Friday, July 14, 2017

Sándor Szathmári on the monomania of prophets

Sándor Szathmári wrote a novel in Hungarian and Esperanto--Voyage to Kazohinia, now available in English from an American publisher--that belongs in the dystopian pantheon with Karel Čapek's R. U. R. (Rossum's Universal Robots), Zamyatin's We, Huxley's Brave New World, and Orwell's 1984.

Kazohinia is unique in that it presents two diametrically opposite societies, one composed of the Hins, robotically orderly, rational, and mechanistic, and the Behins, totally irrational and chaotic. Gulliver (recycled from Jonathan Swift) finds himself in both neighboring but mutually isolated societies, unable to tolerate either one, and unable to see that the insane, violent Behins are merely an exaggeration of the British and European civilization he uncritically adores.

Szathmári created a panoply of neologisms for the belief systems, cultural practices, institutions etc. of Behin society, that are thinly disguised equivalents of the same phenomena in Western civilization. Even among the Behins there are a small number of sages, prophets, wise men, sacred religious figures, founders and inspirers of religions, called bikru. Gulliver inquires of his Hin guide about the bikru. The bikru are also found wanting. A post on my other blog more extensively documents this:

Sándor Szathmári on the limitations of sages

Here I reproduce the key dialogue that pinpoints the crux of the matter (which also reminds me of why I disliked Hermann Hesse's Siddartha), boldfacing the priceless punchline:
"Don't speak of 'the' bikru. You shouldn't think that they had only one bikru. There were several. Perhaps, you, too, might have become one of them."

"Indeed?!" I looked at him flabbergasted.

"Yes. They burn every bikru first. Later they recognize him because, as you yourself have seen, they have minds but the self-radiation doesn't allow them to dominate clearly and as soon as it comes to words, to say nothing of deeds, everything becomes reversed. The bikrus, however, have the ability to manifest their intelligence but, as I have said, in their being they are Behins and they are not free of imperfections and fixed ideas."

"Of fixed ideas? What is this fixed idea?"

"To be a bikru is also in fact a monomania; the erroneous belief that with the Behins there is a connection between the heard word and the brain. A bikru is a Behin whose only Behinity is that he doesn't realize among whom he lives; for it could not be imagined, could it, that somebody who was aware of the Behinic disease would still want to explain reality to them."

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