Multicultural Societies: Kálmán Mikszáth, Pál Závada and Péter Huncik

Enikő Molnár Basa


Three Hungarian works, one from the 19th century and two contemporary novels, reflect changing attitudes to ethnicity and nationality questions within Hungary, including the area that became part of Czechoslovakia after World War I. Kálmán Mikszáth’s Tót Atyafiak shows a society in which the various nationalities of Upper Hungary live in harmony. Ethnic problems seem not to be present. Pál Závada’s Jadviga Párnája presents a more complex picture: while the protagonists seem free of nationalistic sentiments, they are conscious of their Slovak roots, their customs and language. A majority in the city and community which forms the backdrop to the story, they are a minority in the larger region of the Hungarian Plain. However, different customs and language are not perceived as setting themselves off from other Hungarians. Outside forces and prejudices do intrude since key sections of the story occur during World War I and its aftermath. The third novel, Péter Hunčik’s Határeset examines the fate of the population of Ipolyság, a town in what is now southern Slovakia. This is an area which still has a large Hungarian population; many families nevertheless have a background that includes Slovak and other nationalities. With the border changes of 1920, 1938 and 1945 lives are disrupted. Communism further complicates the tensions and absurdities fueled by outside forces. The works are testimonies to tolerance because the protagonists most affected are open to other ethnicities, other nationalities.


ethnic studies, multiculturalism, Hungarian minorities, Hungarians in Slovakia, Hungarian literature

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