Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Part I, Chapter 13

The Eternal Fight: A parliamentary session in the 20th century

The parliament building is described first. It houses both the lower and upper house of parliament. The latter on the top level, gaining its light via a glass roof.

The lower house being below, gains its light via Drummond-style "lime[-based?]lighting" that also provides heat. As a result, in the summer time ice-making machines are employed to temper the heat. In addition, it also has two chemical machines that are constantly at work. One that produces oxygen, and the other that takes in carbonic gas (presumably carbon dioxide) to produce from the exhalations of the speeches "sodawater" (carbonated [i.e.: mineral] water).

Furthermore the lower house has no doors or other horizontal entrances. Representatives can only enter vertically via "sinking/lower-machines" at times of their own volition, at other times by the will of the President (i.e.: Speaker) of the House. The latter happens either when at the end of a session, the President of the House initiates the sinking of the chairs out of the assembly, or when, after alerting representatives with a 2 minute warning bell of an imminent vote, the President of the House calls up all chairs whether or not they are presently occupied. Therefore those who are not in their chairs by the time they are raised into the chamber cannot take part in the vote. And after such a vote, of course, the chairs are sunken back after all votes have been cast and counted.

These chairs are also connected to clock mechanisms that keep track of how much time each representative spends in session, and this calculated total is used at the end of the month to determine what share of the monthly Representative's Salary budget goes to each representative, much to the pleasure of conscientious members.

The assembly is premanent, by the way. There are 12 Presidents of the Assembly, each presiding for 2 hours. Six of them are for Hungarian portions of the session, taking place from 8am to 8pm; the rest for German, Serbian, Romanian, Russian, and various latin- or cyrill-lettered southern slavic languages that are all supported by their own stenographists, as neither any President of the House nor any stenographist can rightly be expected to speak the myriad co-official (i.e.: equal) languages of the country.

Speeches are restricted to 30 minutes, and under special circumstances this time may be restricted to only 15 minutes per speaker. Speeches may only be given from a special podium (also a "sinking/lowering-chair") and at the end of the speech or the alloted time the President of the House lowers the chair (making it wise for the speaker to cease his activity and draw close his limbs)--at the bottom, the new speaker is to be given way and is in turn risen by the President of the House to make his speech.

Lastly, it is described that the cost of printing the records of the parliamentary sessions are charged directly to speakers, albeit in the case of the speech relating to party matters, the cost may ultimately be picked up by the political party in question.

A great multiplicity of political parties are described in varying level of detail. Perhaps most significant is the fact that there is a suggestion of considerably greater political freedom (than in Jokai's time) and politicians are claimed to shield themselves of various sort of accusations by offering "Oh, I'm not Xist--I'm merely a Y Party member" apologias.


Since the time when at the end of the last century (referring to the end of the 1800s) the Parliament pronounced the equality of women, at every election a single female representative is elected (though it is not clear whether this is an election by the electorate, or more of a *selection* by the ruling party). She tends to be the most responsible, conscientious, hard-working, and most-often present member of the entire parliament. This (either her election/appointment or her hard-working nature?) protects women's rights.

Jokai also mentions that the reason only one woman is (s)elected is to avoid female representatives disagreeing with each other, and thereby at least among women to avoid the cursed (ideological) party-splits. I am not quite sure whether Jokai intended this as a serious thought or as perhaps an indication that even in the 20th century, women's liberation still has ways to go.

He then mentions that there are both female stenographers and journalists at the parliament, albeit they are as yet the exception and not the rule. Likewise there are female teachers, judges/magistrates of the first degree (the implication being no female judges in the higher courts). Jokai notes that this is not a fully cleared up concept yet, and women's equality will probably require a good 50 years more for it to fully take firm root.

Some further details of lower house parliamentary sessions: the President of the House has electrical connection from his desk's keys to little bells above the heads of all the representatives by which he can call their attention (among other things, to warn them that if they do not cease their interrupted/disruption/quarrel they will be lowered out of the chamber), and, in turn, all the representatives have a similar electronic connection to the President's desk by which they can indicate their wish to speak (when they do so, their name gets added to a large screen). This same mechanism is used for votes: the President first asks all those who vote "Yes" to press their buttons, then after the names have been recorded, all those who vote "No". Altogether therefore a vote can take place and yield definitive results in as little as five minutes, with everything recorded by the stenographers. No chance of errors or misheard votes.

Then Jokai's attention turns to the myriad ways that both sides of the debate relating to "the dissolution of all religious orders in Hungary" are attempting to ensure victory in the coming vote.

Albeit it eventually turns out that most Hungarian religious organizations actually support the motion, as they see their former privileges encroached upon and all but lost to the myriad foreign religious orders that have fled to Hungary in the past decades. In effect, they hope some return to normalcy and expect a revival of concern toward their (i.e.: Hungarian religious organizations') interest once the foreign orders leave (it is suggested probably to America) for having lost their privileges.

Eventually the vote is taken and is successful, thereby moving the vote to the upper house of parliament.

The many struggles of the upper parliament's factions to either gather more voting representatives for the coming vote or render as many of their opponents unable to attend are detailed at some length. Eventually the vote motion is accepted by one vote... a mistaken vote due entirely to a representative who intended to oppose the motion being distracted. Despite this, the President of the Upper House (which lacks all the modernities of the lower house, being staunchly married to tradition) happily declares the motion carried, glad that a stalemate (equal votes both for and against) did not force him to also cast his vote, as doing so would almost certainly would have destroyed his carefully guarded non-partisanism and ultimately would have likely led him out of his post as President of the Upper House.

The motion now awaits only the King's consent or rejection.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Part I, Chapter 12

The Eternal Fight: Apocatastasia

More than 10 Christian, and a few Jewish denominations are described as being either nationally or regionally prevalent in Hungary. Then "Nihilism" is introduced as "non-faith" or "non-belief", that proclaims "for every man only his own 'self' ought to be an object of worship, while everything else: God, homeland, fellow man, family, lover is *nothing*.

As a result of the Nihilist revolution in Russia, Alekszandra Petrovna, commonly known as Shasa, rose to power. Russia is no longer called Russia, but rather "The Country of Nihil". It is no longer home to panslavism, and does not threaten Europe with turning them all into Cossacks, but rather with turning them all into "nothing". It threatens no more with conquest, nationalist oppression, but only with the dissolution of all that is sovereign, all that is faith/belief, and all that is great.

And even before its arrival, its shaddow is upon Europe in the form of Nihil as a religion. But even within Nihilism there are various denominations, and several are mentioned.

The chapter ends with a mention that the Hungarian member of parliament Bárány Pál (would be "Paul Lamb", were the name translated), this "Lamb of God", submitted a proposal to dissolve all religious orders in Hungary. Since all other European states have already done so, Hungary has become the last European place of refuge for a myriad monks, nuns, and Jesuits (the latter always are treated with special mention and special derision).

It is suggested that the acceptance of the proposal would create a great upheaval.

Part I, Chapter 11

The Eternal Fight: The downpour in a drop of water

It is explained that Dávid's earlier enquiry about Rozáli was turned away on account of Mazrur and the Sabina having pursued a legal course to force Rozáli's return from the Parabolana. The legal argument primarily rested on Dávid not having satisfied his signed promise to marry Rozáli.

Hermione Peleia does not intend to let Rozáli go, but since her religious order is not officially recognized by the state, she cannot grant sanctuary that has the strength of law.

It is also insinuated that attempts Hermione Peleia ordered to locate Dávid, so he could marry Rozáli and thereby render the threat of the lawsuit meaningless, have been sabotaged by a nun close to her on purpose by writing an incomplete address on the letter.

Part I, Chapter 10

The Eternal Fight: Ichor

Ichor is described as a material Tatrangi Dávid learns to extract from a region with semi-active volcanic lakes. This region, that the government has long been keen to sell (perceiving it worthless and useless) Dávid had bought.

He goes to visit his father, Tatrangi Mózes, and shows him a ring that his father first mistakes for an artificial diamond. However Dávid demonstrates that it is in fact a flexible glass. The father exclaims (to no objection from the son) that it is the 65th element, and is pleased to learn Dávid named it "ichor" after the white blood of Greek Gods.

He asks his father for Mr. Severus' address. As his father does not have it, he instead advises Dávid to search for him on Wall Street where he will be sure to find him as Mr. Severus owns a store (office?) there.

* * *

Before his departure, Dávid tries to inquire about Rozáli at the Parabolana, but is turned away roughly from the entrance of the Parabolana by a nun. So, though puzzled, he departs right away to America.

* * *

Upon reaching to New York, even despite the huge river of people within that site, it was easy for him to locate a man of Mr. Severus' fame. However the first few attempts at gaining an audience feel due to Dávid's not wishing to disturb him while he was eating.

Finally, he meets up with Mr. Severus at the theater in the banker's private box, and is received with recognition as the son of Tatrangi Mózes.

Dávid names the flexible glass ring (which he also showed his father) as being made of "hyalichor" ("ichor glass"), and explains that he himself owns the only known source of ichor.

He explains that the business uses of ichor are great many, ranging from better bullet-proof vests (does not break from a bullet shot from a 100 steps' distance), specialized glassware products (i.e.: woven glass), jewelry, to applications seeking to replace iron (such as in engines, et cetera), to applications seeking to replace other metals (like in machines, weapons, et cetera), to flying machines.

Dávid explains that ichor based products will conquer each market niche/segment that they compete in completely, on account of being both cheap and far more durable/reliable than materials used by the competition.

He requests Mr. Severus initially to fund the building of 500 ichor flying machines. When Mr. Severus asks why, Dávid explains that it is to allow him to protect his homeland when the next European war breaks out.

Mr. Severus is dismayed by this, as he finds national loyalty to be an old-fashioned and not altogether admirable concept. Though Dávid briefly defends the concept of love of one's homeland, he explains in great detail that as his operations are necessarily based in Hungary, it will be Hungary that most benefits from the successes of ichor products, while most other nations (on account of their businesses suffering) will be worse off for it. This will naturally put Hungary in a precarious situation of being endangered by Dávid's future success--but since Hungary is the only state from which Dávid can expect protection, it makes rational sense that he should seek to preserve it from destruction by foreign powers.

His notion is that in the event of war braking out, with only 500 ichor flying machines and ichor-armoured and ichor-weapon-equipped men he will be able to fly in behind enemy lines and destroy weapon, gun-powder, and food stores, thereby winning the war through destroying the enemy's ability to wage it.

Dávid also mentions that ichor bullet inflicted wounds cause swelling and considerable itching that renders wounded men unable to fight for at least 6 weeks, but thereafter they recover to full health. In fact ichor also has some property that renders the previously wounded immune to (some? all? certain categories of?) diseases.

After much calculation, Mr. Severus figured that getting the full plan (500 ichor flying machines, along with the myriad industrial initiatives) going would require an investment from him to the tune of 20 million dollars, and decides to give it to Dávid.

Part I, Chapter 9

The Eternal Fight: The madmen of flying machines

Note: In earlier chapters, any appearance of the term "airplane" should be read as "flying machine", as it is clear to me now that though the Hungarian word "flying machine" is modern Hungarian's de facto and de jure word for "airplane"--this was not so when Jokai's novel was written... and eventually he does, in fact, use a different word to refer to concrete flying machines as opposed to just conceptual ones.

This chapter is primarily about Tatrangi Mózes, the father of Tatrangi Dávid, and takes place in the insane asylum where he has been shut as a result of his last attempted mechanical flight.

In the asylum, there are another two madmen of flying machines, and all three have different ideas about the best approach to conquering the sky via flying machines.

The first madman's approach is the creation of far larger hot air balloons, with "side wings" to help steer the balloon that would help better navigate it into higher or lower air currents (i.e.: which would take it in the direction it sought to go, as opposed to in whatever direction prevailing currents below or above might be going).

The second madman's approach involves no balloon, but an engine driven propeller (or propellers?)... though I am not entirely clear whether his vision is more akin to a small propellered airplane or a helicopter.

The approach Tatrangi Mózes proposes is basically an ornithopter, albeit it is key that Tatrangi Dávid's father believes that the wings of such a flying machine will, at the right altitude (assuming they are made of the right material), start to beat on their own, powered by atmospheric electricity.

The other two madmen, amidst their ridiculing of Mózes, recall that after his initial confinement in the asylum, Mr. Severus "a negro Rothschild" visited him and told him that though he will invest up to 10 million dollars into developing flying machines, if Tatrangi Mózes figures out how to make them work right, he should not fly again until he does lest the devil snatch him from the sky.

After this conversation, also witnessed by Tatrangi Dávid patiently awaiting to see his father, Tatrangi Mózes urges his son to continue his work on developing a flying machine.

Tatrangi Dávid informs his father that he is travelling home the day after tomorrow, as he is no longer a soldier (having been able to give up his commission the day after his promotion by the King).

Part I, Chapter 8

The Eternal Fight: The "pellagra miserorum"

Rozáli, Tatrangi Dávid's fiancée, is received at the Parabolana; the religious order dedicated to caring for the victims of a disease called "pellagra miserorum", and which is headed by the deposed Russian Tsar's daughter Hermione Peleia.

In an initial interview, Hermione Peleia tries to dissuade her from staying by describing in detail the origins and the nature of the disease:

„A pellagra miserorum egyike azoknak a vészeknek, melyek mint helyhez kötött bajok régóta ismeretesek voltak a szakavatottak előtt; századokig, tán ezredekig ellappangtak a földabrosz egyes zugaiban, míg egyszer, rögtön előtörve saját hazájokból, elterjedtek hirtelen egész világrészeken; némelyik körülutazta az egész földet. Így került elő a himlő Afrikából, a kolera Kelet-Indiából, a sárgaláz Brazíliából, a gyermekölő noma Kínából, a fekete halál Palesztinából, amik milliónként pusztíták az emberiséget. Így vannak még most is helyhez kötve a spakelshed Norvégiában, a malária a Meremmek mocsárai közt, a kretinizmus Savoya hegyeiben, a beriberi Nepálban, a framboise a Provence-ban, a cirragra Lengyelországban. Ezek még nem indultak meg hódító hadjáratokra. Majd elindulnak. Ezután vannak uralkodó bajok, amik csak a szegény osztályokat keresik fel. Ilyen a rupia, az ergotismus, mely az anyarozsos búzaliszt mérgezéséből támad. Az ilyen endemicus bajok közé számíták a múlt században még a pellagrát. Csak Olaszországnak egy vidékén volt az otthon, csak azon néposztálynál, mely kukoricával táplálkozik, és különös, még eddig orvosilag meg nem állapítható okokból, inkább a nőket támadta meg, mint a férfiakat, inkább az ifjakat, mint a véneket. Az olasz orvosok „mal rosso”-nak nevezték.

Keletkezésének oka tudva volt. Egy mikroszkopikus gombafaj szokta azon a vidéken meglepni a tengerit, mely növénykórt otthon „verderame”-nek neveztek; egy család a szőlővenyige „oidium”-ával. Mióta a baj elterjedt, a tudományos világ előtt „zeidion toxicon” a neve. Megismerte azt később Magyarország, Szerbia, Románia is, de azért még mindenütt csak sporadice tűnt fel a baj. Egészen ment maradt tőle Németország, ahol a tengerit nem mívelik. Van azonban Németországnak egy más plágája: a „hesseni légy”, coccydomia destructor. – Ennek az eredete pedig ez: II. Fridrik hesseni uralkodó az amerikai szabadságharc alatt Angliának átengedte a katonáit, olyan szerződés mellett, hogy ahány azok közül Amerikában elpusztul, a fejedelem annyi ezer tallér kárpótlást kap érte. A fejedelem huszonegymillió tallér kárpótlást kapott.

Fájdalom, hogy nem többet. Nehány ezer hesseni harcos mégiscsak visszakerült Európába Amerikából, s nem hagyta ott a bőrét ezer tallérért. – Hanem ahelyett hozott magával egy sokkal többet érő ajándékot – az ágy szalmája között, azt az átkozott szipolyt, aminek hesseni légy a neve. Tíz év múlva a németországi mezei gazdák átka lett ez a rovar, mely petéit a búza és a rozs sásleveleibe rakja, s akkor azok elkezdenek pusztulni. A hesseni légy rajként repül, mint a sáska, fel nem tartja sem folyam, sem hegylánc. Ahol megtelepül, nyomában az éhhalál jár: ott a kenyértermő növény elkorcsosul. Hanem hát ez a hesseni ajándék megmaradt másfél századon át Németország tulajdonának. Ekkor átcsapott Magyarországba. És itt azt a természeti tüneményt idézte elő, hogy amíg a búzával együtt a tengerit is meglepte, a tengeriről átoltotta a búza és rozsnövényekbe a zeidion toxicont. És ennek az lett a következése, hogy a zeidion toxiconnal megmérgezett búza és rozsszemek, az őrlés alatt a liszt közé vegyülve, egyszerre elterjeszték az egész országban a pellagrát. A betegség, mely eddig endemicus volt, egyszerre epidemicussá vált. – Benne van a mindennapi kenyérben, amiért az emberek imádkoznak.

A gazdagok könnyen védik magukat ellene; szakácsaik górcsővel vizsgálják meg előbb a lisztet, mielőtt sütnének belőle: nincs-e közte zeidium, s a szegényt nem bocsátják magukhoz közel. És a pellagra az eddig uralkodott pestisek minden pokoli tulajdonát egyesíti magában. Ragályos az érintkezés után, mint a himlő, terjed a kedély fogékonysága és az égalj viszonyai szerint, mint a kolera, kínzó, mint a tífusz, undorító, mint a pestis. Csak az egyetlen jó tulajdona a régi öldöklő angyaloknak hiányzik nála, a gyorsan ölés. A pellagra nem öl meg; de hónapokig kínoz. Megjelenik először az arcon, a kezeken, mint egy rózsaszínű folt. Émelygés, láz követi. Akkor elmúlik. Egy év múlva biztosan újra előjön. A rózsák most már égnek, felhasadnak; az egész életműszervezet együtt ég velük; a fő elkábul, a gerincagy fáj, az izmokat görcsök veszik elő, a vér átszivárog a bőrön; az idegek elsenyvednek; eljön az őrjöngés, az öngyilkolási düh – és az ember mégsem hal meg: tovább él; kigyógyul. De minő életre gyógyul ki? Agya eltompul; dőre, esztelen marad: arca feldúlva sebhelyektől, ráncoktól, koravén lesz, haja mind kihull. – Ez a pellagra miserorum.”

The disease is described as one long established in a certain part of Italy among those who classes who regularly consumed corn, and primarily younger women, not often impacting either men or the old. It's cause is a microscopic fungus that thrived on corn in that region.

Its incidence outside of Italy was sporadic at best until it mutated to be carried by the eggs of the "Fly of Hessen" that plagued Germany, and later also Hungary, after being brought back from the United States by German soldiers returning from assignments to support the American Revolutionary War.

The upper classes are relatively safe, as their cooks inspect flower and other suspect goods with a microscope to ensure the fly's eggs are not to be found within them. The poor, however, have no such protection, and once infected become dangerous carriers of the disease themselves as it can be transmitted by touch.

It first causes pink discoloration of the hands and the face, only to go away after some fever and mild sickness. It is, however, certain to return (reactivate?) within a year when the discolorations split, the skin and the whole body feels as though it burns, the sufferer becomes dazed, the brainstem (or spine? spin-stem?) hurts, the muscles convulse, blood starts to escape through the skin, nerves shrivel (i.e.: weaken), and the sufferer becomes given to rage and suicidal desires, but does not die. They recover instead, but with a permanently dulled brain, the face covered with scars and wrinkles well ahead of their age, and all their hair falls out.

Rozáli is taken on a tour, and is shown even some of the worst suffering patients. Though the latter are aggressive and abusive, she shows no fear and ends up entertaining them with stories about the mischiefs of a monkey owned by a nobleman from her region.

Rozáli's stories manage to distract the patients from their suffering and this impresses Hermione Peleia sufficiently to permit Rozáli to stay despite her initial reservations.

She is also given special dispensation to keep her beautiful red dress instead of taking on "the colours of death" warn by other members of the Parabolana, as Hermione Peleia wants there to be at least one person that the patients like and do not despise (the way they despise their nurses whose cures often feel more painful than the disease).

It is suggested that the care provided at the Parabolana can mitigate the effects of the disease, but without any guarantee of success in any specific case.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Part I, Chapter 7

THE ETERNAL FIGHT: The Al-hambra at Vezérhalom

The story of how the Hungarian "Al-hambra" palace at Vezérhalom, originally built and owned by a Hungarian "financial baron", came to belong to the Russian Tsar Constantin's daughter. The man in question had had many magnificent buildings built all in different (inter)national styles (there is even a mention of a hippodrome built in Pekingese style).

After his death, the Al-hambra was left to his "majoresco" (Buttler?) who was eventually in a poor enough financial state to want to be rid of it. After several years of problems and poor management at the hands of the subsequent owner, eventually the building was sold to the recently dethroned Tsar Constantin. And after Tsar Constantin's death, the building became property of his daughter, Hermione Peleia.

It is mentioned that most of the decorative objects in the Al-hambra, as in many other newly built palacse, are "copies", since in the 20th century everything can be made by factories that thereuntil had to be produced through manual labour.

Oil pressings can create Rubens and Tintoretto copies that are faithful to the point of deception.

Lithopany can handle encaustica (wax-painting).

Benvenuto Cellini's ciselirization's can be reproduced with hair-strand accuracy through galvanoplasty.

Gobelins can be produced by the sewing-chair.

Ivory is no longer carved, but as per Rouvier's invention, poured into form after mixing the ground bone with schellak (?) and alcohol.

The once expensive corinthian ore is mimicked by "princmetall", gold by "chrysorin"; previously hammered metal objects are now poured into form. Numismatic (coins) rarities are multiplied by the thousands, using "alfenoid" and "bathmetall" instead of silver, marble and lapis azuli is well mimicked by Lippmann and Schrechenburger's invention of mixing ground limestone, marble-dust, flax-oil, and sulphuric acid.