György Konrád has passed away. Honouring the writer and great Central European is a task for others, and I very much hope they will do so in Hungary as well. I met him again not long ago, because we have been lifelong friends since a time long before the Iron Curtain.
The way György Konrád is remembered in our neighbouring country will reveal a great deal about how it treats its leading personalities. György never gave up hope! When we last met, I asked him when he thought that things would go back to normal. He said that he had already seen so many phases accompanied by enormous pessimism and then things had nevertheless changed for the better. Hungary had become more open and more democratic. I was grateful for his optimism! You obviously have to have experienced as much as he did.
Personally, I remember that I managed to invite him to Austria several times at an earlier period – despite all the difficulties that meeting him would entail. Eventually, I was able to help him get scholarships and an opportunity to visit the U.S. It made a lot of work, and would be much more difficult today – even if it were on his behalf. I helped smuggle some of his manuscripts, and assisted him and his friends, but these were modest activities compared to what he achieved through his writing, his demeanour and his statements as a sign of freedom and openness. His presidency of the Berlin Academy of Arts alone was impressive enough to make us understand how significant he was.
The effort of many others to act in the same spirit – which has unfortunately become necessary again – surely would have pleased him. I hope that his optimism for the spirit of intellect and freedom will soon bear fruit in Hungary and Europe.
Original in German. Translated into English by Barbara Maya.