happy Days in Hell, trans. by Kathleen Szasz (London: Penguin Classics, 2010 (1962)), p. 404

Photo credit: LeandroDeCarvalho at pixabay


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