The Absurdity and Irrationality of War in the Everyday Life of the Hinterland
On István Örkény’s Novella and Drama Tóték and Zoltán Fábri’s Film Adaptation
Keywords:Hungarian literature, Hungarian cinema, István Örkény, Zoltán Fábri, twentieth-century Hungarian drama, twentieth-century Hungarian film history, film adaptation, World War II, communist Hungary
The present study examines three versions of Tóték (commonly translated as The Toth Family; literally The Tóts), the first two by István Örkény, one of Hungary’s leading twentieth-century writers: a highly successful drama from 1967, instrumental in reforming stage language in Hungary; and the 1966 novella of the same title. The third is their 1969 film adaptation, Isten hozta, őrnagy úr! (Welcome, Major), by Zoltán Fábri. The analysis of the drama and the novel focuses primarily on how a major arriving from the front during World War II brings the madness and irrationality of the war into the life of the Toth family when he stays with them for two weeks. The paper’s second part examines the film adaption, asking in particular how the film represents madness and absurdity, given their key role in the original literary sources. The situation and the fate of the Toth family can be interpreted in all three works in more general terms as well, as a model for the working mechanisms and absurdity of dictatorships anywhere, hence, even if only indirectly, of 1960s Hungary. Saghy.Miklos@hung.u-szeged.hu
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