Year-long Commemoration Honors Author Géza Gárdonyi’s Memory in Eger

In Hungary

Gábor Minczér

Honoring the memory of Hungarian author Géza Gárdonyi, his hometown city of Eger has been engaging in a year-long memorial year in 2022, marking the 100th anniversary of his death.

The town itself played a historically significant role in the survival of Hungary when it was besieged in the 16th-century Ottoman expansion into Europe. “If Eger falls,” as Gárdonyi writes in his historical novel the “Eclipse of the Crescent Moon” (Egri Csillagok), “the Turks will shake down the smaller castles like nuts. And then history will be able to inscribe Hungary in the book of the dead.”

Eger’s pride in its world-renowned writer is hard to doubt. As Deputy Mayor Gábor Minczér tells the Budapest Business Journal, without Gárdonyi’s lifework, with a solid focus on Eger, where the author lived for an extended period and which he loved, the city today would not enjoy such popularity on a national and international scale.

As Gárdonyi writes in “Eclipse of the Crescent Moon,” the “rage of tempest, a world-shattering storm of fire and blood” took Eger under siege. Without his storytelling abilities, the critical function of Eger in standing as the first line of defense for Hungary may have sunk into oblivion.

“Géza Gárdonyi brought Eger into the cultural and literary spectrum with his exceptional writing and storytelling skills,” Minczér tells the BBJ in an exclusive interview. “We are proud of this magnificent author and are thankful for what he did for our city. With this in mind, we celebrated his grandeur in 2013, which was the anniversary of his birth, and we are doing so again this year, the anniversary of his death.”

Cultural and Tourism Success

The commemoration spans the entire year, centered around the slogan “Writing for the Moon,” and showcases a wide range of thematic programs and performances. The events are organized in collaboration with local institutions and the university and have included scientific conferences. Based on feedback and footfall, Minczér has deemed the memorial year a success from both cultural and touristic aspects.

The memorial year peaked in August with the Gárdonyi Days, a week-long series that attracted substantial interest in the city. Events were scattered across Eger, including a jazz festival, joint musical and literary evenings, concerts, guided tours to pivotal scenes from “Eclipse of the Crescent Moon,” and educational treasure hunt activities for children.

The author’s importance is not limited to Eger but stretches to the borders of Hungary. Nationally, “Egri Csillagok” is an essential right-of-passage work for students, a critical foundation story to read and know by heart. It has been translated into two dozen languages, helping to tell the historical events of the battle for Eger to an international audience.

“Gárdony lived in many places in his lifetime, but he made it clear in his works that he particularly loved living in Eger. He is an important figure in our literary history and cultural heritage, and we hope our year of commemoration adequately honors his memory,” Minczér adds.

This article was first published in the Budapest Business Journal print issue of October 21, 2022.

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