Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Someone's Head is Existing

I just got back from my Hungarian class. Tonight we learned possessives. They don't say that someone "has" a head. They sort of say that someone's head is existing. (Feje van.) Baffling. Do I have this blog, or is this blog just sort of existing?

I wonder if the Hungarian grammatical structure has any observable effect on the Hungarian existential outlook. One of my friends in my class, Mariela, told me tonight that she does not like Hungarian men. That they are "depressive," and "difficult." She is Ecuadorian and has worked at the Ecuadorian Embassy here in Budapest for the last three years, so she has a perspective informed by a substantial amount of time. I do remember my mom telling me that she learned at a Pfizer conference that Hungary has the highest suicide rate of any country. I was shocked, thinking for sure it was some Scandinavian country with its sunlight-starved citizens. But then I remembered that the one suicide attempt that I have ever witnessed was here in Budapest. A man had climbed atop the Erzsebet Hid (Elizabeth Bridge)--no, that's the modern one-- I need to learn my hids,..it was on Szabadsag Hid, the beautiful old green one which connects on the Buda side with Gellert ter. Anyway, he intended to jump to his death into the Duna, but he was rescued by officials who successfully maneuvered a hydraulic lift to where he was perched.

So why are Hungarians so busy offing themselves? This is the question I put to my Hungarian friend Zsolt. Even Zsolt, whom I've come to believe is at least quasi-divine, didn't have an answer. He didn't know why. Could it be because Hungary has lost every war since the 12th century? Could it be the crippling 25% sales tax? I don't know. Surely the former reason has some effect on their disposition toward the world. At dinner with Zsolt last week, we were talking about the entrepeneurial spirit in America. That in America, if you decide you want to sell rubber cutlery, say, or if you want to start a business scooping dog poop in other people's yards (I heard the latter on NPR), then you can. And there is the societal spirit and infrastructure to support such ventures in the United States. But Zsolt tells me that here in Hungary, people just want to survive. Survival is success here. The 20th century was vicious for the Hungarians. Hungary has been betrayed, broken up, and besieged by external forces for almost its entire history. Why stick your neck out with such a legacy in place? In other words, why risk the possibility of your head no longer existing?


At 4:49 AM, Blogger andrew s.yang said...

I like this post and the observations & connections you weave around it in particular.

ps -- from some other post you mention Unicum. I also think it is evil stuff. It is like drinking perfume mixed with varnish!


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