Balint is one of the most engaging characters in Banffy’s splendid trilogy of novels covering the closing decades of the Austro-Hungarian empire, as lived by the Hungarian aristocracy.  Banffy was describing his own world, his class, his era and its failings, and there is a powerful sense of sadness pervading the writing.

Balint here has a moment of rumination while watching the night sky.

‘The great constellations were like letters of fire in the sky and, in Balint’s imagination, seemed to be making their way ever closer to him so as eventually to disclose some ageless secret message even to that worm-like creature that was man, the secret, perhaps, of life and death … and of eternity.’

For similar philosophical moments, see also a young boy star-gazing in England, and a glorious moment of cosmic reflection by a Russian soldier.    

 

Source: Miklos Banffy, They Were Divided, trans. Patrick Thursfield and Katalin Banffy-Jelen (London: Arcadia Books, 2001 (1940)), p. 193

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