Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Fortune-teller of Humanity

One of the treasures of Hungarian literature is The Tragedy of Man by Imre Madách. My experience with the play is a story that is worth telling, and it is also a little warning against audiobooks. The Tragedy of Man is a compulsory reading in high school and as such, I was forced to read it. I did start reading it but with hardly any enthusiasm, as I was not a great fan of plays, or anything similar to those at that time. To ease my suffering, I decided to download the audiobook. I had a great time playing Fireboy and Watergirl online and I walked to school to write the test with way too much confidence. I failed once and then again. After that I listened to it again focusing on every word of the speaker and guess what, I could recite some of the lines later! The moral of the story is that you should avoid multitasking while listening to audiobooks.

Oddly, the experience of failure brought the play really close to me, and I realized that it has much to teach us even today. By us I mean the humanity, all the people of all the generations of human existence. It might sound extreme, but this is what the play is -vaguely- about: the man and his tendency to fail, make wrong decisions and regret. And to do it all over again and again. Sounds familiar, right?
An illustration of the play by Mihály Zichy

The plot of the dramatic poem, which I don't want to introduce here, starts with the creation of the world and of Adam and Eve. Although Adam is the protagonist of the play, I consider Lucifer, the antagonist as the main character. Without him there would be no story, nothing to write about. If it would not be clear yet, The Tragedy of Man is a biblical story, but 11 of its 15 scenes take place in different times and places and most importantly, different political systems. Lucifer is the one who leads Adam through the centuries to show him what life will be like. Adam feels often devastated and hopless as he sees how life turned out but it all adds to (one of) the main message(s) of the play: It is a characteristic of the human race to wish for something and then be unsatisfied and wish for something else. (This just reminded me of a song, surprisingly called Something Else by Good Charlotte)

This is something that I learned at the age of 16 by myself. Of course, I was told that it is important, but it was me who figured out why it is so and I was surprised to see how current all of it is. I think we can even say that Madách was a genius, fortune-teller of humanity. Read it, and let yourselves be enlightened!

Available on Amazon:
Classic Reprint - Ironically, this edition is part of the "Forgotten Books" series.
Paperback only

For the online version on the Hungarian Online Library click here.

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