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Book Title: They Were Found Wanting|
The author of the book: Miklós Bánffy
ISBN 13: 9781900850292
Format files: PDF, Epub, DOCx, TXT
The size of the: 636 KB
Edition: Arcadia Books
Date of issue: January 1st 2000
Reader ratings: 3.4
Loaded: 506 times
Read full description of the books They Were Found Wanting:
This is review of the Transylvania Trilogy, also known as The Writing of the Wall, and I am posting this in each volume. The trilogy is composed of:
They Were Counted
They Were Found Wanting
They Were Divided.
These titles are taken from the Book of Daniel, from the Belshazzar’s Feast, when a hand appeared and wrote on the wall:
God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting; your kingdom is divided and given to your enemies.
This is how Rembrandt saw this episode:
What Banffy sees in this Writing is the Advent of WWI and the end of Hungary’s Dreams.
I would like to read a good biography of Miklos Banffy. He must have been a fascinating person. From what I could learn from the web, he was originally from Transylvania and part of the nobility (a Count). He was an independent Member of the Hungarian Parliament before WWI, becoming Minister of Foreign Affairs during the first period of the Horthy Regency, when István Behtlen was Prime Minister (a relative, and also a Count). It was Banffy who signed the Peace Treaty with the US after The Great War. During his time in the Ministry his main interest was to try and renegotiate the Trianon Treaty and recover for Hungary many of the land tracts lost to its neighbors.
If a great part of his mind and ideals were in politics, his heart lived with the arts. He was a man of the theater, of music and of opera. He was Superintendent of the Budapest Opera around 1906. Puccini’s Madama Butterfly (1898), still a very modern work, features in these novels. He was a friend of Kodaly and Bartok, sponsoring the production of Bartok’s then avant-gardish opera Blubeard’s Castle (1911).
These books--which should be read all three (total of about 1400 pages)--, were written between 1934 and 1940, although the setting is the years before the First War, namely from 1905 to the Fall of 1914. The general impression upon reading is somewhat disconcerting, it feels like a nineteenth century novel, but some more modern elements sometimes creep in, contributing to the general nostalgia for a foregone age.
For me there were two threads of interest in the book. There is a plot embedded in the portrait of a society in the “realist” model tradition, but there is also a highly crafted account of the political inter relations of Hungary, Austria, Transylvania and Romania during those times.
The first thread, or the plot, develops as a family saga with elements of a Bildungsroman, with plenty of entertaining scenes of balls, dinners, shooting-parties, horses and hunts, romances, adulteries, gambling, drinking, dueling, etc. And although it is a society of rentiers, for whom money is present but should rarely be seen, there are also plenty of money issues with debts from gambling, squandering, traumatic inheritances, and situations in which exotic and magnificent pearls are being pawned to save someone’s honor. All this makes for a rich story.
The second thread is the political account. These sections almost read as a chronicle of what was going on in the Budapest parliament from 1905 until 1914. The issues at stake were: a separate Army from Austria’s; the drawing of a new Constitution based on a wider system of universal suffrage with repercussions on the representation of the minorities and consequently on the Parliamentary balance; the conspiracies of the Heir of the Crown, the much hated Archiduke Franz-Ferdinand (István Szabo’s films Colonel Redl and Sunshine come to mind); the possibility of a separate banking System from the Austrian; and the always difficult relationship with the Romanians and the Croatians, etc..
I found this second thread absolutely fascinating and unique. It has a similar value to a document, given that Banffy had been there.
It may have been this part that invited significant criticism amongst the contemporary Hungarians. For although Banffy adored his country (but was it Transylvania or Hungary?), he is bitterly critical of the Politics of Obstruction that set the pace or dynamics within that spectacular Parliament during those crucial years. Inevitably, Edward Crankshaw’ acerbic criticism of the Hungarians in his The Fall of the House of Habsburg comes to mind. Banffy sadly sees his country men as hopelessly parochial, concerned only about their petty internal issues, and dangerously unaware of what was going on outside their borders (soon to be lost).
They were not seeing the Writing on the Wall.
I am surprised this work is not better known. And although in translation, it has been a pleasure to read. The English edition is the fruit of the collaboration between Banffy’s daughter Katalin Banffy-Jelen and Patrick Thursfield.
The other two volumes:
They Were Counted
They Were Divided
Read information about the authorCount Miklós Bánffy de Losoncz (30 December 1873—June 5, 1950) was a Hungarian nobleman, politician, and novelist. His books include The Transylvanian Trilogy (They Were Counted, They Were Found Wanting and They Were Divided), and The Phoenix Land.
The Bánffy family emerged in 15th century Transylvania and established itself among the foremost dynasties of the country. They owned a grand palace in Kolozsvár (Romanian: Cluj-Napoca, German: Klausenburg), one of the main cities of Transylvania and one of the province's largest castles at Bonchida. One branch was raised to a barony in the 1660s, while another became counts in 1855. The barons produced a 19th-century prime minister of Hungary (Dezső Bánffy), and the counts held important offices at court. Among the latter was Count Miklós, born in Kolozsvár on December 30, 1873.
Beginning his political career at the time when Hungary was a constituent of Austria-Hungary, Bánffy was elected a Member of Parliament in 1901 and became Director of the Hungarian State Theatres (1913–1918). Both a traditionalist and a member of the avant-garde, he wrote five plays, two books of short stories, and a distinguished novel. Overcoming fierce opposition, his intervention made it possible for Béla Bartók's works to have their first performance in Budapest.
Bánffy became Foreign Minister of Hungary in his cousin Count István Bethlen's government of 1921. Although he detested the politics of the Regent, Admiral Miklós Horthy, he worked to review the boundary revisions confirmed by the Treaty of Trianon after World War I through which Transylvania had been transferred to Romania. Little progress was made, and he retired from office.
His trilogy, A Transylvanian Tale, also called The Writing on the Wall, was published between 1934 and 1940. Bánffy portrayed pre-war Hungary as a nation in decline, failed by a shortsighted aristocracy.
In April 1943, Bánffy visited Bucharest to persuade Ion Antonescu's Romania together with Hungary to abandon the Axis and sue for a separate peace with the Allies (see also Romania during World War II). The negotiations with a delegation led by Gheorghe Mironescu broke down almost instantaneously, as the two sides could not agree on a future status for Northern Transylvania (which Romania had ceded to Hungary in 1940, and where Bonchida was located). Two years later, in revenge for Bánffy's actions in Bucharest, his estate at Bonchida was burned and looted by the retreating German army.
Hungary and Transylvania were soon invaded by the Soviet Union's Red Army, an event which marked an uncertain status for Northern Transylvania until its return to Romania. His wife and daughter fled to Budapest while Bánffy remained on the spot in a vain attempt to prevent the destruction of his property. Soon after, the frontier was closed. The family remained separated until 1949, when he was allowed by Romanian communist authorities to leave for Budapest, where he died the following year.
A mellowing communist regime in Hungary permitted the reissue of A Transylvanian Tale in 1982, and it was translated into English for the first time in 1999. The Castle of Bonchida is now being restored as a cultural center. An apartment is being prepared for the use of the Count's family.
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