“A moment cannot be foreseen, only recognized.”
The Moment (A pillanat) is novel by Hungarian writer Magda Szabó published in 1990, when she was 72 years old and already achieved the status of the most significant contemporary Hungarian author. But the idea for writing it came as early as when she was still an ambitious student of Latin language and literature looking at Virgil’s poem about Trojan hero Aeneas who, after the doom of Troy and following a divine proclamation, took his people to a new homeland – present day Italy – where, soon after arrival, he married Lavinia, the daughter of King Latinus, thus becoming the forefather of the illustrious Roman people. But in order for this to occur, the Roman poet had to sacrifice Aeneas’ wife Creusa – just like many other women on his path – the daughter of Trojan king Priam, who died during her escape from Troy.
But what if this did not happen and someone else died instead of Creusa? What if Creusa decided to confront destiny and the gods, telling them that no one has the right to justify their self-made up divine essence by sacrificing mortals?
By reviving Creusa, who was “unfairly banished from the epic poem,” and writing her version of the story – the Creusaid – the author boldly stood against any kind of “conventionalized” artistic reinterpretation of history, while simultaneously making a jest at attempts to impose state mythologies, dictatorships, totalitarian regimes… In this regard, the novel by Magda Szabó is a complete departure from poetics of her other novels.
Author: Magda Szabó
Translator: Lea Kovács