They Were Divided… [Darabokra szaggattatol…]

BÁNFFY Miklós



They Were Divided… [Darabokra szaggattatol…] The third volume of The Writing on the Wall is considerably shorter than the rst two: the pace accelerates as the headlong rush to the tragedy of World War One begins. And the mood becomes elegiac.

In the opening chapter Balint sees Adrienne again for the rst time since the nal scene, eighteen months earlier, in the previous volume. He glimpses her at the opera house in Kolozsvár and is too disturbed to stay in his seat. They are briey reunited later in the evening.

A new Transylvanian Party is founded, led by historical gures including none other than our author Miklós Bánffy, one of whose real-life speeches he puts into Balint’s mouth. Laszlo has by now sunk into poverty and degradation.

It is the summer of 1911 and changes in Montenegro and Albania herald the war to come. An entertaining interlude sees an attempt by a French duke to win over the Hungarians to his anti-duelling cause — an attempt that is clearly bound to fail. Balint sees more of Adrienne, but is no nearer marrying her, since as well as her insane husband she has to cope with her sick and difcult daughter.

Austria’s annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and various other portents of impending disaster are ignored by Hungary’s insular aristocrats and politicians. Their insularity continues and the book ends with Balint, appalled at the mood of euphoria in Budapest as he prepares to set off to war, brooding on the arrogant folly of his generation of landowners and the short-sightedness of the historians who have for so long been obsessed with Hungary’s historical struggle against the Habsburgs. VMI

Sample


A large portion of the Austro-Hungarian army was put on the alert and a million men were sent to the Russian border on the pretext of a trial mobilisation.

Today there was even more disturbing news. At Mitrovica and Prizren in Serbia the Austro-Hungarian consulates had been invaded by the mob, Austrian ags torn down and the premises looted.

Balint sat at his desk staring moodily before him. The news of the previous few days had been alarming enough, but this was far worse, for an attack on any power’s consulates, if it had been as reported, inevitably meant war, for no power, unless bent on hara-kiri, would let such a provocation pass.

He gazed out of the window with eyes hooded by anxiety. Outside all was bathed in brilliant sunshine. The lawn which sloped down in front of the house was still as green as in summer, but the leaves on the trees were already turning brown or reddish bronze. In front of the window a leaf, saffron-yellow with sharply serrated edges, oated in the slight breeze like the trembling ight of a giant buttery.

It had come from the maple which grew at the corner of the house and for a while continued to oat there, hesitating, balancing in the air, brightly lit by the autumn sun, until nally it fell to the ground to join, with an almost perceptible rustle, its already fallen sisters. And, as it fell, another took its place before the window, held for a moment in the air until it too fell to the ground. Balint fancied for a moment that these dying leaves were conscious of their beauty as they prepared themselves for the death they knew would follow.

The garden was so peaceful that it was hard to believe that anywhere in the world there could exist hatred or war or destruction. It was as if such beauty must exist everywhere and as if peace must be universal.

Watching this, Balint felt his heart constrict. 214-15