The Crutch
György Faludy (1910-2006) was one of the greatest poets of modern Europe. He spent his final, extraordinarily creative years in his native Hungary, where he returned after decades of self-imposed exile. He then married Fanny Kovács, a poet aged 28, and outraged the authorities with his riotous way of life while basking in the love of his enormous, loyal public. Maecenas Press of Budapest has marked the centenary of his birth by publishing a Faludy collection in English translation (37 Vers/37 Poems, trans. Peter Zollman, 2010, 208pp., ISBN: 9789632032252, 2,490 Forints or about £8).
His 1962 memoir, My Happy Days in Hell, is published in Penguin Modern Classics. It is an incisive account of the demoralising effects of Communism and the horrors of forced labour - but is also very funny, and utterly life-enhancing. The critic Philip Toynbee once wrote: 'Faludy is the man we would all like to be.' Few books say as much about the central, most appalling  experiences of the twentieth century.


History cannot be predicted.
The girls of today are lovelier, brighter,
the boys more sporty and more cheerful
and far less erudite.

Some seven nations fabricate A-bombs,
like machineguns or cannon of old.
If you worry, they will reassure you: we
produce them not to use them, you’re told.

There are a lot more than a billion
Chinese. We are not interested
in them. They work and keep their silence.
What if they make a request?

The mighty sheets of Arctic ice
melt beneath the polar bears.
Will the rising oceans spare us
behind our seawalls built of prayers?

Our great green plain becomes a dust cloud,
a dirt-grey, dry, deserted dump.
Only the Voice of God could help, but
the Lord never blows the trumpet.


Last night again I read, as I often do,
some poetry in bed until very late.
It’s 10 a.m. A brilliant winter sky.
Light and broken clouds in disarray.

My spirit soars. I raise an arm towards them
(in an appropriate greeting to the brightness)
until I pause and freeze and shudder frightened:
for I see my hand, but not my fingertips.

Above the divan, I note that the silver frame
of the Italian painting is slightly bent on one side.
I leap from the bed excited. As I finger the frame:
it never has been straighter than today.

I settle at the table and reach for the papers, in
a casual gesture in my plight, despite
not just a fear, despite the foreknowledge that this
unfolding horror is only about to begin.

I can still negotiate the banner headlines
but not the standard size print, as the tiny writing
blurs into a lengthy dirt-grey smudge on the white
without a single letter that I can distinguish.

I’ve been excluded from the delight of reading.
I cannot tell whose letter is put in my hand.
I cannot even read what I have written, and
I might as well discard my own library.

So that’s how it is. Yet, will I have the strength
to pursue my poetry still, on losing my sight?
What will become of me? I walk my path,
the crutch upon my left. At right, the wife.


Your arm describes the sun's curved course while standing
beside the earth, your anvil and domain.
For eight long decades, I've sought understanding
upon the scaffolding, my Lord, in vain.

I'm left with lifeless forms or idols moulded
beneath my chisel from the crumbling blocks --
Your fleeting rainbow has remained unfolded.
It glows beyond my reach within the rocks.

Although I have grown clumsy, violated
by every storm, rough, mute and isolated --
my soul reflects the light that You have shone.

How can I cast aside the body's inner
confines? If You still love an aging sinner,
strike here, great Master Sculptor! I'm the stone.

György Faludy

Translated from the Hungarian by Thomas Land

If you have any comments on this poem, Thomas Land would be pleased to hear them.