In the context of the resignation of right-wing Hungarian MEP József Szájer, Jozefina Komporaly tells us about civil rights in Hungary, and specifically about a new children’s anthology which has prompted much debate about diversity, inclusivity and censorship in Hungarian children’s publishing. Shared with Jozefina’s permission, this is an excerpt from her essay published in November in Asymptote journal for literary translation…
By Jozefina Komporaly
Meseország mindenkié (Wonderland Belongs to Everyone) is a Hungarian collection of classic fairy tales, adapted and retold with characters from minority or marginalised groups. Yet since its release in September, it has caused astonishing controversy and rebuke from far-right politicians, including MP Dóra Dúró literally destructing a copy. Such opposition is propagating intolerance and homophobia—the antithesis of the book’s inclusive and accepting values. Despite such an alarming reaction, the publisher sold out of its first print run. But the threat of censorship still looms large. In this essay, Jozefina Komporaly explores the political circumstances that have created such hostility, as well as the book’s valuable contribution to Hungarian children’s literature.
The publication of a new volume of tales for children is usually exciting news for early readers and their families, for anyone young at heart, and for those following trends in children’s literature. It is also likely to be relevant to schools and nurseries, but it is rarely breaking news. If discussed in the media at all, it tends to belong to the realm of children’s programmes or cultural platforms. In recent weeks, however, this rule of thumb has been overturned in Hungary, where the subject of unconventional books addressed to young readers has sparked not only heated debates, but deplorable reactions from politicians and public figures.
The first time I heard about these incidents, in September 2020, was via a Facebook post alerting me to Hungarian MP Dóra Dúró tearing up the children’s book Meseország mindenkié (Wonderland Belongs to Everyone) and literally putting it through the shredder. She allegedly could not bear to see wonderland turn into a land of “the aberrant.” Dúró is a member of Mi Hazánk Mozgalom (Our Homeland Movement), a far-right satellite party of the ruling Fidesz, and news of her intervention came from her own social media presence when she boasted about destroying the book during an online press conference. According to her, “homosexual princes are not part of Hungarian culture,” and her aim was to lash out against “homosexual propaganda” that she saw as an attack against the “healthy development of children and against Hungarian culture.” The politician ended her Facebook post, hastily removed in the wake of the emergent scandal, with the invitation “to lay the foundations of the nation’s future within the context Hungarian families.” In doing so, she is perpetuating conservative notions about what constitutes a family and explicitly problematizing the relationship between nationality, patriotism, and sexual orientation.
Read the rest of Jozefina’s essay over at Asymptote …
Meseország mindenkié, edited by Boldizsár Nagy © Labrisz Leszbikus Egyesület (Labris Lesbian Association), 2020, can bought or pre-ordered via the following websites: lira.hu, Book24.hu, libri.hu, and bookline.hu.
Jozefina Komporaly is a lecturer in performance at the University of the Arts London and a translator from Hungarian and Romanian into English. She is editor and co-translator of the drama anthologies Matéi Visniec: How to Explain the History of Communism to Mental Patients and Other Plays (Seagull, 2015) and András Visky’s Barrack Dramaturgy: Memories of the Body (Intellect, 2017). She has published numerous works on theatre and adaptation, including the monographs Staging Motherhood (Palgrave, 2007) and Radical Revival as Adaptation (Palgrave, 2017). Her stage translations have been produced in London and Chicago. Her most recent translations, Mr K Released by Matéi Visniec (2020) and The Glance of the Medusa by László F. Földényi (2020) are published by Seagull Books.