A contemporary Transylvanian poet’s playground
" playing – and the game covertly becomes breathtakingly serious "
For me there is no ambiguity: playground means him, and game means his
main activity. I feel we grow up and survive thanks only to his games.
When I was born, he had just died. On his tombstone, it reads: Szilágyi
Domokos, 1938 – 1976. His name is not very well known even in Hungary,
even though he was a genius. He was a member of the Hungarian minority
from Transylvania (part of Romania). Struggling between loneliness and
games, he took his own life; he did not let us celebrate him in his
lifetime – he made his exit when he was 38.
The reader’s first impression is that he was a young poet, but this
title is not appropriate to him. Rather, he is immortal. It seems
ridiculous to say immortal, when even "yesterday" we could talk to him.
He would be 63 today… Were he still alive, Szilágyi Domokos would be
repeating, as always: "I would like to play – you never let me…",
then he would ask: "Who destroyed the playground? Who planted mines on
it? And who erected a barbed wire fence around it?"
Of course we know the answers, we were all there.
It is as simple as
breathing – nothing could be simpler. As there are more people,
responsibility decreases. So we can successfully delude ourselves –
conscience, be silent please! But you cannot order a poet to be silent.
He proposes, as a solution, to plant some flowers on a playground and
you shall be consoled. The final argument: you have to survive. You can
ask, why was the playground so important for him? I think because the
game was the only way in which he could be himself, feel like the whole
with his own part.
He never played really freely, and his games were not like those of
learning children. It was more a demonstration of power and courage:
"Here I am, brave enough, I can throw the serious problems up in the
air and I can put banal things high up on pedestals". But at the same
time, he was a serious player – with his own games, not an actor in a
game with pre-written rules.
There were all sorts of games and our last
possibility is to learn them:
"laughing, and the laughter is learning to sob playing – and the game
covertly becomes breathtakingly serious:
to be free in captivity until the last note."
To be more accurate, he specifies: "I am playing, but please take me
seriously"… And we do so.
Nobody can talk fully about his death. Too little time has passed. The
reasons seem to be obvious – he tried to become free, he tried to play
on a limited playground – but in fact, they all remain guesses. Instead
of finding a logical reason, let us hear what he had to say:
" I was playing Europe. A confused game.
North, South, East, West. One was feeling fear; the other was
guffawing, and stroking, and kicking and barking. Everybody in a
different way. I was fondling and feeling fear." Let us not forget the
topic at hand, that our only hope is the game. So, we cannot do
anything else other than play it:
"Playing what it is not, but could be,
playing what it is not, but would like to be,
playing what it is not, but was,
playing what it is not, but will be.
Let’s play, where we are,
let’s play, if we could.
Let’s play San Francisco or Oslo,
Paris, Stockholm: destroyed –
and possible – dreams."
If we could restore the playgrounds and stop those who are planting
mines on them and erecting barbed wire fences around them, then the
game and dreams could definitely become reality.
Szilágyi Domokos 1938-1976
Transylvanian poet and publicist, who lived as one of 1.8 million
Hungarians in Romania.
Very few of his poems were translated into Romanian and probably none
into English or German. He himself translated a lot of poetry from the
Romanian languages. His main translation from English into Hungarian
was a compilation of Walt Whitman’s poems.
His literary importance is due to his use of a new, more expressive
language, new, freestyle rhythm in poems, and a new expression of
freedom that became an example for later Transylvanian poets.
"Európát játszottam. Kusza játék.
Északot, Délt, Keletet, Nyugatot.
Egyik félt. Másik röhögött. És
simogatott. És rúgott. Ugatott.
Melyik hogy. Simultam és féltem.
Játsszuk, ami nincs, de lehetne.
Játsszuk, ami nincs, de szeretne
Játsszuk, ami nincs, ami volt,
játsszuk, ami nincs, ami lesz.
San Franciscót vagy Oslót,
Párizst, Stockholmot, szertefoszlott
vagy eljövendo? – álmokat."