Disputed Past: The Friendship and Competing Memories of Anna Lesznai and Emma Ritoók


  • Judith Szapor McGill University, Canada




Revolutions of 1918-1919, counter-revolution, Sunday Circle, Horthy-era, anti-Semitism, right-wing women


This paper is part of a larger research project that explores the contributions of women intellectuals to the nationalistic, anti-liberal rhetoric of the early 1920s and the gendered aspect of the official ideology of the Horthy-era. The paper probes the connection of the personal and the political by exploring the shared history and competing memories of two woman writers, Anna Lesznai (1885-1966) and Emma Ritoók (1868-1945). The writers were friends and founding members of the Sunday Circle in 1915 but ended up in opposite camps during the 1918-19 revolutions. Ritoók, with Cécile Tormay, became a champion of the counter-revolution, contributing to its anti-Semitic ideology and rhetoric. Lesznai, the wife of Oszkár Jászi and a supporter of the Republic of Councils, was forced to flee and she spent the rest of her life in exile. Their diaries and autobiographical novels reflect the two writers’ diagonally opposing perspectives on their past and their shared intellectual and spiritual home, the Sunday Circle. The juxtaposition of their respective biographies and literary works offers insight into the process of re-interpreting and re-writing the past, whether for personal or political ends. It also illustrates the broader contours and irreparable breach between the Left and the nationalistic Right in Hungarian political and intellectual life after 1919.

Author Biography

Judith Szapor, McGill University, Canada

Judith Szapor is Assistant Professor at the Department of History and Classical Studies of McGill University in Montreal, Canada. She teaches courses on East-Central Europe, the social and cultural history of Austria-Hungary, European women in the modern era, and the history of the intellectual refugees. Her current research on Hungarian right-wing woman politicians in the interwar period is supported by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Standard Research Grant.






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