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.


Part I, Chapter 6

THE ETERNAL FIGHT: Oh, a peasant. That's different then!

As Tatrangi Dávid reaches the palace with the intention to turn himself in, he is met by four fellow soldiers sent to find and arrest him.

At the military tribunal, he refuses to give any testimony until he is asked whether he has any excuse ("mentsége"). He answer that he does, and hands the General presiding over the tribunal the letter he previously received from the king.

After reading the letter, the General states that Dávid has been promoted to the rank of "alhadnagy" (master sergeant? literally: "sub-lieutenant"?) by the King, and his "crime" was an act of restitution toward one who had offended a Lady's honour.

The charges are thereby summarily dismissed, and Dávid is congratulated by the General with the words, "Welcome back, brother-in-arms; you did well to give that peasant a few good kicks..."

And now being an officer, Tatrangi Dávid had the right to reason his commission at his leisure.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Part I, Chapter 5


The Astrapé is a newspaper.

It is published four times per day, containing local, national, and foreign news as well as the more noteworthy speeches of (parliamentary?) gatherings, printed on an eighth-"rét" sheet. (Possibly a 5 meter x 5 meter sheet... presumably before being cut into folds/pages. I will have to do more research on determining the correct size/value of "rét", which is an archaic Hungarian unit of measurement I have no familiarity with.)

It is a newspaper written in stenographic symbols, without the use of typesetters or a printing press, using papyrography/paperography. After the editor types in the page, a steam-powered machine prints 200 copies per 4 minutes. The editor is able to control the feeding of paper into the copying/printing machine with his legs (as though using a foot-powered sewing machine) even while typing with his hands. Therefore he needs no staff, only newspaper deliverers/distributors who are also his source of news upon their regular returns for the next edition.

The price of the newspaper is one krajcár (in German kreutzer, but as with names, it makes sense to use the Hungarian)... the smallest coin in circulation. Thus does Astrapé give dangerous competition to traditionally typeset/printed/prepared newspapers who cannot possibly make a profit at the same price.

The only thing keeping the Astrapé in bay, for now, is that not everyone can read stenography yet. The numbers of those that do, however, increase every year. It is taught in all universities, and is increasingly indispensable in more and more professions. Some soldiers only know how to read stenography, as that is what the military teaches. And there is an increasing number of literary/leisure reading titles ("The complete works of X" type) being published.

Upon purchasing the 3pm Astrapé, Tatrangi Dávid finds an article about himself as one who unlawfully assaulted Mr. Mazrur and is being sought for arrest.

Reading this, he decides to delay his visit to his father, and instead goes to turn himself in to his military superiors.

Part I, Chapter 4

THE ETERNAL FIGHT: What is the Sabina?

The Sabina is an institution originally founded for the purpose of marital match-making, for assistance with the alleviation of obstacles to marriage (presumably things like received special religious dispensation?) and quick handling of divorces, and for the training of women in both domestic and general education matters to be acceptable/ideal eventual wives to their fiancés.

After initially having been founded in 1947, it first saw considerable success but by the third year was having considerable difficulties on account of lawsuits from and/or the need to buy the silence of dissatisfied former clients (quite possibly simply due to imperfect matches not in excess of what would be reasonable to expect).

Just as the company was suffering from great turmoil (due to go under?) it was acquired by a new consortium called "Mazrur and partners".

Mazrur is described as a very wealthy Tunisian-born polyglot who lived both in Georgia and Istambul, and moved to Hungary from Russia upon his take-over of the Sabina about whom little else is known.

His partners, eventually it turns out, are the Russian revolutionary leader turned President, Madame Shasa, and her state chancellor Mr. Kurasin--which makes the Sabina very dangerous to oppose indeed.

After the take-over by "Mazrur and partners", the Sabina begins to thrive again.


A minor, but necessary, detour:

On the European continent (England [the United Kingdom?] having refused to sign) there had been born an "epigamic agreement" as per which all European states legally recognize and respect the legally recognized marriage customs of all other European states (for marriages made under said state's jurisdiction and by its laws) with respect to property rights, recognition of children as legitimate, and all other things.

The legal marriage situation (between two nationals of the below listed states, as under the epigamic agreement other arrangements legal elsewhere would also have to be respected) are described as follows:

In France and Italy, only civil marriage ceremonies are legally recognized, religious ones are not. In Spain, only religious ceremonies are recognized, not civil ones. While in Germany civil ceremonies are permitted, but only for those who have formally withdrawn from/renounced all religious organizations to which they formerly belonged.

In Austria and Hungary civil ceremonies are only facultative. In Romania even the "matrimonium conscientiae" (marriage of conscience) is legally recognized, which leaves out even government authorities from the equation.

Furthermore on account of "European Turkey" (not clear whether the suggestion is that Turkey is considered a European country, or the European part of Turkey is now a separate state, or due to Turkey having holdings in Europe was made signatory despite not being considered wholly European, et cetera) bigamy, trigamy, and even quadrigamy also have to be recognized (obviously within the constrains of the epigamic agreement... i.e.: only when the marriage is made in a state that legally recognizes such institutions for its own citizens). This caused some states (it is not clear how or why, but presumably due to recognition by one or more other states) to also have to recognize American Mormonism and European Nazarenism as legitimate religious groups.

And Russia's "Roman marriage" legally recognizes "polygamia successiva", the right to marry as many wives as one can support, but in succession rather than all at the same time. (It is not entirely clear whether this is actually referring to polygamy... which one would think would have already been covered by the Turkish example, or the right to remarry as many times as one wishes [perhaps while being obliged to continue to financially support all formerly divorced wives?].)


The Sabina's recovery was due in no small part to the company's reorienting itself to marrying young Székely Hungarian girls of poor families (who are given a bride-price[?] payment that the eventual fiancé, in addition to other fees, must pay the Sabina prior to the marriage) away to husbands in every part of Russia through the "Roman marriage" (which permits "successive polygamy", a term that is never fully explained).

The media in Hungary quickly came to perceive this as thinly disguised slave-trade, but since the girls are sent to the Sabina by their parents voluntarily, and enter into their eventual marriage likewise, there can be no legal ground for opposing the company's activity.

The king himself perceives the matter in such terms, but knows he can do little on account of Madame Shasa being one of the partners in the Sabina's owner company "Mazrur and partners".

The Sabina has a large "palace" in Budapest, where the young ladies under their care live and study until they are married. It is suggested that their heads are filled with questionably accurate promises about how grand and lavish their married lives will be... thereby rendering them eager to see their intended role in all of this through to the end.

Tatrangi Dávid seeks and receives an audience with Mazrur himself in order to request the release of his fiancée into his care. Mazrur is described as a human giant, a Samson in both appearance and strength. Mazrur regularly receives similar entreaties, and is used to most frequently denying them.

He proceeds to entertain Dávid's request by bringing out Szentivánfai Rozáli, and trying to demonstrate that she is well cared for and well on her way to an enviable marriage abroad. While saying nothing at first, when Mazrur finally asks Rozáli whether she wants to leave the Sabina to go with Dávid, she enthusiastically exclaims that indeed she does.

Mazrur, still confident, demands that Dávid sign a contract promising to marry the girl. He readily complies. Then Mazrur demands compensation for Rozáli's education, and the payment given to her parents... after a myriad (perhaps questionable) charges the price is in the vicinity of 500 Árpád-gold coins, at which point Dávid interrupts and offers the full 600 in hopes of expediting matters.

Finally, Mazrur seeing that none of his legal means of holding onto the girl seem to be working, he laughs and says that Dávid will have to take her from him by force, and grabs a hold of her.

Dávid instead of trying to force Mazrur's hands open, grabs a hold of his collar and yanks it upwards then twists it, causing Mazrur to fall down onto the ground (presumably being choked?) and offering no more immediate resistance.

Then, leaving the gold coins, he leaves with Rozáli and drops her off at the "Parabolana" the religious order that tends to those suffering from "pellagra". And, after doing so, decides to go visit his father at the insane asylum.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Part I, Chapter 3

THE ETERNAL FIGHT: How much is the king worth?

The king goes on a Gnu hunt--African Gnus have been naturalized in Hungary by this time--but actually ends up alone at a Hunter's Cottage painting a landscape painting. It is his secret desire to learn whether he is any good at this pastime of his, though he has not yet managed to conceive of a way that he could solicit honest opinions on his work.

One of the gnus chased by the mixed-breed (part Australian dingo) hunting dogs ends up jumping into the garden where the king is painting, and for some time both beasts stand still, giving the king ample time to paint the noble looking gnu into the painting that up until then seemed beautiful but somehow empty. When the hunting dog finally engages, the gnu ends up triumphing by goring it to death with its horns.

Soon after (but enough time after to hide the painting) the rest of the hunting party arrives, and it is widely seen to be of shame to the King that he had let the game escape. This eventually manifests in the media as well.

As a result of Tatrangi Dávid, the book's protagonist, holding up the king at his own palace gate until the password is given, the two first meet. In a subsequent interview, the King secretly commissions Dávid to sell his recently painted landscape with the gnu to an art dealer without revealing its source. In this way, the king wishes to receive a fair and impartial appraisal of his own merits as a human being, without the fawning sure to be lavished upon him due to his royal status.

The king's painting is successfully sold by Dávid, leaving its source unknown, and despite the artist's anonymity (and thus presumably due to genuine merit) it receives national and (regionaly) international acclaim.

The king, wishing to reward Dávid, inquires what he can offer him. He wishes discharge from the army, that the king is not willing to grant (feeling that it would create discontent if he chose to exercise that particular royal prerogative of his)... but presses Dávid to explain his situation.

Dávid explains that he should rightly be exempt from military service, because he is required to work his father's farm as his father himself cannot on account of being locked up in a mental institution. However the military claims that the father is not insane and should be released (and thus there is no reason for Dávid to be exempt).

The king suggests that if Dávid were to make a formal declaration that his father is insane, that would be force the military to grant him his exemption. However Dávid states that since his father is not insane, he cannot make such a declaration.

He then proceeds to explain that his father, though quite sane, is obsessed with the idea of flight and ended up in the insane asylum after his last attempt almost killed him (when his flying machine crash-landed [the Hungarian word for "airplane" is literally "flying-machine", make me wonder whether the term was adopted or coined by Jókai--particularly since the first successful powered flight in history only happened in 1874, a year or two after this book's publication, and even in 1892 Lord Kelvin said "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."])

After this story, it eventually comes to light that Dávid only has 6 weeks of mandatory service left. The king is astonished why he would therefore wish to waste the king's desire to show him gratitude on such a trifling matter.

Dávid explains that he wishes to marry his fiancée, but she is at the Sabina (more on this later). The king, after the mention of the Sabina, shows himself sympathetic--and though he does not grant Dávid his release, he gives Dávid the 600 Árpád-gold coins that were paid for his painting to take care of his situation with, and also gives him a sealed letter that Dávid is to use only if he finds himself in trouble for reasons beyond his control.

Midőn a király vadászatra indult, a fővadászmester egy Engendre-féle lőfegyvert szokott őfelségének prezentálni. Ez a fegyver a fővadászmester által töltetett meg s két csőből áll; az egyik csőben van húsz töltény, miket egy gépmű egyenkint a másik cső lőkamarájába áttaszít, két lövés között csak két másodpercnyi időköz szükséges. A töltények durranyagát az úgynevezett „német fehérpor” képezi, mely vérlúgsavból, égenyzöldegből és nádcukorból készül; nagyobb veterővel bír, mint a fekete lőpor, s nehezebben lobban fel; minthogy azonban a vasat erősen rozsdásítja, a hozzávaló fegyver csövének arannyal kell burkolva lenni.

The king hunts with a two barreled gun, one barrel of which contains 20 bullets mechanically loaded into the other barrel (from which the bullets are shot). Shots can be fired with a rapidity of 1 every 2 seconds. The bullets are propelled not by black gunpowder but by "german white-powder".

... őfensége Henrik Zsigmond főherceg magyarázá a szakértő fenségeknek és főméltóságoknak a „dingó-kopók” előnyeit.

Ezek igen nevezetes állatok. Az angol rókakopók s az ausztráliai vad dingók keresztezéséből származott korcsok.

Australian dingo/English foxhound hybrid dogs are used for hunting.

... mióta a budai erődítések elkészültek, az enceinte-be eső nagy terjedelmű erdőségeket a kormány az országos acclimatáló társulatnak adta által. Ez a többi között meghonosította az afrikai gnút.

The African Gnu has been naturalized to the forests surrounding Buda.

Amint a kertre nyíló ajtón ismét vissza akart térni a várpalotába, az ott őrt álló katona útját állta.

„Mi a jelszó?”

A király végignézte az őrt. Magas nyúlánk, ideges ifjú volt: a közkatonák azon időbeli egyenruhája, kávébarna frakk, elöl magyaros zsinórzattal (dualisztikus uniformis), feszesen állt erőteljes termetén; homlokát takarta a fekete sisak sárgaréz tarajjal s fehér-veres-zöld kétfejű sassal az ernyője fölött. Az őr, szuronyát védmozdulatra fogva, állt az ajtó küszöbén. – Nem ismer ön engem? – kérdezé a király.

– A jelszót! – ismétlé az őr változatlan arccal.

A király aztán megmondta a jelszót.

Arra az őr tisztelgett, s utat nyitott a király előtt.

The king meets the book's protagonist while said protagonist is performing as a palace guard at the gate. He categorically refuses to let the King enter without giving the password, despite recognizing him.

– Mi önnek a neve? – kérdezé a király.

– Tatrangi Dávid.

– Zsidó?

– Nem. Székelyföldi magyar.

– Azért lehet zsidó. Vannak a Székelyföldön magyarok, kik a szombatot tartják meg, kik a keresztelést nem az atya, fiú, szentlélek, hanem az Ábrahám, Izsák és Jákob Istenének nevében végezik, böjtöt és munkaszünetet tartanak zsidó szokás szerint; az újévet a zsidó újév napjától számítják, és neveiket az ószövetségből veszik csupán, s ezért minden felekezettől üldözve vannak. Ön nem a „szombatosok” közül való?

Az ifjú még halványabb lett.

Halk, mély, csaknem zúgó hangja volt: zengő suttogás.

– Ha mondanám, hogy az vagyok, nem volnék az: mert ők titkot nem mondanak ki.

– De én önnek legfőbb bírája vagyok – szólt a király szigorúan –, ki előtt senkinek titokkal nem szabad bírni.

– Igaz – szólt az ifjú –, de egyúttal legfőbb egyházfőm, kinek a gyónás titkát nem szabad elárulni. Gyóntam. Igaz.

– A szombatosoknak két kiváló erényük van – monda a király. – Az egyik az igazmondás, a másik a titoktartás. Midőn utamat állta ön, tudta, hogy mit tesz?

– Tudtam: amit a törvény parancsol.

– S ha én önt erőszakkal megtámadtam volna, meglőtt volna ön?

– Meg.

– És ha önnek saját édesapja jött volna eléje, hogy ajtómon bejöjjön, meglőtte volna azt?

Az ifjú nagyot sóhajtott:

– Meg.

– Pedig a szombatosoknak tiltja a hit az emberölést.

– De az ország törvénye parancsol még a hitnek is.

The palace guard, Tatrangi Dávid,--again, the Hungarian form of the name should be preserved in translations, instead of opting for "David [of] Tatrang"--is summoned by the king.

Ethnically, he is a Székely Hungarian. Religiously, he reluctantly confirms that he is a "Szombatos" (Sabbathist). If the king's understanding of Sabbathists is correct, they seem like Christian converts to Judaism who either deemphasize (or, perhaps, even deny?) Jesus and seek to return to Judaic fundamentals. (Fast and rest on the appropriate Jewish days, give names only from the Old Testament, baptise in the name of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, et cetera.) It is stated by the king that Sabbathists are persecuted by all other denominations for their practices. (Though it is implied not official state authorities.)

Tatrangi Dávid is questioned by the king, and shows himself to be deeply duty-bound despite his Sabbathist objection against killing and thus his present profession as a soldier (as a result of the routine limited time draft into basic training/military service that all healthy young men are subject to).

- ... A hadtudomány oly fokra fejlődött, hogy a legelső harcban, mely kitör, az emberiség egyik felének ki kell irtani a másikat. A huszadik század utolsó felét járjuk, s az a hit, hogy a kétezered év betöltésével el kell jönni az időnek, mely az örök „Isten békéjét”, az örök „treuga Dei”-t elhozza, az egész világot kezdi áthatni.

– Tehát ön is hisz a millenniumban? Lehetőnek tartja a Chiliasmust? A kétezredik év Isten békéjét?

– Ha emberek akarják, s Isten segít, lehető.

The martial arts have developed to such an extent that in the next war that breaks out, one half of humanity will have to exterminate the other half.

There is a wide-spread belief that God's peace will come at the millenium. Tatrangi Dávid shares this belief, while the king does not do so (or at least not openly).

Part I, Chapter 2

THE ETERNAL FIGHT: What is forbidden to the king

The chapter starts by the King composing a lover letter to his beloved, whom he acknowledges in the letter he can never openly declare to love. Soon thereafter, an apparent fire at the Parliament draws the King from his room in so great a hurry as to leave his letter on his table along with his beloved's portrait.

Thereafter, the three of the King's high-ranking servants have a conversation about a Hungarian language magazine, "La Menteur" that they declare to be most dangerous because in addition to being mostly filled with lies, now and then it speaks the truth, and nobody can reliable discern which story if which. On the surface, this seems to be little more than satirical commentary on the press (or perhaps on "free press")...

Eventually, the servants end up entering the King's room and finding his letter and the portrait, subsequently discussing among themselves that the portrait is of the exiled Russian Tsar Constantin's daughter Princess Hermione Peleia, whom he may not marry lest he inspire Russia's populist Madame Shasa to wage war upon Austria-Hungary.

Upon his return, the King notices that someone had been indiscrete, from the golden powder upon his letter having been disturbed, but does not pursue the matter despite being quite angry.

„Constantin cár, Hermione Peleia hercegasszony atyja, mikor trónra lépett, az előde által addig követett politikát gyökeresen megváltoztatta. Felmondta a német barátságot, udvarából kiküszöbölte a német államférfiakat, s elkezdett orosz nemzeti politikát követni, s egyúttal alkotmányos kormányhoz akarta szoktatni a népét. Ezáltal három dolgot ért el; az egyik az volt, hogy a német diplomáciát egészen elidegenítette magától, a másik az, hogy az orosz főnemességet halálos ellenségévé tette, a harmadik meg, hogy az orosz nép, amint egy kis alkotmányos levegőhöz jutott: elkezdett jakobinus lenni. (Ilyen veszedelmes dolog az az alkotmány!) Egyszer aztán az orosz főnemesek összeesküdtek a cár nagybátyjával, Mihállyal; Constantint letették, családostól számkivetették, s Mihály cár alatt helyreállították a régi nemesi uralmat s a jobbágyságot. Erre aztán roppant lázadás tört ki. A felkelők az általuk először használt léggömbök segélyével porrá zúzták a Kremlt, a bennszorult nemesi hadakkal együtt; hová lett Mihály cár, azt ma sem tudja senki. Szentpétervárott most gonoszabbul megy a dolog, mint Párizsban 1792-ben. A rémuralom kormányát egy nő ragadta magához, kinek neve Alekszandra, de akit népszerűen csak Saszának neveznek, s ez egy valóságos női Robespierre, egy démon, egy szörnyeteg, kinek véres szeszélyei rettegésben tartják Európát, aki hadat készít minden ellen, ami még fennáll; trón, oltár, nászágy, s ha rémuralmával rendet lesz képes odahaza csinálni, rövid időn, mint az Apokalipszis hétszarvú sárkánya fog lerohanni Európa többi országaira. A letett cár, Constantin pedig ide menekült Magyarországra, s itt oltalmat talált. Felséges urunk nem tagadhatá azt meg tőle, ki halálos betegen jött ide; még kevésbé leányától. Most a vendégszeretet által először is kellemetlenül lett érintve a német udvar, mellyel Constantin ellenséges viszonyokat tartott fenn; másodszor ránk idézte veszedelmes figyelmét a rettenetes szörnyetegnek asszonyi alakban ott a Néva mellett. Ez a szoknyás Dzsingisz kán nem átallotta nyíltan kihíresztelni, hogy amelyik európai uralkodó vagy annak bármelyik ivadéka nőül meri venni a cár leányát, azt ő rögtön haddal támadja meg, s nem nyugszik, míg a koronás férj és feleség mint fogoly kezei közt nem lesz. Ez a mi siralmas állapotunk. – És íme, most őfelsége saját koronás uralkodónk ábrándozik a veszedelmes szép ábrázatról. Jó szerencse, hogy Hermione Peleia hercegasszony, ismerve a fölöttünk lebegő veszélyt, rendületlenül áll azon elhatározása mellett, hogy zárdába menjen, s miután ő anyja után római katolika, egy katolikus kolostort készül alapítani.”
"When Tsar Constantin, the father of Princess Hermione Peleia, rose to the throne, he pursued radically different politics from his predecessor. He gave up the German friendship, rid his court of German statesmen, and began to pursue Russian national politics instead, also wishing to make his people accustomed to constitutional governing. By this, he achieved three things; one was that he turned German diplomacy altogether away from himself, the other one was that he turned the highest Russian nobles into his mortal enemies; and the third was that as soon as the Russian thede got some constitutional air it turned Jacobine. (The constitution is this dangerous a thing!) Then eventually the highest Russian nobles conspired with the Tsar's uncle, Michail; and lowered Constantin, exiled him along with his family, and under Michail restored the old rule of the nobility and serfdom. This produced a great uprising. Those that revolted had for the first time used balloons, and thus they utterly destroyed the Kerml with all the nobility, its forces; nobody knows what had happened to Tsar Michail. Today things are in a more evil state at St. Petersburg than they were in Paris in 1792. A woman rose to power in this rule of terror, whose name is Alexandra, but who is popularly just called Shasa. She is a female Robespierre, a demon, a monster, whose bloody fancies keep Europe in terror, who prepares for war against all that still stands; throne, altar, marital bed, and if her rule of terror manages to restore order at home, soon she will charge at the rest of Europe's countries like the Apocalyptic seven-horned dragon. The lower Tsar, Constantin, chose to flee to Hungary, and found protection here. Our Majesty could not deny that from him, who came here mortally ill; much less from his daughter. Now due to this hospitality, the German court was displeased, as Constantin had formerly treated it as an enemy; secondly, it drew toward us the dangerous attention of the dangerous beast that assumed the shape of a woman beside the Neva. This skirt-wearing Djingis Khan did not waste time to spread the news that she would attack with great force any country whose crowned head or prince would presume to marry the Tsar's daughter, and would not rest until both the crowned husband and the wife are prisoners in her hands. This is our pitiful state. And behold, now His Majesty, our own crowned head, daydreams of this dangerous beauty. It is fortunate that Princess Hermione Peleia, knowing the danger floating over us, has firmly decided that she will enter a convent, and as her mother is a Roman Catholic, she plans to found a Catholic convent of her own."