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György Konrád dies at 86

September 16th, 2019

The pro-government Mayor of Budapest praises the deceased liberal writer, while left-liberal authors describe him as a free thinker who never compromised with oppressive regimes.

György Konrád, one of the leading personalities of the dissident movement in the 1980s and a founding member of the liberal Alliance of Free Democrats died in Budapest on Friday. He was a resolute critic of the incumbent government but agreed with it on the issue of curbing mass immigration. He is one of the best-known Hungarian writers in the world and served as President of Pen International in the early 1990s.

Magyar Nemzet reports in its headline that Budapest Mayor István Tarlós expressed his sympathy to Konrád’s family and offered on behalf of the capital city to take care of his funeral. He noted that György Konrád was elected an honorary citizen of Budapest in 2003 (by the previous left-liberal majority in the city council).

On 24.hu, György Simó a former liberal columnist and now a company manager, recalls that Konrád, a Holocaust survivor, was a fervent patriot and never abandoned his country – not after the Holocaust in which several of his immediate relatives perished, nor after the 1956 Revolution which he supported had been crushed, nor even in the mid Seventies when the Communist authorities wanted to get rid of him by offering him a chance to emigrate. He avoids mentioning Konrád’s criticism of the current political regime.

In another obituary on the same left-liberal website, Róbert Braun, who served as a key advisor to the Free Democrats then briefly to Socialist PM Péter Medgyessy, and who is now a fellow at the Vienna Institute of Advanced Studies, calls the year 2019 an ‘annus horribilis’ for Hungary’s intellectual life. Other prominent liberals who died recently include philosopher Ágnes Heller and architect and screen-set designer László Rajk, both of whom were prominent dissidents under Communism. Braun complains that today’s Hungary is ‘an unhappy and dishonest country’ and describes Konrád as a faultlessly honest person who lived a life of ‘quiet but relentless revolt’.

On Hirklikk, former MSZP Chairwoman Ildikó Lendvai recalls that in his essay on the nature of the Communist Regime in 1975, Konrád and his co-author, sociologist Iván Szelényi described it as a vehicle used by intellectuals to grab power over the rest of society. Fourteen years after the book was seized by the authorities and Szelényi was forced to emigrate, Lendvai, as director of a publishing house, helped the publication of the book and rather agreed with its analysis. (She had been appointed director of the publishing house after having served as an official within the Communist Party central apparatus.)  I her final reference to today’s political élite, she writes that it can by no means be described as a class of intellectuals.

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