Monday, January 13, 2014

Metaphors and history

I went the other day to the Hungarian National Museum. It’s heavy on the medieval aspects, but still has some excellent 20th century pieces, so I found it really useful.

There was an interesting section of the exhibit in which they collected the original street signs from the Communist regime-era, which were crossed out and later replaced with new names at the time of the overthrow of communist rule. No more Bela Kun Street. No more Leninvaros or Marx St. Just triumphant red lines through the old names.

It reminded me about the story of Robert Capa, who returned to his native Hungary a few years after the war. So much had been destroyed, and to cover up the rubble and loss, the Rakosi regime put up huge Soviet billboards and renamed the streets and squares. “Budapest,” said Capa, looked like “a beautiful woman with her teeth knocked out.”

You can't say that about Budapest today (ok, you shouldn't really say it anytime) ... but it's a good reminder of the power of metaphors and symbols in Hungary.

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