An Exceptional Case of Women’s Self-Advocacy in Interwar Hungary: Cécile Tormay
Keywords:Assimilation, anti-Semitism, Christian “gentlemanly” middle class, “urban” middle class, Cécile Tormay
A Hungarian writer who became a prominent public figure in the Horthy era, Cécile Tormay’s (1875-1937) fame and success was principally due to her memoir, Bujdosó könyv [‘The Hiding Book’], a work published in 1920-21 that depicts the two Hungarian revolutions following World War I. This popular work enjoyed several editions during the interwar period and was translated into English and French for propaganda purposes. After World War II, Bujdosó könyv was among the first works banned by Hungarian authorities for its anti-Semitism. Hailed as the most notable female author of the interwar period, Tormay’s name rose anew after the fall of socialism in 1989. Fueled by the official biography written two years after her death in the Horthy era by the conservative professor of literature, János Hankiss, a revival in the cult surrounding Tormay’s work has taken place in recent years. Hankiss portrayed Tormay as a woman of Hungarian noble descent whose deeds were motivated by sheer patriotism. This paper contends that Cécile Tormay was embraced by the interwar elite for her active role in the counter-revolutionary conspiracy against the First Hungarian Republic.
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