Fathers and Sons. Two Generations of a Diary
Keeping Lower Noble Family in Zala County In this article I undertake the parallel analysis of the diaries and contemplations of father and son. The father, Vendel Kovách, a lower noble and county office holder from Galsa in Zala County wrote his diary in 1859–60 under the title Secrets in Zala. The son, Erno, had started writing his memoirs while in captivity in Arad and decades later he organised them into three bulky volumes. The memoirs of Erno, who worked after his liberation as a manorial and county engineer before becoming the governor of the Vác prison, end with his release from Arad in 1856.
While the simultaneous analysis of the two writings offers several possibilities, I intend to focus on two of these in the present article. Firstly, I examine the personal relationship of father and son, paying special attention to the strategies of the father who was trying 'to achieve' his own goals through his son and to the reflections of the son who was reconsidering his own achievements in his old age. In the second part of the paper I use a particular example to deal with a question frequently arising when analysing personal sources, namely the issue of relativity. In 1844 Vendel won the rights for supplying the provisions for the county's soldiers, thus breaking the hegemony of the county's biggest Jewish produce merchants. Both he (not revealing his role in it) and his son wrote about this story; what is more, it can also be tracked down in the minutes of the county assembly's meetings since the matter was a county affair. Thus the question of the sources' particularity multiplies, with the help of which I hope to provide an insight into the multifaceted nature of opportunities offered by the diary as a source.
Assimilation and Dissimilation in Autobiographies: The Cases of Imre Fest and Edmund Steinacker
Assimilation in 19th–20th century Hungary affected, besides Jews, the German ethnic group the most. This article examines how assimilation can be researched via autobiographies as historical sources, on the basis of the memoirs of two autobiographers who belonged to this ethnic group and participated in the assimilation process; My Memories (Meine Memorien) by Imre Fest, under secretary of state for transport (1817–1883) and the memoirs (mainly the Lebenserinnerungen) of Edmund Steinacker (1839–1929), a German ethnic politician. On the basis of these autobiographies it is possible to analyse relevant questions related to assimilation, such as language usage, social relations, integration into the existing structure and the traces of earlier identity shifts. Both autobiographers, though to a different extent, participated in the processes of assimilation, in the four dimensions of Milton M. Yinger's model of assimilation: the sub processes of (biological) amalgamation, (psychological) identification, (cultural) acculturation and (structural) integration. In the case of Imre Fest this evolved into a double identity, Hungarian patriotism with a Zipser German ethnic consciousness; this is the reason why he did not consider it important to reaffirm his (ethnic) identity from time to time. In the case of Edmund Steinacker the conflict between ethnic consciousness and patriotism that rooted in the aspirations for creating a modern national identity was resolved by taking on the German national identity; therefore in his case we can talk about dissimilation. The differences in the identities of the two autobiographers can be explained not only by the generation gap but also by the difference in the strength of their group ties.
Reflections of 19th-century Hungarian National Fashion in Memoirs and Diaries
From the 1820s the concept of the nation became the centre of thinking and public discourse in Hungary. Debates were taking place not only at political fora: the different issues of the nation were discussed at balls, in fashion magazines and in public in general, in a form that was understandable to everyone; besides language and dance, clothes became the indicators of one's national feelings. The discourse on (urban and gentry) national costumes materialised in two waves in the 19th century: after the 1830s and 1840s, according to the reports of newspapers, national fashion emerged again, from 1859–60. But if we assume that fashion is a historical reality that exists beyond the realm of texts – in the case of national fashion an idea manifested in costumes and the way they were worn – we cannot leave out of consideration the consumers of fashion items and their motivation. With the help of diaries and memoirs we can examine what people wore and what the trends were from a special point of view: they are the means with the help of which we can study fashion from a micro-perspective; fashion, that is the normative system compared to which the individual who follows or rejects the trends defines itself by choosing his or her own clothing. The knowledge revealed by the memoirs has a limited validity; the same way as many individual recollections juxtaposed do not make up a collective recollection, the sum of individual dressing practices is not enough to draw conclusions on fashion itself. But certain trends do reveal themselves by analysing the texts of memoirs. For instance it can be observed that while (gentry and urban) national costumes were not generally worn in the Reform Era, after 1859, in the case of the national costume movement we can already talk about a trend; it is also made clear that it was not only faith in the idea expressed by national costumes that motivated individuals to wear it: the pressure from society, fear and the dangers of being different from true patriots can also be found among the motivating reasons.
The Amusements of a Chief District Administrator. Social Life and Entertainment in the Diary of Pál Olchváry
Pál Olchváry, the chief district administrator of the Dada district in Szabolcs County kept a diary between 1922 and 1938. This study, covering the period until 1929, analyses how the diary depicts the work of Olchváry as a chief district administrator, while focusing on the information about social life.
Pál Olchváry was an educated, open-minded man who always took an interest in new things. Books and newspapers played an important role in his life. According to his diary he consciously expanded his library which, by the end of the examined period, consisted of almost a thousand volumes. He was the subscriber of several Hungarian and foreign-language newspapers and periodicals. He was among the first to buy a radio and for a while he owned a car as well. The chief district administrator lived in Gáva, the seat of the district, and suffered a lot from village life and its uneventfulness. It was social life that made life bearable for him. His network of relationships was organised in the spirit of 'upward mobility'; it was diverse and primarily involved the neighbouring landowners. Among his family members his brother Zoltán was the most influential in his life; it was him who introduced Pál Olchváry to the social life of Debrecen. He cultivated only a few, but very close friendships in Gáva. In the examined period he did not travel abroad, but because of his official duties he often visited the capital. When in Budapest and in the other two important cities in his life (Nyíregyháza and Debrecen) he frequented the theatres and cinemas.
Because of his rank Olchváry was member of several associations and organisations. His own curiosity made him join different political organisations and as a member of the local and political elite he enrolled in three Casinos.
The Secrets of Private Life and The Diary. Women, Love and Marriage in Béni Kállay's Life
Neither Béni Kállay (Pest, 1839 – Vienna, 1903) nor the diary he kept in Belgrade (1868-1875) are unknown for historians. This study is a methodological attempt to understand one's personality through his diary and to reveal deeper socio- and mentality historical relations on the basis of certain characteristics of this personality. The paper discusses three main topics: on the one hand, it uses the sentiment approach to analyse Kállay Béni's passionate relationship with the famous opera singer Marie Rabatinsky and the story of their break-up; on the other hand, it examines, from the aspects of gender history and diplomatic information gathering, the role of diplomats' and politicians' wives during Kállay's years as the Hungarian consul in Belgrade; and finally, it surveys the theories of this individualistic person on marriage using the motifs he registered in the diary he kept during his marriage with Countess Vilma Bethlen.
Love Matters. Through Half a Century. The Self-representation and Statistics of a Junior Clerk's Johnson
János József Lowetinszky kept his diary through more than half a century (1882–1935). The notes were compiled very systematically, with the precision of a statistician, and remained in 40 bulky volumes; the author worked as a junior clerk and clerk in most of his life and his diary gives us a remarkably valuable social-historical document of the era that is abounding in data, even if historiography has not discovered it yet. We can observe (through the perspective of Lowetinszky) not only the person but also his surroundings and the age in such minute detail that is unparalleled to other (and other types of) sources. In this study I examine the relations and sexuality of the diarist, together with the narration referring to these; a man who in his relationships demanded much more faith from his partners than from himself, someone who had been a kept man several times in his life. While analysing the text we can see an uncommon life and an uncommon 'performance' uncover before our eyes in its entirety, because Lowetinszky, who had sexual relationships with more than 200 women in his life, recorded not only all of his 'conquests' and 'liaisons' but each and every ejaculation as well (including the solitary ones) – both among the events of the day and in the statistical summaries. According to the conclusion of the study the diary did not only serve the purpose of archiving and erecting a memorial, but it also constituted an important part of the author's 'machismo', it was its active tool and was perceived as such by the people around him.
„I am a seed sower.: The Identities of a Peasant
The study analyses the identity of a versatile man through his diary. The author's aim is to show how János Nácsa (1908–1986) revealed his personality in his writings. Nácsa thought of himself first and foremost as a peasant, but he also spent years in the army as a volunteer; during this period, he participated in the 1940 campaign in Transylvania. This was the time when he started making his notes. While describing military life he mostly details the daily routines of the camp, but hardly ever mentions his family or shows any sign of homesickness. He never speaks about his earlier years either. He underestimates his role as a soldier: he feels ashamed having to do humble work in duty and doesn't feel the impact of his tasks at the signal corps. Having been a bridesman in his younger years he learned the tradition of the joker. This is where his literary style may come from: his way of narration or the short amusing forms can be regarded as the indirect proof of this. Prosaic and rhymed parts can also be found mixed in his text (prosimetrum): the prosaic ones may be regarded as common notes about his environment and the rhymes may be considered documents of emotionally more important experiences, therefore they may have served to emphasise his message.
A Peasant's „Autobiography" from the Socialist Era
In this study I analyse the writing of a woman, who was born in 1900 into a peasant family – later she moved to the city (first to Debrecen and then to Budapest) and lived there for quite a long time before finally moving back to her village after World War II. Mrs. János István put the story of her life on paper between 1974 and 1977 upon the request of ethnographer Árpád Lajos; her autobiography is interrupted by diary-like entries that refer to the recent past. Keeping the characteristics of the genre and content of peasant autobiographies connects the author with traditional peasant culture, at the same time the new things she experienced as an old woman and the way she evaluated these separate her from the view of life of her contemporary villagers. The detailed descriptions of day trips and bathing at spas organised by the agricultural cooperative all speak of the appearance of experience-based consumption. At these trips and in her village the old woman continuously 'witnesses' the achievements of socialism that are good for her (e.g. the three-course meal served at day trips, the programs organised on old people's and women's day, the helpfulness of her female labourer mentors); with her naive stylistic means (e.g. she asks the poetic question of 'so thiz is what Soczializm is like?' several times in the text) she draws attention to these achievements. Since Mrs. János István experienced both city and village life she cannot be considered a univocal representative of either village or urban lifestyle. Through her work we have the chance to shed light on certain aspects of changing lifestyles, moving from a village to the city or living in Hungary before World War II and in the socialist era.
Farmer B. and Doctor H. The Denominational Patterns of Small Town Autobiographies
This study examines the autobiographical creation of denominational relations in the framework of definitional differentiation between integration and assimilation, comparing the memoirs of a Jewish agricultural intellectual of nation-wide fame and a Christian lawyer, both from Gyöngyös and both relating the story of their youth. In both autobiographies the modern Hungarian society shows an integrating but not assimilated picture. The study analyses how lifestyles, systems of values, the problems of connubium and comensality, namely class-based behavioural sociological separation and maintaining relations between denominations are presented in the two autobiographies; it tries to prove that in a small town in the first half of the 20th century there were no barriers between Jews and Christians, or if there were they were not where they are traditionally supposed to have been. The second part of my work concentrates on the fact that the autobiographers still considered it important whether they were Jews or not; what is more, the society they created in their autobiographies also found it important. Finally, the study hints at the fact that the simultaneous presence of integration and the lack of assimilation were the prerequisites for the development of large scale social inequalities between Jews and Christians.
Patching Up a Past – A Noble Family's Genealogy from the Socialist Era
This study examines the manuscript of the history of a noble family that was written in the socialist era. This work is partly based on the family's genealogy that was written in 1848 and partly on oral family history and private documents. It aims at reconstructing the damaged identity, at setting up a standard and at keeping up family history as opposed to the current political and social environment. This identity preserving character of writing is present in other family memoirs as well; together they outline a unique space of family history.
Talking about the past cannot become objective despite all efforts. Personal recollection, which is extremely subjective, always focused on the present and often shaped by oral tradition and literary fiction (in this case especially the canonical novels of Jókai), both undermine the idea of an objective explorability of the past. The examined genealogy is a good example of both aspects of this phenomenon; it even raises doubts concerning the identity of the author with the use of collective family voice. What could have motivated János Bárczay to compile this text in the 1960s? I am looking for the answers by comparing the autobiographies in the different versions of family history which were written and re-written over the years. In the different versions the narration sometimes switches from the third person to the first, well indicating the urgent need behind the birth of these texts, namely that the individual, despite the changing conditions, has to create the continuity of his or her identity, has to bridge the ambivalence between the present condition and the past.