Tag Archives: Miklos Banffy

A glance at the life and times of Miklos Banffy

Count Miklós Bánffy

Count Miklós Bánffy

Many of you know that I admire the work of Miklos Banffy, the author and statesman who lived in Cluj, ran the opera house in Budapest, was foreign minister of Hungary and organised the last coronation of a king of Hungary. I have enjoyed the following article published on the blog of Lucy Abel-Smith who organised the first Transylvanian Book Festival and is planning a second for 2016. Enjoy this account of a recent tour through Hungary and Romania led by Lucy. Paddy very much followed in Banffy’s footsteps and wrote the foreword to the first English translation of Banffy’s wonderful Transylvanian Trilogy.

“In a brown velvet jacket and wide trousers he walked a little self conscious from one desk to the other… ‘I am drawing here, am writing there, at the third one I read’… I have forgotten what he did at the fourth… ’Somehow it seems more comfortable this way – he apologised and also I am very disorderly…”

In this charming description of his working habits, Miklos Banffy is disarmingly modest. This self deprecation is made all the more poignant by our visits to a few of his haunts – revealing something of this gifted, multilingual and many facetted man. Our journey was half in Budapest and then in Cluj and, at a slower pace in a few Hungarian Transylvanian villages in the traditional Saxon area. We behaved as if we were taking part in the Budapest Season before the war in a hectic race from place to place. From Cluj to Sibiu the pace was more measured.

Nearly seven decades after his death in Budapest in 1950, Miklos Banffy, one of the greatest novelists of the 20th century is only now being recognised by the English-speaking world. Jaap Scholten, in his Comrade Baron, describes what happened to so many of Banffy’s generation of Hungarian Transylvanians under Communism. Banffy’s own fate was no better. He died penniless, unsung and unread except by Hungarians. Jaap spoke to us over dinner on our first evening in the comfort of the Art’otel beneath the castle of Buda, on the bank of the Danube.

Day two began with a tour through the capital, bringing home the majesty of the Danube and the spirit of the 19th century movers and shakers in Buda and in Pest. At this time, Transylvania was still linked to the Kingdom of Hungary but ruled from Vienna. A visit to the truly National Museum, conceived by Ferenc Szechenyi, houses wonderful Renaissance furnishings from Slovakia and Transylvania including the great tomb monument of Michael Apafy (d. 1635), from Malancrav, which was relevant as this Baroque monument was carved by an artist from Spis and was commissioned for Malancrav, in Saxon Transylvania, where our journey would end.

Read more here.

Transylvanian Book Festival final programme and bookings

Richis banner
The programme for the very first Transylvanian book festival has been finalised. The event will run in the old Saxon villages of Richis, Biertan and Copsa Mare in the beautiful Carpathian mountains of Romania from 5-9 September. The festival programme includes lunches and dinner and some great excursions. How Paddy would have enjoyed the talk and the company!

There is still time to book your place by visiting http://www.transylvanianbookfestival.co.uk/ or contacting the organiser, Lucy Abel-Smith direct on +44 1285 750 358/888 or email: lucy[at]realityandbeyond.co.uk

The line-up is varied with a range of talks, discussions and music.

  • Michael Jacobs.  Memories of Transylvania and other writers.
  • Jessica Douglas Home Once Upon Another Time. The threatened destruction of Transylvanian villages.
  • Tony Scotland A Journey through Eastern Europe before Christmas 1989
  • Nick Hunt Walking the Woods and the Water
  • Michael Jacobs will be in conversation with Beatrice Rezzori Monti della Corte and William Blacker.
  • Professor Roy Foster “Transylvania Is Not England”: Bram Stoker and the location of Dracula
  • Hans Schaas and Sara Dootz in conversation with Caroline Fernolend and Andrea Rost about life in the Saxon Villages before the early 1990s.
  • William Blacker Along the Enchanted Way.
  • An evening of the poetry of Stephen Watts and Claudiu Komartin.
  • The Medias Choir singing some music from the Siebenbürgen and from Georg Meyndt, (1852-1903) from Richis.
  • A recital of music by Enescu and Bartók by Carina Raducanu,  Eugen Dumitrescu with violinist Ioana Voicu.
  • Countess Salnikoff will talk about her grandfather, Miklós Bánffy whose trilogy the Writing on the Wall must rank amongst the greatest works of 20th century literature. In conversation with publisher of Arcadia Books, Gary Pulsifer.
  • Jaap Scholten reads from Comrade Baron, and then in conversation with some of those with first hand experience of the early fifties in Communist Romania.
  • Artemis Cooper will talk about the subject of her recent biography, Paddy Leigh Fermor, whose writings of pre-war Transylvania, in Between the Woods and the Water influenced many of this festival’s authors.

Transylvanian Book Festival – so much better than Hay; are you joining us?

Lit fest authors

Arrangements for the Transylvanian Book Festival are proceeding apace. This will be a truly wonderful event and I want to encourage as many of you as possible to come along during 5-9 September. Look at it as a holiday in itself, spending five days in the most beautiful setting, a region lost to time, that reflects the history, culture, and architecture of one of the last untouched Medieval landscapes in Europe. A chance to talk to the authors and like-minded folk in a calm and relaxed atmosphere.

The line-up of authors is growing all the time. More details can be found on the website here.

The following have confirmed:

  • Artemis Cooper: An Adventure, the biography of Paddy Leigh Fermor
  • Professor Roy Foster: Bram Stoker, Ireland and Dracula
  • Jessica Douglas Home: Once Upon Another Time
  • William Blacker: Along the Enchanted Way
  • Michael Jacobs: Robber of Memories but will talk on Starkie or von Rezzori
  • Caroline Juler: Author of the Blue Guide to Romania
  • Jaap Scholten: Comrade Baron
  • Nick Hunt: After the Woods and the Water
  • Andrea Rost: on the biography of Hans Schaas
  • Sarah Dootz: Her autobiography
  • Countess Elizabeth Jelen Salnikoff: talking about her grandfather Miklos Banffy
  • Others to follow

You can make a reservation and book online here.

Unlike other book festivals this will be a relatively small and intimate affair. The authors will be living in the same villages and mixing with all those attending in a relaxed atmosphere. All food is included and we can expect some magnificent meals and picnics under the warm Transylvanian sun, with just the sounds of horse drawn carts, cows going to and from the fields, geese and ducks filing along the dusty roads, and our own animated conversation in English, Romanian, German and Hungarian as we reflect on the day’s events.

In addition there will be excursions included into the woods and countryside surrounding Richis so we can all get close to the land which is one of Prince Charles’ favourite spots. There is a lot included for the money which does not happen at other similar festivals.

If you want to know more please get in touch with me. I am happy to advise on travel options, flights into the country, car hire, and possible extensions to your visit so that you can visit some of Romania’s other wonders, many of which are just 1-2 hours away from Richis. There are already plans for extensions to turn your visit into a longer stay if you wish.

Romania is a very safe country for travellers with a good infrastructure. If you hear things from others that put you off, like the state of the roads, or are deterred by its very mysteriousness, please be assured that none of this is remotely true, nor should it be a barrier to you having a great time.

Don’t forget to visit our Facebook page. I am looking forward to seeing as many of you there as possible. Perhaps this medley of images may tempt you to come along by making your booking here 🙂 Some of these you may have seen before; many others are new. I promise!

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Summer reading – The Transylvanian Trilogy by Miklós Bánffy

New BanffyMore Miklós Bánffy propaganda to make you go out and buy these fantastic books! They have recently been republished by Everyman’s Library.

You can buy them here. They were counted.The Transylvania Trilogy. Vol 1.

And of course, Elisabeth Jelen Salnikoff,  the elder granddaughter of Miklós Banffy will be speaking about her grandfather, his life and work at the exciting Transylvanian Book Festival 5-9 September; see you there!

by Julian Glover

First published in The Guardian , 5 August 2011

A few years ago a friend sent me three very large paperback novels – a trilogy about Hungary before the first world war – which he said I should read.

The Writing on the Wall, as the books are known (better than “the Transylvanian Trilogy”, the inadequate English alternative), did not look promising. Their covers were relatively austere and their author was a dead Hungarian aristocrat of whom I then knew nothing. They sat ignored until, by chance, I took the first of them to Spain one summer and, having nothing else to read, opened it.

Since then their author, Miklós Bánffy, has never been far from my mind. The elegiac wisdom of his writing makes him one of those people whose life you wish could have ended in something other than calamity. His three great novels, which are really one and should be read as such, are significant and addictive works. Word of their excellence is spread largely by private recommendation. I know no one who, having begun them, has not charged through to the end.

The three books – They Were Counted, They Were Found Wanting and They Were Divided – are at one level a sort of Austro-Hungarian Trollope, with sleigh rides in place of fox hunts and the Budapest parliament instead of the House of Commons. So far, so dull, you might think – except that Bánffy was a great storyteller (his factual account, in his book The Phoenix Land, of the 1916 coronation of the last Hungarian monarch is spellbinding), and wrote as a member of a class and the citizen of a country that had both been brought to ruin.

Bánffy published his books in Hungarian between 1934 and 1940. By then, the pre-first world war aristocratic tradition he describes was dead; or at least the political part of it, for the trappings lingered on – not least at Bánffy’s own great family castle of Bonchida, by then in Romania and destined to be partly destroyed by the Germans in 1944.

Bánffy died in 1950, his papers burned, his books out of print. One of the connected delights of this trilogy is that his daughter was one of the joint translators, and Bonchida (thinly disguised as Denestornya in the novels) is being brought back from a roofless ruin.

That will not return to us the Hungary of which it was once a part, and only a third of which remained in Hungarian hands after the 1920 Treaty of Trianon (an ill-deserved robbery). As Bánffy describes, some of this disaster was his fellow citizens’ fault – the product of their incestuous politics, their semi-subservience to the emperor in Vienna, and above all the closed nature of Hungarian society, which did not know how to deal with the continent beyond its borders. That remains true today: there is something mysterious about Hungary, and not only because of its isolated language.

If I have made these sound sour books, or purely political ones, then I have misled you. More than anything, they are human, and beautiful, and descriptive, and rooted in a land and its natural environment that are both gone forever and less far away than we might think. “The radiant afternoon sunlight of early September was so brilliant that it still seemed like summer,” the trilogy begins. This summer I urge you to read on …

Related articles:

Read more about Miklós Bánffy on the blog by clicking this link.

Miklós Bánffy’s Transylvanian trilogy to be published in new edition by Everyman’s Library

Count Miklós Bánffy

Count Miklós Bánffy

Many of the longer term readers will know that I am a true fan of the work of the great Hungarian-Transylvanian writer and statesman Miklós Bánffy. His Transylvanian trilogy is a masterpiece, and the autobiography, The Phoenix Land, re-published last year offers an insight to the character and soul of this intelligent, hardworking, and resourceful man.

Read more about Miklós Bánffy in the articles on the blog which you can find at this link.

I was recently contacted by blog reader Scott Walters from San Francisco who informed me about a new version coming out in 2013.

As you seem to be the go-to resource for all things Patrick Leigh Fermor, I thought you might be interested to know – assuming you haven’t heard already – that the English translation of Miklós Bánffy’s Transylvania trilogy (They Were Counted, They Were Found Wanting and They Were Divided), for which Paddy wrote an introduction and which you’ve blogged about on occasion – is going to be reissued this summer in hardcover by Everyman’s Library. Publication date is in July.

I’m thrilled about this – I’m a great fan of the trilogy and have long bemoaned the price of the existing paperback editions, which despite being reissued in 2010 still seem difficult to obtain at a reasonable price (though a Kindle edition is now available). That Everyman’s Library has opted for the work suggests that it’s finally attained the recognition it deserves. I posted an announcement on my blog, but should you put one on your Fermor blog I expect word will get out to more people who may be interested. All best, and a very happy new year.

I am grateful to Scott for getting in touch. Not so sure about the price issue as it affects UK readers. You can buy good copies of his work on eBay for around £8-£10. The Everyman versions appear to be coming out in July 2013 with a website price tag of $26 for a hardback edition.

All I can say is it is great that more people will read Bánffy, and that prices of books vary enormously depending upon where you are. Moral of the story is look around for bargains and read some Bánffy now!

Re-opening of Bánffy exhibition at Budapest Opera House

Zsuzsanna Szebeni, who is the curator of the Count Bánffy exhibition at the Budapest Opera House, contacted me to say that the exhibition has re-opened at the opera house from 3 April 2012. If my Magyar is up to scratch it appears to run until 24 June, but I could be wrong about that! From the 16th of July the exhibition will move to a larger location in the city of Sepsizsentgyörgy or Sfântu Gheorghe (in Romanian), a city which is predominantly Székely Hungarian, and lies to the north-east of Brasov in Transylvania.

Miklos Bánffy was a Transylvanian Count and director of the Budapest Opera House at the end of the Great War. At the same time he planned the very last coronation of a King of Hungary, the last Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Charles I. This is all wonderfully described in the English Translation of Bánffy’s memoirs, The Phoenix Land, published by Arcadia Books.

As you will know by now, Paddy wrote the introduction to the English translation of Bánffy’s fictional Transylvanian Trilogy which is wonderful and an absolute must read. Cluj gets many a mention. You can read more about Count Bánffy here on the blog.

You can contact Zsuzsanna as follows: Mobil: +36 20 3304070 and Office: +36 1 3751184/128.

For those of you who speak Magyar you will find this video of interest. For those who don’t I hope that you will enjoy the colourful images!

A Year of Memory: the top ten posts on the Patrick Leigh Fermor blog

As the year comes to a close it is time to reflect upon what has passed and to look forward to 2012. I make no predictions for the coming year. There are some things which are almost certain such as the continuing Euro crisis and the much anticipated publication of Artemis Cooper’s authorised biography about Paddy, but forecasts tend to be overtaken by events and are quickly forgotten.

What we can do is to look back on this year in the life and times of Patrick Leigh Fermor. The major event of course was Paddy’s death on 10 June at the age of ninety-six. A sad event for his family and close friends, but also for those of us who admired him for his writing and the life he lived. As the year closed it was time to celebrate his life at his Memorial Service held on 15 December in London.

As I hoped the blog has become a significant source of material about his life including rarely seen video. There have been over 228,000 visits over the last year and you have made it a much more interactive experience by using the comment facility to exchange information, provide your own memories of Paddy, and to express your admiration for him. At the time of his death I opened a page where you could express your thoughts about Paddy which has run to over 120 comments.

Paddy would probably have been somewhat bemused by the whole idea of the blog, but perhaps even more so by the interaction we now have with social networking sites with nearly 4,500 visitors finding the site from Facebook, and 850 via Twitter.

To conclude the year, and as the 365th post on the blog, let us take a look at some of the most popular articles over the last twelve months. Perhaps I can make one promise to you all which is that there is much more to come on the blog in 2012 which includes a lot of material submitted by you the readers of the blog.

The Funeral Service of Patrick Leigh Fermor, 16 June 2011 

Paddy’s funeral service was held on a typical English summer’s day at his home in Dumbleton. He returned to England just one day before his death and is buried beside his beloved Joan.

Obituary from The Independent by Paddy Leigh Fermor’s biographer Artemis Cooper 

Perhaps the definitive obituary.

Patrick Leigh Fermor … This is Your (Ill Met by Moonlight) Greek Life 

The amazing video from the Greek TV programme which reunited the participants of the Ill Met by Moonlight kidnap including Paddy, many of the Andartes, and General Kreipe and his wife.

Anthony Lane’s New Yorker article on Fermor is now free to view 

One of the most comprehensive profiles of Paddy which is now freely available to all. (the pdf download appears to be no longer available – click on the article to magnify to read and then drag your cursor to move around the page)

Intimate portraits from Kardamyli by Miles Fenton 

A series of personal photographs sent to me by Miles Fenton who is Paddy’s nephew and who now lives in Canada where he works as an artist.

Patrick Leigh Fermor recounts the kidnap of General Kreipe on video 

The ever popular video where Paddy talks in some detail about the Kreipe kidnap. (press play on Battle of Crete 7).

Colonel David Smiley 

David Smiley was a fellow occupant of Tara in Cairo with Paddy and Billy Moss et al who continued his military career with some distinction after the war and even led Japanese soldiers in a charge against VietMinh rebels!

Paddy’s eye for detail: Ian Fleming, Bondage, James Bond and Pol Roger 

It is probably the James Bond/Ian Fleming association which maintains the popularity of this article.

If food be the music of love … Bánffy’s lover in Cluj (Kolozsvár) 

No list of popular posts can be complete without the compelling combination of my passions for Paddy, Romania, Miklós Bánffy, and Cluj.

Patrick Leigh Fermor Memorial Order of Service 

The order of service from the joyful occasion that was Paddy’s Memorial Service.

Finally I would like to thank so many of you for your encouragement and support during 2011, and wish you all a very Happy New Year!

Tom Sawford

Archduke Otto von Habsburg

Otto von Habsburg with a bust of himself at Paks, Hungary, in 2005

The funeral of the last heir to the Habsburg throne takes places today in Vienna. By family tradition his heart will be buried separately in a Bedendictine monastery in Hungary at Pannonhalma Archabbey, symbolising I suppose Vienna’s claim on the Hungarian empire. The characters in his early family life feature in Miklós Bánffy’s books. Many of the old aristocrats that Paddy came across in Hungary and Romania had served the collapsed Habsburg Empire.

First published in the Telegraph July 4 2011

Archduke Otto von Habsburg, who died on July 4 aged 98, began his public life as the infant Crown Prince of the multinational Austro-Hungarian Empire, and ended it as Father of the multinational European Parliament.

Within that neatly closed circle lay all the major political dramas of the 20th century, most of which he witnessed and some of which he influenced. He was centre stage for one of them — the unequal struggle against Hitler for the survival of his Austrian homeland, which he tried to conduct as an exiled Pretender in the 1930s. Not for nothing did the Führer call the triumphant march-in of March 12 1938 “Operation Otto”.

All that seemed unimaginable to the world in which young Otto, as he was known, started life during the deceptively tranquil Indian summer of the 650-year-old Habsburg monarchy. He was born third in line to the throne on November 12 1912 in the small Vienna palace of Hetzendorf and christened with a string of names demonstrating that the blood of all the Roman Catholic royal families of Europe flowed in his veins: Franz Josef Otto Robert Maria Anton Karl Max Heinrich Sixtus Xavier Felix Renatus Ludwig Gaetan Pius Ignatius.

His father, the Archduke Karl, was a great-nephew of the ruling Emperor Franz Josef, and was then serving as an infantry major-commander at the regimental barracks in the capital. His mother was the former Princess Zita of Bourbon-Parma, and their marriage the year before had been that rare event in a dynasty plagued with so many matrimonial mishaps and misalliances — a happy union of two people perfectly matched in attractiveness, temperament and lineage. Their firstborn was to follow the prescription almost to the letter in his own marriage 38 years later.

At the time of his birth, the 11-nation monarchy still seemed safe, if somewhat wobbly, and his own time at its helm still fairly distant. One Viennese newspaper hailed the newborn prince as the future monarch who “according to the human calculations, will be called upon to steer the future of Europe in the last quarter of the 20th century”.

The assassination at Sarajevo on June 28 1914 of the heir apparent, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, alongside his morganatic wife, put a brusque end to all such calculations. Indeed, the First World War which broke out six weeks later was to spell the doom of Europe’s continental empires, that of the Habsburgs included.

Half way through the war, in the early hours of November 22 1916, the old emperor Franz Josef, who had ruled for a record-breaking 68 years, died at last.

An era, as well as a reign, was over, but the succession was smooth. Otto’s father automatically became the new emperor, and he, aged four, the new Crown Prince. His first ceremonial appearance came on November 30 1916 when he walked, a tiny figure in a white fur-trimmed tunic, between his parents behind the hearse of the late ruler at the great funeral procession in the capital.

A month later he was greeted with wild enthusiasm by the monarchy’s Magyar subjects when his father was crowned in Budapest as the new King of Hungary. The official photograph shows the young boy, dressed in ermine and velvet with a great white feather in his cap, sitting between his parents in their ornate coronation robes.

He always retained vague memories of those events, but these became much sharper when, two years later, the monarchy collapsed under the combined pressure of domestic upheaval and defeat on the battlefield.

The beginning of November 1918 saw him and his siblings stranded in a royal shooting lodge near Budapest, where an armed revolution had broken out. They were rescued by one of their Bourbon uncles, Prince René, who smuggled them across the border to rejoin their parents in the Schonbrunn Palace of Vienna. Otto had a child’s eye view of the collapse of the monarchy, abandoned by the aristocracy it had created.

On November 11 1918 the Emperor Karl, though not formally abdicating, “renounced participation in the affairs of state”. That same night they fled the deserted palace, heading at first for Eckartsau, their privately owned shooting lodge 40 miles north-east of the capital.

The winter there passed fairly calmly, but by the spring their tiny self-styled “court” was under threat from Left-wing agitators. (Austria had promptly declared itself a Republic after their flight from Vienna.)

Their rescuer now was not a family member but a British Army officer — Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Strutt, dispatched on the personal authority of King George V with orders to escort the beleaguered Austrian emperor and his family to safety. This Strutt accomplished in some style, reassembling their royal train for the journey into Switzerland on March 25 1919. Otto never forgot the experience. Whenever he heard in later life complaints about British indifference to the Habsburgs’ fate he would reply: “Yes, but there was always Strutt.”

The two and a half years of their Swiss exile were marked by the two attempts of the ex-Emperor to regain his Hungarian crown. Both were blocked in Budapest by Miklos Horthy, who had now ensconced himself in power as Regent. After the ignominious failure of the second restoration bid the family were exiled by the allied powers to Madeira, where Karl died, a broken man, on April 1 1922. That same day the nine-year-old Otto heard himself addressed as “Your Majesty” by the tiny household-in-exile. To the end of his days he remembered the shock it gave him: “Now it was my turn.”

Under the protection of their kinsman, King Alfonso XIII of Spain, the family moved to Lequeitio on the Spanish Basque coast. Otto remembered the seven years they spent there as their most tranquil time of exile. They were also, for him, the most hardworking. Under the strict supervision of his mother he took, under various tutors, the Matura (roughly, English A-levels) in both German and Hungarian. His further education was also the motive for their next move — to the gloomy castle of Hams at Steenokkerzeel, in Belgium, so that Otto could take his degree at the nearby university of Louvain. It was at Hams that Otto reached his 18th birthday and was duly declared, in a family ceremony with few outside guests, “in his own right sovereign and head of the house”.

However ghostly that title appeared, it was enough to impress the Austrian-born Adolf Hitler, who was manoeuvring to seize power in Germany. When in the winter of 1931-32 the young Pretender spent a few months studying in Berlin Hitler twice suggested a meeting.

The first invitation came from Prince August Wilhelm of Prussia, the dim-witted Nazi son of the exiled Kaiser, and the second via Goering himself. Otto refused both times on the spurious excuse that he had not come to Berlin to discuss politics (in fact, he was doing nothing but). Hitler was incensed by the snub and it touched off a six-year battle between the two men for the fate of their Austrian homeland.

The climax was reached in February and March of 1938 when a Nazi takeover in Vienna seemed imminent, prompting a short-lived show of defiance from the Austrian Chancellor Kurt Schuschnigg — a monarchist at heart but without the strength of his convictions. His vacillation prompted a remarkably courageous offer from the young Pretender to return from exile to take over the reins of government in order to repel Hitler. Schuschnigg dithered but eventually rejected the idea — perhaps just as well for Otto, who was already high on the Gestapo’s wanted list.

He had moved close to the top of that list by the time, two years after the Anschluss, that German armies swept into France and Belgium. The exiled Habsburgs got away from Hams only a few hours before Goering’s bombers attacked the castle, and then they joined the vast stream of refugees heading south. They eventually reached Lisbon, where they were still being hounded by the Gestapo. President Roosevelt (whom Otto had met in Washington just before the fall of France) then honoured his offer of “hospitality in an emergency” and they were all flown by Clipper seaplane to the United States.

As Otto von Habsburg later admitted, he wasted far too much energy during those wartime years in America on the faction-fighting among Austrian refugee groups instead of concentrating on the broader political picture. But, thanks largely to his personal ties with the President, he was able to repair the image of Austria so tarnished by its supine surrender to Hitler in the Anschluss. And, in the last months of the war, he worked closely with the White House in the vain attempt to lure Horthyite Hungary over to the Allied side.

Churchill, whom he met at the Quebec Conference, warmly supported the vision of a post-war conservative federation in Central Europe. Stalin put paid to those visions, however, and it was to a Communist-controlled Danube Basin that Otto returned in the spring of 1945.

He made a brief foray into Western Austria but was expelled by the reborn Austrian Republic, which had reaffirmed the anti-Habsburg legislation of 1919. He then faced a personal crisis — without a valid passport, a home or any regular income. He solved the last problem by embarking on a career as a journalist and public lecturer. This was exhausting but highly remunerative and, within five years, he had paid off all his wartime debts and was enjoying a comfortable income.

He could now think of finding a home and founding a family. The ideal partner appeared by chance in 1950, when he visited a refugee centre near Munich. Working there as a nurse was Princess Regina of Sachsen-Meiningen, herself a refugee whose father, Duke George III, had died in a Soviet concentration camp. The ideally-matched couple were married a year later and settled in a comfortable villa at Pocking, near Lake Starnberg in Bavaria. Their first five children were all girls, and it was not until 1961 that the birth of Karl Thomas, the first of two sons, assured the line of direct succession.

This prompted Otto to renounce his own dynastic claims and pursue what had long fascinated him, a full-time career in politics. He acquired dual German-Austrian nationality, and in 1979 was elected to the European Parliament as Christian Democrat member for North Bavaria. There he stayed for the next 20 years, becoming the highly regarded Father of the House and its only member to have been born before the First World War.

He proved an accomplished debater with a fluent command of seven European languages. Though he spoke on a variety of topics, his abiding theme was the need to bridge the East-West division of the continent and ultimately to bring all the nations of the old monarchy within the new European Union. He continued to work successfully at this even after his retirement, using the pan-European movement as his principal platform. He had been the president ever since the death of its founder, Count Coudenhove-Kalergi, in 1972.

On October 3 2004, Pope John Paul II beatified Otto’s father, Emperor Karl. It was an important event in Otto von Habsburg’s life, and one that perhaps softened the blow that had occurred five years earlier.

He had hoped that his son Karl would carry on the Habsburg name in the European Parliament, but in 1999 the young archduke — who had been sitting alongside his famous father as a Right-wing member for Western Austria — was dropped by his party after a controversy over the financing of his campaign funds. A subsequent attempt to launch Karl on to the Austrian domestic political scene proved a dire, if gallant, failure.

Otto von Habsburg’s wife, the Archduchess Regina, died in February 2010.

The Phoenix Land: The Memoirs of Count Miklós Bánffy

A reminder that Arcadia Books will be republishing Count Miklós Bánffy’s memoirs “The Phoenix Land” in June 2011. The book is already available for pre-order in bookshops such as Waterstones in the UK. and of course on Amazon. Arcadia first published this in 2004 and you can read a Spectator review here.

Bánffy’s memoirs were translated from the Hungarian by his daughter Katalin Bánffy-Jelen and Patrick Thursfield,winners of the Oxford Weidenfeld Translation Prize. Paddy once more offers a foreward. The blurb describes the book as follows:

“The thousand year-old year-old kingdom of Hungary, which formed the major part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the last Habsburg fled in 1918, was finally dismembered by the Western Allies by the terms of the peace treaties which followed the First World War. Phoenix-like the Hungarian people survived the horrors of war, the disappointment of the first socialist republic, the disillusion of the brief but terrifying communist rule of Béla Kun, and the bitterness of seeing their beloved country dismembered by the Treaty of Trianon. This is the world that Miklós Bánffy describes in The Phoenix Land.”

I contacted Gary Pulsifer at Arcadia for some further background and to ask him to explain more about why Bánffy is one of their authors. He sent me this, including a little vignette about Paddy and the writing of his introduction:

Tom, two reasons, one general, one specific. The first is that Arcadia specialises in translated fiction. The second is the story and this is it:

When I worked at Peter Owen Publishers I was invited to Tangier by the Hon David Herbert, one of Peter’s authors. He took my partner and me to lunch with his neighbour Patrick Thursfield, who as you know is the Bánffy co-translator. After lunch Patrick gave me the manuscript of THEY WERE COUNTED, which I read while I was on holiday, and was hooked. I tried to persuade Peter Owen to publish the trilogy, but no go, so when I started Arcadia in 1996 volume one was one of our early titles. I became quite close to Patrick, stayed with him in Tangier and saw a lot of him in London and he even once came along to the Frankfurt book fair. He was overjoyed when THEY WERE DIVIDED won the Weidenfeld Translation Prize (this happened at an awards ceremony in Oxford, when Umberto Eco presented the prize).

A funny aside is that Paddy’s forward was written in longhand and he came into our tiny offices to have Daniela de Groote, now our associate publisher, word-process it. Daniela, who is Chilean, hadn’t been in the UK all that long – she had been studying for a PhD here prior to working at Arcadia – and she had some difficulties in understanding Paddy’s upper crust accent as he dictated the foreword. Daniela was also catching a plane to Santiago that afternoon and the whole thing was a little much for her. So much so that I had to leave the office until they were finished . . .

The Phoenix Land: The Memoirs of Count Miklós Bánffy

I am just ten tantalising pages away from the end of Miklós Bánffy’s Transylvanian Trilogy (They Were Counted, They Were Found Wanting and They Were Divided) published by Arcadia books. If I have time I will write a short review very soon.The books are lively, and Bánffy writes so well about love, life, and politics in Transylvania and Hungary in the ten years leading up to the start of World War One, an event which was to tear apart the lives of so many, and which ended the comfortable existence of Hungarian aristocracy in Transylvania.

The story will almost certainly end in tragedy and sadness but that does not deflect from from what Patrick Leigh Fermor describes in his foreward to the Trilogy as a story that is “beyond question, dramatic.”.

One cannot read these books without wanting to know more about the author whom Paddy characterises as “such a deeply civilised man.”

The good news is that very soon we shall be able to do so once more when Arcadia Books re-publish Bánffy’s memoirs “The Phoenix Land”. Due for publication on 23 June 2011 the book is already available for pre-order in bookshops such as Waterstones in the UK. Arcadia first published this in 2004 and you can read a Spectator review here.

Bánffy’s memoirs were once again translated from the Hungarian by his daughter Katalin Bánffy-Jelen and Patrick Thursfield,winners of the Oxford Weidenfeld Translation Prize. Paddy once more offers a foreward. The blurb describes the book as follows:

The thousand year-old year-old kingdom of Hungary, which formed the major part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until the last Habsburg fled in 1918, was finally dismembered by the Western Allies by the terms of the peace treaties which followed the First World War. Phoenix-like the Hungarian people survived the horrors of war, the disappointment of the first socialist republic, the disillusion of the brief but terrifying communist rule of Béla Kun, and the bitterness of seeing their beloved country dismembered by the Treaty of Trianon. This is the world that Miklós Bánffy describes in The Phoenix Land.

In preparing this post I contacted Gary Pulsifer at Arcadia for some further background and to ask him to explain more about why Bánffy is one of their authors. He sent me this, including a little vignette about Paddy and his introduction:

Tom, two reasons, one general, one specific.  The first is that Arcadia specialises in translated fiction. The second is the story and this is it:

When I worked at Peter Owen Publishers I was invited to Tangier by the Hon David Herbert, one of Peter’s authors.  He took my partner and me to lunch with his neighbour Patrick Thursfield, who as you know is the Bánffy co-translator.  After lunch Patrick gave me the manuscript of THEY WERE COUNTED, which I read while I was on holiday, and was hooked.  I tried to persuade Peter Owen to publish the trilogy, but no go, so when I started Arcadia in 1996 volume one was one of our early titles.  I became quite close to Patrick, stayed with him in Tangier and saw a lot of him in London and he even once came along to the Frankfurt book fair.  He was overjoyed when THEY WERE DIVIDED won the Weidenfeld Translation Prize (this happened at an awards ceremony in Oxford, when Umberto Eco presented the prize).

A funny aside is that Paddy’s forward was written in longhand and he came into our tiny offices to have Daniela de Groote, now our associate publisher, word-process it.  Daniela, who is Chilean, hadn’t been in the UK all that long – she had been studying for a PhD here prior to working at Arcadia – and she had some difficulties in understanding Paddy’s upper crust accent as he dictated the foreword.  Daniela was also catching a plane to Santiago that afternoon and the whole thing was a little much for her.  So much so that I had to leave the office until they were finished . . .

You may enjoy browsing the current Arcadia 2011 catalogue which is here as a pdf.

Arcadia_2011

Related articles:

Paddy’s Introduction to the Transylvanian Trilogy by Miklos Banffy

If food be the music of love … Bánffy’s lover in Cluj (Kolozsvár)

A Journey to the Heart of Transylvania

Count Miklós Bánffy

To complete my very own trilogy on Banffy, here is an article, not just a review, by the always readable Charles Moore from the Daily Telegraph. I am so very much looking forward to the arrival of the first volume so that I can make a start!

Time to salute the Tolstoy of Transylvania

By Charles Moore. First published in The Telegraph 11 Jan 2010

This sequence of books began publication in 1934, so I have been rather slow to get round to it. The trilogy was first published in English between 1999 and 2001, so even in this country it is not new. But perhaps because of the smallness of the publishers, or perhaps because people here know little and care less about Transylvania (unless vampires are involved), these books are not well known. But their reputation has been spreading by word of mouth, so much so that it can be hard to find the volumes because they are often reprinting.

This growing acclaim is deserved. Bánffy’s trilogy is just about as good as any fiction I have ever read. I think of it this week because of snow. If you flick through the book, you will see that the author almost always places events in their weather and season. The hero, Balint, has estates in Transylvania which he is constantly attempting to manage on better and more enlightened lines. He is also in love with Adrienne, who is married to a sinister, possibly sadistic and increasingly insane man.

Balint visits his estates and tries to range as far as possible into their remote forests to stamp out local corruption, usually making an unintentional mess of things as he does so. The author walks with him, as it were, observing nature intently, and relating it to Balint’s private thoughts. In the depth of winter, Balint climbs down to a hidden waterfall which still bursts forth despite the frost: “Even when in the air it was degrees below zero steam would mingle with the spray to form icicles which hung from every bough and every overhanging rock, so that the fall itself was framed with great pillars of ice.” To Balint, “Adrienne’s image was conjured up by the beauty and restless movement of uncontrolled nature”.

Part of the point, the better for not being directly stated, is that Adrienne, at this time, is frigid, loving Balint, but fearful of all physical contact. The waterfall in winter naturally impresses itself on his mind. In late July, Balint climbs a mountainside which is shimmering with forest life, and sees “a little bird, smaller than a quail, with a strange swooping flight. It rose in the air, and then dropped again, and Balint saw that it was a young snipe, barely more than a fledgling and still very awkward. For a moment Balint watched the little bird’s efforts as twice more it flew up and then came to earth again, cowering in the grass as if too tired to try again.” The party passes quickly onward “so as not to frighten, or tire further, the little snipe in its first efforts to fly”. Once again – and once again without clunking overemphasis – the image of fragile new life relates to the couple’s love.

Count Miklós Bánffy, who wrote these novels, was a public man. He was the Hungarian foreign minister just after the First World War. Like Balint, he was a Hungarian who owned vast estates in Transylvania, where, in numerical, though not financial terms, Romanians predominated. His position, therefore, was rather like that of a benevolent Protestant landowner in Ireland before Partition. He loved the wider nation, indeed Empire (Austro-Hungarian), of which he was a part, but also his unusual little bit of it, though many of the inhabitants viewed him with suspicion.

Such an insider/outsider vantage point is a good one from which to view the politics of a great civilisation, especially of a civilisation in crisis. The titles of each book in the trilogy – for example, They Were Found Wanting – are taken from the writing on the wall that appeared, according to the Book of Daniel, at Belshazzar’s feast. The books are set in the years running up to 1914. They are full of love for the way of life destroyed by the First World War, but without illusion about its deficiencies.

One of the best scenes is the duel between László, Balint’s best friend and cousin, a handsome, hopeless, drunken man, and his rival in love. It is as good as Pushkin at describing the fear, the pointlessness, the idea of honour. It is also precise about the rules of duelling and how they were interpreted and disputed. The author fully inhabits the world he describes, without being enslaved by its values.

He has a good comic touch too. He is writing about a culture which worships England without knowing it very well. One young fellow is thrilled because he has managed to buy a pink English hunting coat (of “a marvellous material as hard and stiff as zinc”), but is then mortified that hunting etiquette (also derived from England) means that he cannot wear it at a meet of harriers. So, though everyone else is in black and white evening dress, he wears it to a ball, where his old breeches and boots smell so bad that the ladies will not go near him.

These novels are not well served by a puff on their covers which says they are “swashbuckling”. They aren’t remotely. Although they are very funny, they are deeply serious. They are like Anna Karenina and War and Peace rolled into one. Love, sex, town, country, money, power, beauty, and the pathos of a society which cannot prevent its own destruction – all are here.

Related article:

Paddy’s Introduction to the Transylvanian Trilogy by Miklos Banffy

Paddy’s Introduction to the Transylvanian Trilogy by Miklos Banffy

You may be interested in Paddy’s introduction to the trilogy written by Miklos Banffy. I have been able to find it on the web for you to enjoy. Paddy wrote this whilst staying with the Devonshire’s at Chatsworth, Christmas 1998.

 

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Related article:

Andrew Nurnberg to handle world rights for Miklos Banffy’s The Transylvanian Trilogy

Andrew Nurnberg to handle world rights for Miklos Banffy’s The Transylvanian Trilogy

I am in the process of purchasing Banffy’s trilogy but still waiting for the first volume. Will I be able to read it all before they make a TV series or movie??

Book Trade Info reports on 5 October 2010

Arcadia Books appoints Andrew Nurnberg and Piers Russell-Cobb of MediaFund to handle world rights and film & TV rights respectively for Miklos Banffy

ON THE EVE OF THE FRANKFURT BOOK FAIR, Arcadia Books has appointed Andrew Nurnberg to handle world rights (ex Hungary) in The Transylvanian Trilogy (They Were Counted, They Were Found Wanting and They Were Divided) and Piers Russell-Cobb of MediaFund to sell film and TV rights on behalf of Arcadia and the Banffy Estate.

Originally published in the 1930s in Hungary, the trilogy was ignored under the communists and republished to acclaim in the 1990s. Following publication of Arcadia’s prize-winning translation by Katalin Banffy-Jelen and Patrick Thursfield a decade ago – Banffy’s writing has been compared to that of Proust, Tolstoy, Milosz, Galsworthy, Roth, Musil, Lampedusa and Dostoevsky among others – the trilogy has been published in France (by Phebus Editions, in C and B format editions), Spain (Libros del Asteroide, instant bestsellers last year), Italy (just out with Einaudi) and the Netherlands (Atlas, 2011).

The Transylvanian Trilogy, winner of the Weidenfeld Translation Prize (presented by Umberto Eco), has attracted praise from, among others, Patrick Leigh Fermor (who penned the Foreword at Chatsworth), Jan Morris, Simon Jenkins, Charles Moore, Martha Kearney, Francis King and Allan Massie, has been the subject of a Guardian editorial and was also chosen as one of ‘1000 Novels You Must Read’ in that newspaper.

Comments Arcadia’s publisher Gary Pulsifer: ‘The combination of Andrew and Piers is explosive and we look forward to taking the trilogy to a new international level, including with our B format reprints now coming out, for which we have ear-marked a high marketing spend and a high-profile marketing campaign. Just after Spain bought the rights Italy immediately followed suit and there is serious interest from various other European countries.’ Adds Andrew Nurnberg: ‘Banffy is potentially very big, quite something . . . this has a rhythm and sense of place that one simply doesn’t find these days.’ Says Piers Russell-Cobb: ‘Andrew will do a brilliant job and I agree with you that we are onto a bestseller.’