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Gyorgy Cziffra - Memoirs

Feb 14, 2018



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  • 7/23/2019 Gyorgy Cziffra - Memoirs



    Soleilka Cziffra

    Deux tions et navions quun cur . Franois Villon. (We were two with

    but one heart.

    !" an #$%&tian' born in o"e. )oleil*a "eans sun. +ot that !" bein$

    &retentious, the na"e was $iven to "e b% "% &arents -ust li*e %ours was. % /ather

    use0 to sa% lau$hin$l%' 12oure a 0au$hter o/ the sun' )oleil*a' an0 %ou will rise

    above ever%thin$.1

    3e use0 to tell "e that the rulers o/ 4ncient #$%&t were our ancestors an0 that

    ! shoul0 be &rou0 to be a 0au$hter o/ the sun. 4n0 so ! was 5 ver% &rou0.

    6ust /or /un' ! woul0 $o out into the $ar0en an0 call out to the sun' 1)hine71

    )ince we live0 in o"e' it shone. 8hat was eas%. ! woul0 call to the win0' 19rin$ us

    so"e rain71 an0 it raine0. !/ it 0i0nt' it was -ust that the trees werent thirst%. 8heres

    a si"&le ex&lanation /or ever%thin$ i/ %ou 0ont want to lose heart.

    ! "arrie0 :eor$es ;?@. With hi" ! live0 throu$h war

    an0 &eaceA he &la%e0 /or the livin$ an0 the 0ea0. We ex&erience0 0eath' /ire' art' love

    an0' above all' /aith an0 resurrection. 8hen we lost our son. 8hen ! lost "% husban0.

    4t this "o"ent !' 0au$hter o/ the sun an0 o/ the &us

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    eternit% is the "essa$e o/ )aint Fra"bour$, 12our 0ee0s shall be accounte0 /or in the

    real"s o/ the livin$ an0 the 0ea0.1

    :eor$es an0 ! live0 throu$h war an0 &eaceA he &la%e0 /or the livin$ an0 the

    0ea0. We ex&erience0 /ire' art' love an0' above all' /aith an0 resurrection.

    May, 1996.

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    With a past suh as !i"e, it is i!possi#le for !e to i!a$i"e a !usiia" floati"$

    sere"e a"% i!pertur#a#le a#o&e the earth. 'his prelu%e is i"te"%e% to re!o&e a"y

    suh !isu"%ersta"%i"$.

    People are, ( feel, )eary of %esriptio"s )ith its e*eutio"ers a"% !artyrs,ri!i"als a"% heroes, its proessio"s of horrors a"% $reat %ee%s.

    +et as soo" as ( start to e&oke that perio% of !y life, i!a$es of !aor a"% !i"or

    e&e"ts of the last )ar flit past !e- !y !e!ories of a Europe afla!e a"% flo)i"$ )ith

    #loo% i"tert)i"e, t)ith a"% %ie. Europe plu"$e% i"to %ark"ess #y the elipse of the

    hu!a" !i"%.

    'hat lo"$ "i$ht e*plai"s )hy a !aor part of !y e*perie"e has "ot #ee" o" the

    )orl%/s o"ert platfor!s #ut i" the operati"$ theatre of %rea%ful )ar. 0o) !a"y of

    us, )he" ( thi"k #ak, )ere )aiti"$ for the !irale of peae, lo"$i"$ for it, )e the

    i"ha#ita"ts of u%apest as !uh as those of Paris or the other ities of Europe2

    ( %o"/t k"o) )hether suh episo%es i" !y life a!e #ak to !e %eli#erately or

    i"sti"ti&ely. (t is "ot so !uh a taki"$3stok as a o"fro"tatio" #et)ee" t)o )orl%s

    )hih k"o) "othi"$ of eah other, irreo"ila#le fra$!e"ts of eter"ity o" %iffere"t


    With ti!e, so!ethi"$ o#&ious has ourre% to !e a#out !y %isor%ere%

    !e!ories4 o"ly the la)s of relati&ity a" e*plai" )hy ( a" fi"% "o li"k #et)ee" past

    a"% prese"t, )hy !y i""er )orl% is split i"to t)o isla"%s.

    'hat is )hy ( a" o"ly re&eal !yself as ( )as at the ti!e 5 a hil% the" a sol%ier.rt a"% !usi ha% "o part to play i" )ar or the %estitutio" of !y fa!ily. (t shoul% #e

    u"%erstoo% that %uri"$ that perio% ( )as ut off fro! !y past a"% !y future4 ( ha% "o

    ti!e to )eep "ostal$ially for !y youth or %rea! of !y future. My relatio"ships )ith

    others )ere purely a"i!al3like, !eha"ial a"% auto!ati. +ou shoul% realize that (

    a"/t )rite a#out it all philosophially, looki"$ %o)" peaefully fro! a hei$ht o" the

    horror a"% a#sur%ity of the $oo% ol% ti!es, tha"ki"$ o% for sa&i"$ !e fro! hellfire

    as thou$h so!e ara"e Pro&i%e"e ha% pla""e% it all.

    (t is "ot the piture of a you"$ !a" seate% at a pia"o that o!es to !i"% #ut that

    of a sol%ier )a"%eri"$ i" "o !a"/s la"%. Duri"$ the lo"$ )ar years, ( for$ot e&erha&i"$ touhe% a key#oar%. My ha"%s )ere "o %iffere"t fro! those of other

    o!#ata"ts4 ha"%s for )iel%i"$ a )eapo", for eati"$, for sur&i&i"$, ha"%s raise%

    u"%er the !e"ae of a !ahi"e $u", ha"%s tie% #ehi"% o"e/s #ak. 0o) oul% ( ha&e

    re!e!#ere% )hat it )as like to ha&e the supple ha"%s of a !usiia"7 'hose ha% %ie%

    )ith the )ar.

    'here are stra"$e oi"i%e"es i" life )hih ( a! te!pte% to see as si$"s.

    E!otio"al !o!e"ts of parti"$ or of retur" to life are the o"ly la"%!arks i" a harsh

    series of e&e"ts of )hih the o!i"$ to$ether i" ti!e a"% spae passes all

    u"%ersta"%i"$. 8ro! his earliest years, !y so" yr$y has #ee" a#le to i"terpret the!ysterious si$"s )hih pursue !e "o) as they %i% i" the past. ( e"truste% !yself to

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    hi! )ithout realizi"$ it, #it #y #it #y hi"ts, e&e" i" $la"es a"% sile"es. 'hese tales

    fro! !y life ha&e see" the li$ht tha"ks to our i"&alua#le u"%ersta"%i"$ a"% are "o)

    a&aila#le to all.


    ("e*ora#le po&erty e"shrou%e% !y !other, sisters a"% !e i" the si"$le ti"yroo! )here )e li&e%. (t #eat i"essa"tly a$ai"st the )alls a"% a$ai"st the #ath tu#

    i"to )hih ( fell )he" ( )as #or". With it a!e %estitutio" a"%, )orst of all,

    star&atio" 5 :'he reat Daily/, as it )as k"o)".

    (t assaile% us u"til ( )as ei$ht, passi"$ o&er !e )ithout rushi"$ the little hil%

    that ( )as or rui"i"$ !y health, %espite the paralyzi"$ effet it ha% o" us.

    Whe" ( #ea!e a" a%ult, the pha"to! of that pitiless ruelty )hih ha%

    &iiously hou"%e% our hu!#le e*iste"e ofte" appeare% i" our hau"te% %rea!s. Later,

    e&e" thou$h life has "ot al)ays %ei$"e% to sho) !e its su""iest si%e, ( )as a#le to

    look o" those %rea%ful e&e"ts )ith ertai" o#eti&ity4 ha% )e really %eser&e% suhi"re%i#le har%ship7 0a% all our sufferi"$s really e*iste%7 0a%"/t it all #ee" ust a

    "i$ht!are, &a"ishi"$ su%%e"ly as if #y so!e %i&i"e or%er the #etter to let us $lory i"

    our &itory7

    Whe"e&er pitures of the past o!e #ak to !e, ( %o "ot see the! )ith !y

    se"si#ility as it is "o)- ( ha&e $ra%ually o!e to e*perie"e the past as ( %i% at the


    (t is i" this se"se that the theory of relati&ity see!s !ost appropriate i" !y ase.

    (t alo"e !akes a" utterly po&erty3strike" past re%i#le, )hile at the sa!e ti!esho)i"$ )hat a #ou"%less %ista"e e*ists #et)ee" that past a"% the perso" a%%ressi"$

    you "o). 'here are t)o %iffere"t states of a)are"ess a"% yet the sa!e !a" #ears

    the! )ithi" hi!self.

    (s"/t the seret of our resista"e to the #lo)s of 8ate the a#ility to for$et that life

    is e&er3ha"$i"$7 ;ur sal&atio" is i" fat %ue to our asto"ishi"$ a#ility to a%apt

    )hih, if "eessary, !o%ifies our !eta#olis!, #oth physial a"% !e"tal. Suh

    tra"sfor!atio" e"sures our sur&i&al, ho)e&er $reat the %istress, for the !i"%

    $ra%ually puts asi%e all other preoupatio"s u"til it a" "o lo"$er e&e" o"ei&e of

    a"y other for! of e*iste"e tha" the prese"t. 8or !e, looki"$ #ak is "ot ust a" e&e"i"$ re!i"isi"$ #y the firesi%e or tears

    of e!otio" o" looki"$ throu$h a" ol% photo al#u!. (t !ea"s plu"$i"$ i"to a stra"$e,

    al!ost u"k"o)" )orl%, )hih ( $ra%ually %eipher. 'here is "o #ri%$e or path)ay4 to

    $et to the other si%e you ha&e to leap i"to the &oi% a"% lose si$ht of the prese"t )orl%.

    We )ere "ot alo"e o" that raft of po&erty. 'he sour$e of o% )hih fell upo"

    us )as the lot of ou"tless fa!ilies )hih trie% like us to li&e 5 or rather stay ali&e 5

    i" the )hite )oo%e" huts hastily ra!!e% to$ether o" the outskirts of u%apest

    tha"ks to so!e hu!a"itaria" or$a"izatio" )hih ha% %esi$"ate% this u"sa"itary

    !asterpiee a :te!porary resi%e"tial #lok/. 'he spot )as alle% :'he La"% of"$els/. 'hat )as all )e "ee%e% to all our %)elli"$s :"$el Court/.

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    My !other a"% sisters ha% ha% to !o&e i"to the totteri"$ hut, perhe% o" piles,

    attri#ute% to the! "ot lo"$ #efore !y #irth. Re!o&al )as "o pro#le!4 they %i% "ot

    ha&e a"ythi"$ to !o&e. 0o) ha% they su"k to this )he" o"ly a short ti!e #efore they

    ha% #ee" li&i"$ i" a s!art flat i" Paris7 )ar.

    short ti!e after the %elaratio" of )ar, the 8re"h $o&er"!e"t ha% issue% a

    %eree e*pelli"$ all forei$" resi%e"ts )hose ou"tries of ori$i" )ere fi$hti"$ a$ai"st8ra"e. 'heir property )as to #e o"fisate%. Si"e he )as a 0u"$aria" itize", !y

    father )as i!!e%iately i!priso"e%, the" i"ter"e% i" a speial a!p alo"$ )ith

    se&eral hu"%re%s of others, also of :e"e!y/ "atio"ality. My !other )as $i&e" "otie

    to lea&e 8re"h territory )ithout %elay #y speial o"&oy, eah perso" ha&i"$ the

    ri$ht to fi&e kilos of lu$$a$e. 'heir fiftee" kilos o"tai"e% the little that re!ai"e% of

    !y father/s ear"i"$s fro! his years as a a#aret !usiia". 'he rest )as si!ply

    seize%4 fur"iture, fa!ily sou&e"irs, e&erythi"$ represe"ti"$ so!e fra$!e"t of the

    happi"ess of their li&es up till the".

    0er arri&al at %a)" at u%apest statio", shrou%e% i" )i"ter fo$, a""ot ha&e

    #ee" e*atly oyous. Like !ost of her fello) tra&ellers )ho, u"%er the sa!e si$" of

    %esti"y, stare% #la"kly a"% %espairi"$ly at the )orl% o"fro"ti"$ the!, she ha%

    "othi"$ to look for)ar% to a"% "o3o"e to )elo!e her. 'he our"ey ha% %rai"e% her

    !orally a"% physially. She ha% tra&elle% the )hole )ay seate% i" the orri%or o" her

    little suitase )ith her seo"% %au$hter i" her ar!s.

    'he el%est lay "ear her o" the floor. Ma"y others our"eye% i" suh o"%itio"s

    for they ha% all left 8ra"e o" a" e?ual footi"$. 'he trai" arrie% t)ie as !a"y

    people as there )ere seats a"% !y !other, )ho )as the" thirty3ei$ht, $ot out of the

    trai" o" the poi"t of ollapse )ith "o i%ea of )here to $o or )ith )hat o#eti&e.

    Resi$"e% yet )ishi"$ )ith all her heart for so!e !irale to our, she a"% her

    hil%re" !a%e their )ay to)ar%s the e*it.

    t the e"% of the platfor! stoo% a fe) $uar%ia" a"$els se"t alo"$ #y the

    0u"$aria" Re% Cross a"% )aiti"$ )ith a" air of o!plete i"%iffere"e for all those

    #e)il%ere% people so that they oul% #e sorte%. 'hey )ere asse!#le% a"% aske%

    strai$ht out if a"y of the! )oul% like per!a"e"t lo%$i"$s. (" her e*hauste% state, !y

    !other sai% yes )ithout e&e" e"?uiri"$ )here a"% i" )hat o"%itio"s she )as to #e

    #illete%. 0er perio% of !artyr%o! #e$a" shortly #efore the start of !y o)" life story. ll this )as o"ly a foretaste of the %istress )hih )as to )i"% its te"tales

    arou"% her for years to o!e a"% of the %aily a"*iety the !e"ai"$ sha%o) of

    star&atio" ause%.

    My first ho!e, that hut )a&eri"$ o" stilts, o!es #ak to !e i" a stra"$e, !isty

    halo. Why i"%ee% )as ( #or" there of all plaes7 ( ha&e "o i%ea. (t )as !y !eeti"$

    plae )ith Desti"y a"% there !y father fou"% us all )he" he )as release% fro!

    i"ter"!e"t i" the 8re"h priso" a!p. @or oul% ( say if the ri$ht to li&e, $ra"te% to

    e&ery hu!a" #ei"$ )he" he o!es i"to the )orl%, )as the $reatest of re)ar%s or a

    supre!e i"flitio" for a hil% #or" i" :"$el Court/. Perhaps it )as #oth.

    'he #ak$rou"% of !y early years )ill "ot take lo"$ to %esri#e. 'he epie"tre

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    of the slou$h of %estitutio" ( li&e% i" )ith !y pare"ts a"% sisters )as #ou"%e% #y the

    fe) %oze" o"strutio"s, all alike, o" the !akeshift estate. 'he terrai" )as !arshy so

    the City Cou"il, i" a #urst of hu!a"itaria"is!, %ei%e% to ele&ate the rotti"$

    e%ifies. 'hese )ere li"ke% i" fours #y a )oo%e" #alo"y )hih ate% as a

    passa$e)ay. E&ery #lok )as %i&i%e% i"to a %oze" roo!s ei$htee" yar%s #y t)e"ty3

    o"e, eah )ith a" i%e"tial ope"i"$4 a ti"y )i"%o) o" a le&el )ith the %oor, looki"$o"to the i""er yar% 5 a sea of !u% i" autu!", a skati"$ ri"k i" )i"ter 5 the latter a

    para%ise for hil%re" #ut a pur$atory for the el%erly.

    'he o"ly stairase for the i"ha#ita"ts )as a !o%el of its ki"%. (t ha% #ee" a%%e%

    as a" afterthou$ht, a sort of !iller/s la%%er, its ori$i"al ru"$s replae% #y pla"ks, )ith

    a sy!#oli ha"%rail )hih hil%re" a"% ol% people alike !a%e sure "ot to touh.

    Lo%$i"$s suh as these oul% o"ly e"oura$e the sprea% of hu!a" %e$ra%atio" yet the

    pu#li health authorities i" all $oo% o"sie"e ra!!e% i" u"e!ploye% %o)"3a"%3

    outs )ith their lar$e, po&erty3strike" fa!ilies. @o aou"t )as take" of the "u!#er

    of hil%re" or of their state of health4 eah fa!ily )as allotte% ust o"e roo!. partfro! :e"oyi"$ the ri$hts/ to the ope" spae rou"%a#out, the estate %)ellers ha% "o

    a%&a"ta$es, u"less the o"sta"t supply of "auseous air fro! the "ear#y !arshes


    'he roo!s )ere %a!p #eyo"% #elief yet, i" the half3li$ht of )i"ter e&e"i"$s,

    they )ere the o"ly safety "et left to all those )ho! e&e" 8ate ha% $ro)" )eary of

    #atteri"$. 'hey li&e% stra"%e%, oope% up i" the ho&els they ha% #ee" allotte%, all

    hopes %ashe% 3 a"% )e li&e% i" their !i%st. (t )oul% #e i"o"$ruous to speak of

    o!fort i" suh a o"te*t. 'he )or% "o !ore e*iste% i" our &oa#ulary tha" it %i% i"

    the #rillia"t !i"% of the property %ealer respo"si#le for the )oo%e" slu!. 0e ha% "ote&e" thou$ht to pro&i%e the ti"iest spae for a sto&e o" )hih, if o"ly o" oasio",

    !y !other a"% her "ei$h#ours !i$ht ha&e o"ote% o"e of those %ishes, usi"$ a fe)

    sraps, of )hih o"ly the truly poor ha&e the seret. 'he )ater i" the )ell at :"$el

    Court/ )as "o !ore %ri"ka#le tha" the li?ui% i" the hea% of the 0ealth ;ffiial )ho

    ha% ha% it %rille% 5 a$ai" #eause of i"filtratio" fro! the !arshes rou"% the estate.

    Pro!isuity )as fore% o" a%ults a"% hil%re" alike as they )ashe% a"% relie&e%

    the!sel&es i" a #uket i" o"e or"er of the roo!. Eah e&e"i"$ it )as e!ptie% i"to a

    pit situate%, as luk )oul% ha&e it, at the other e*tre!ity of the estate. 'hose still

    healthy e"ou$h lay #esi%e the sik a"% !a%e lo&e i" full &ie) of e&eryo"e. 'heir )ayof life 5 if suh sta$"atio" oul% #e alle% life 5 ha% soo" ri% the! of a"y feeli"$ of

    e!#arrass!e"t or sha!e.

    'here )ere at least fi&e people to a fa!ily i" the sha"ty to)". t first, !y

    !other a"% sisters )ere "ot too ra!pe% i" their roo!. 'he li&i"$ spae )as

    suffiie"t, if har%ly aepta#le, for three. Whe" !y father retur"e%, our fa!ily $re)

    a"%, after ( )as #or", there )ere fi&e of us to e"oy the lifestyle.

    So!e of the #etter3off "ei$h#ours oul% affor% the lu*ury of a" ol% !attress,

    )hih they set up o" hoks. ;thers $ot hol% of a" ol% a!p #e%. Like !ost other

    fa!ilies, )e )ere "ot so luky. 0opi"$ for so!ethi"$ #etter i" the future, )e slept o"

    ol% ute saks refille% re$ularly )ith fresh stra) #y our pare"ts, a"% these !a%e

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    pleasa"tly soft #e%s.

    'he raft of po&erty $athere% spee% as it )as suke% i"to the !aelstro! of

    %e$e"eratio". E&e" so, people )e"t o" li&i"$ at :"$le Court/ )ith utter i"%iffere"e.

    'he u"e!ploye% re!ai"e% u"e!ploye%- the %rea!ers %rea!t- the hu"$ry )e"t

    hu"$ry a"% the pessi!ists ha% "i$ht!ares. (" atual fat, they ha% "o "ee% to4 it )as

    e"ou$h to ope" o"e/s eyes a"% look arou"%. So!e ti!e later, !y sister tol% !e that ayou"$er sister, #or" shortly #efore !e, ha% tie% of ' as a o"se?ue"e of so !uh


    s !y !other later tol% !e, ( )as a little o&er t)o )he" !y you"$er sister ha%

    a ?uite u"e*pete% ha"e to u!p off the raft )hih )as arryi"$ us alo"$. My

    !other hurrie% to fill i" a for! for the Duth Re% Cross, )hih propose% lo%$i"$s for

    a ertai" "u!#er of 0u"$aria" hil%re" o" a te!porary #asis, )ith harita#le Duth

    fa!ilies payi"$ their shool fees, #oar% a"% lo%$i"$, et... 'he offer )as li!ite% to

    o"e hil% per fa!ily, pro&i%i"$ heAshe fitte% the riteria of :i" speial "ee%/. s

    re$ar%s po&erty, )e )ere )ell up to the !ark. (t )as "ot %iffiult to u"%ersta"% !y

    !other/s relief at k"o)i"$ that at least o"e !e!#er of her fa!ily )oul% #e )ell

    pro&i%e% for. So o"e %ay !y sister left for 0olla"% to spe"% her hil%hoo% free fro!

    )a"t. Shortly after)ar%s, !y pare"ts reei&e% a letter fro! her hosts aski"$ the! to

    take the "eessary steps to ha&e her le$ally a%opte%. 'he &ery i%ea )as re&olti"$ to

    the!. 0o)e&er, sik at heart, they aepte%. What else oul% they ha&e %o"e7 'he

    threat of u"%er3"ourish!e"t 5 a" e&er3prese"t $uest at our rare !eals 5 a"%, )orse

    still, star&atio" 3 the %aily spetre 5 fore% the %eisio" o" the!. 'hey ust oul% "ot

    fae a"y lo"$er that feeli"$ of helpless"ess a"% a"$uish )hih #rou$ht a lu!p to the

    throats of e&ery pare"t o" the estate e&ery ti!e a loss of e"er$y i" o"e of the fa!ily)as "otie%. 'i!e passe%. Like a"y hil% )ho ha"$es ou"tries at a" early a$e, !y

    sister lear"t Duth as ?uikly as she for$ot her !other to"$ue. 'o start )ith, !y

    pare"ts hear% fro! her re$ularly the" the letters $re) fe)er a"% fi"ally stoppe%


    t least she ha% esape% fro! the ship )hih )as slo)ly si"ki"$ #e"eath us. We

    )ere li"$i"$ o" fast 5 #ut for ho) !uh lo"$er7 'o ap it all, !y father/s health

    pre&e"te% hi! )orki"$ full ti!e. 'he poor !a" persiste% i" !aki"$ his )ay to

    u%apest i" the hope of fi"%i"$ a#aret )ork. 'he outo!e )as i"e&ita#le4 either

    there )ere "o o#s or the last o"e ha% ust $o"e. (" the e&e"i"$, he %o)"hearte%ly!a%e his )ay #ak, suki"$ o" a" ol% pipe as e!pty as his pokets. ;" arri&al, he sat

    %o)" o" his lo) hair i" a or"er of the roo! a"%, his eyes #la"k, #roo%e% o&er his


    My !other/s hief )orry )as, of ourse, of the sa!e or%er. 'o a little #oy, his

    )ay of %isretely %isappeari"$ )as as !ysterious as his su%%e"ly reappeari"$. ( )as

    at o"e asto"ishe% a"% %eli$hte% at his al)ays #ei"$ there. tually, it )as tha"ks to

    his $ift for #ei"$ i" se&eral plaes at o"e there he )as a#le to pik up here a"% there

    ust e"ou$h oppers to o&er the ost of the paraffi" )e "ee%e% for our la!p i" the

    e&e"i"$. ;" those %ays )he" !y pare"ts #oth a!e #ak e!pty3ha"%e%, )e )e"t to

    #e )ith the su". 0e )ho sleeps for$ets his hu"$er2 My !other )rappe% !e i" a sort

  • 7/23/2019 Gyorgy Cziffra - Memoirs


    of sha)l a"% stuffe% !e i"si%e o"e of the !attresses )hih !a%e up the !aor part of

    our fur"iture. ( )as protete% fro! frost#ite, #ut ho) lo"$ those %ark e&e"i"$s

    see!e% i" that roo! )here the ther!o!eter %roppe% )ell #elo) zero 5 as lo"$ as a

    fu"eral )ake.

    ;" other e&e"i"$s, a"% #elie&e you !e they )ere oasio"s for ele#ratio", (

    fell asleep !y #elly as ti$ht as a %ru! ski", )ith all the satisfatio" of a o# )ell%o"e, %rea!i"$ ( )as eati"$ all o&er a$ai".

    ;"e %ay !other a!e #ak looki"$ ra%ia"t. She a!e up to !e )here ( lay,

    pike% !e up a"%, s?ueezi"$ !e to her, )altze% se&eral ti!es rou"% the roo!. 'o

    e*plai" her e*traor%i"ary #eha&iour, lau$hi"$ alou% as our %a"e o"ti"ue%, she

    poppe% so!ethi"$ !elti"$ly %eliious i"to !y !outh. She sa) ho) %eli$hte% ( )as

    fro! !y puzzle% look ao!pa"ie% #y a #roa% $ri" !ore elo?ue"t tha" a"y )or%s.

    s !y first e&er hoolate %ri##le% fro! the or"ers of !y !outh, she su%%e"ly $re)

    serious a$ai" a"% e*plai"e% that fro! the" o" ( )oul% #e ha&i"$ !ore of this lo&ely

    stuff as she ha% fou"% a o#.

    ( !ust ha&e #ee" three at the ti!e. ( )as so lu%irously s!all a"% )eak that !y

    !other ha% to lea&e !e lyi"$ %o)" all %ay. ( )as su#et to fre?ue"t $i%%y spells a"%

    )as o"sta"tly tire%. ( ofte" fell flat o" !y fae )he" atte!pti"$ to take a fe) steps.

    Like !a"y hil%re" ha"%iappe%, !y !i"% %e&elope% preoiously to !ake up, as it

    )ere, for !y physial )eak"ess.

    'he "ear reli$ious a)e )ith )hih those arou"% !e pro"ou"e% the )or%

    :)ork/ eah %ay tau$ht !e &ery early o" its fu"%a!e"tal i!porta"e. 'he fre?ue"t

    ru!#les i" !y sto!ah, !ore ofte" e!pty tha" full, tau$ht !e to respet it )ell#efore ( u"%erstoo% e*atly )hat its fu"tio" )as.

    t the other e"% of the estate stoo% a #uil%i"$ stoo% apart fro! the rest, the o"ly

    o"e "ot o" stilts, )ith )alls of ol%, re3use%, rake% #riks %au#e% )ith li!e. t least

    the fou"%atio"s )ere soli% o"rete. (t )as a !akeshift $roer/s thou$ht up #y so!e

    %isti"$uishe% to)" pla""er for the po&erty3strike" spot. (ts ai! )as to satisfy the

    !ost ele!e"tary "ee%s of our $hetto. Si"e the resoures of the loals )ere &irtually

    "o"3e*iste"t, it speialize% i" selli"$ the !ost #asi foo%stuffs. lthou$h :"$el

    Court/ )as hea&ily populate%, o"ly a %erisory "u!#er of usto!ers oul% pay for

    )hat they #ou$ht. ut Bthere is al)ays a :#ut/ i" suh ases the ouple )ho ra" theshop ha% "o hil%re". 'hey )ere !o&e% #y our %ire po&erty, )hih )as "otorious

    e&e" i" that :Court of Mirales/a ourtyar% i" Me%ie&al Paris, the hau"t of #e$$ars, ripples a"% thie&es

    a"% offere% to $i&e !y !other )ork fro! ti!e to ti!e. hil% )ho ha% %ie% you"$

    for )a"t of !e%ial are a"% foo%- a"other too )eak to $et up- a thir% o#li$e% to $o

    a#roa% to esape star&atio"- a" el%er %au$hter as yet too you"$ to )ork- a se!i

    i"&ali% hus#a"% ree"tly release% fro! priso" a!p, u"e!ploye% 5 a"% all )ith

    "othi"$ to eat. My !other )as %o$$e% #y the atte!pt to !akes e"%s !eet. By the

    )ay, o"$ratulatio"s to a"yo"e )ho !ay suspet ( a! #lake"i"$ these !e!ories.

    'his is perhaps the !o!e"t to poi"t out to those )ho !ay o"si%er the story of thisperio% of !y life as !uh the sort )hih ertai" our"alists re&el i" that ( too )oul%

    rather rea% a#out it i" a o!forta#le ar!hair tha" ha&e li&e% throu$h it.

  • 7/23/2019 Gyorgy Cziffra - Memoirs


    'hus it )as that, %ue to the pity of those ki"% people, !y !other at last ha% a

    little o#. So!eti!es she )e"t out as ofte" as three ti!es a )eek to %o the

    house)ork, lau"%ry or )ork i" the shop. 0er !o%est ear"i"$s )ere our o"ly i"o!e

    at the ti!e. What reoii"$ there )as at ho!e4 for the first ti!e i" a$es our !eals

    o"tai"e% suffiie"t alories a"%, !ore i!porta"t, )ere %aily. My !other kept her

    pro!ise, #ri"$i"$ !e #ak )he"e&er she oul% a s)eet to sa&iour #lissfully after%i""er.

    s a !atter of fat, the #asi re&e"ues of the fa!ilies i" our olo"y a!e fro!

    u"e!ploy!e"t #e"efit, )hih arri&e% throu$h the post e&ery !o"th. (t a!ou"te% to

    the prie of a lar$e, fi&e3kilo loaf. (t )as a pitta"e, true, #ut i" our o!!u"ity the

    a!ou"t )as aepta#le. Desti"y #ea!e the #a"ker of those )ho fou"% the !arket

    &alue of that !o%est #a"k"ote too lo) 5 for a ti!e. (t pri"te% #eautiful "otes for

    the!, as lar$e as they )ere )orthless, )ith a plethora of zeroes. ("flatio" )as upo"


    Suh )as its $ra&ity i" 0u"$ary that all soial lasses a"% all salarie% )orkers

    #e$a" fre"etially #uyi"$ a#solutely a"ythi"$ to #e ri% of the !o"ey as ?uikly as

    possi#le. Whe" the &alue of the "otes )as &irtually "il, !a$"ifie"t #ra"%3"e) o"es

    appeare% i" all the olours of the rai"#o). 'he fae &alue of the s!allest )as fifty or

    o"e hu"%re% thousa"%. 'he lar$est )ere )orth a !illio", a #illio", e&e" a trillio". (t

    )as a ti!e )he" a"yo"e luky e"ou$h to ha&e e!ploy!e"t )as pai% %aily i" the

    for! of a lar$e sak ra!!e% full of #a"k"otes 5 #arely e"ou$h to #uy a fe) kilos of

    su$ar. E&e" the", they ha% to #e spe"t ?uikly for the o"te"ts of the sak )ere soo"

    )orth "o !ore tha" the prie of a "e)spaper. ( a" still re!e!#er those $reat !ulti3

    oloure% "otes o" )hih )ere sta!pe% a" i!pressi&e ro) of zeros 5 e"ou$h to seto"e %rea!i"$, for a )hile at least.

    U"%er suh o"%itio"s, the a&ala"he of afflitio"s )hih s)ept %o)" o" the

    sur&i&ors of :"$el Court/ ha% a" i!!e"se i!pat o" all o"er"e% u"til they

    %e&elope% a shell )hih !a%e the! i"%iffere"t to their fate.

    What resi$"atio" a"% passi&ity ( reall o" looki"$ #ak. My !e!ory is su#et

    to the la)s of relati&ity 5 it is a !irror "o) refleti"$ the truth, "o) %efor!i"$ it. 'he

    truth pro#a#ly )as that )ith ti!e our !isery !ust ha&e see!e% to !y !other a"%

    sisters so #ou"% up )ith our li&es, so i"esapa#le, as to ause the! to lose all "otio"of ti!e a"% e&e" of life a fe) years earlier.

    ( "o) feel the o"e"tratio" a!p at!osphere, )ith all the fa!ilies of the

    u"e!ploye% ra!!e% i"to i%e"tial huts, )as i" its )ay salutary. 'he i%ea they )ere

    shari"$ their po&erty )ith others stoppe% the! $i&i"$ up %uri"$ the terri#le har%ship

    of the )i"ter !o"ths.

    So!eti!es at %iffere"t sta$es of !y life ( ha&e )o"%ere% 5 as ( still %o 5

    )hether the )ar )as the sole ause of that i"sa"e po&erty. (t is possi#le.

    'o !e, suh a"$er fro! o" hi$h is far !ore terrifyi"$ for so!eo"e )ho is

    %estitute #eause it fores hi! to fae up to his situatio" a"% ro#s hi! of all hope,

    %rai"i"$ hi! still further a"% also results i" a self3i"%ul$e"t #lake"i"$ of his

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    o"%itio" u"til the e*ter"al po&erty starts to eat a)ay at his &ery #ei"$ like a"

    i"ura#le %isease, utterly %estroyi"$ hi!.

    ( %o"/t )a"t to appear y"ial or a&oi% o"fro"ti"$ so!ethi"$ #eyo"% our

    u"%ersta"%i"$ #ut you !ust surely a$ree that if you )ere to $et out of that #lak hole

    sou"% i" !i"% a"% #o%y your )illpo)er ha% to #e ri&ete% to your #o%y.

    ( !ust ha&e #ee" four or fi&e )he" ( first #ea!e a)are of the utter al! a"%

    passi&ity of !y !other a"% el%er sister i" their %eep %istress. @aturally, they !ust

    ha&e k"o)" their ha"e of sur&i&al )as as sle"%er as that of other fa!ilies. #o&e

    all, this ertitu%e le% to a %e$ree of resi$"atio" suh that all "otio" of past, future a"%

    e&e" prese"t, plus the pereptio" of ti!e, $ra%ually fa%e% fro! their !i"%s #efore

    %isappeari"$ to !ake )ay for a Fo#/s po&erty of suh !a$"itu%e that they )ere u"%er

    the i!pressio" ust a#out a"ythi"$ oul% #e i!pute% to it. E&erythi"$ is relati&e.

    ( a" still see !y !other i" the little roo! i" the e&e"i"$, her hea% #o)e%, her

    fae like that of the $rie&i"$ Gir$i" Mary, e*pressi"$ i"fi"ite aepta"e. She "e&erfor$ot to !e"tio" all our "a!es i" her e&e"i"$ prayers.

    'he people i" our #lok use% to all i" o" eah other. So!eti!es they a!e to

    see us too. 'he !eeti"$s follo)e% a set ritual. E&eryo"e #rou$ht his :seat/ )ith hi!,

    usually a" ol% rate sli$htly !o%ifie%. While )aiti"$ for the others, the latest arri&als

    liste"e% to the o!plai"ts of the earliest. 'he" all to$ether they urse% their fate, their

    po&erty, their future a"%, of ourse, the $o&er"!e"t. Whe" e&eryo"e )as at last

    settle%, the !ost fortu"ate )oul% take fro! his poket a ha"%ful of i$arette3e"%s a"%

    roll up the shre%s of to#ao i" a #it of ol% "e)spaper. 0e like% the e%$e of the

    paper, e*a!i"e% the i$arette )ith a" e*pert eye a"% lit up. With !orose %eli$ht, hei"hale% %eeply the" sole!"ly passe% it o". Mea")hile, the others a)aiti"$ their tur"

    spoke i" a lo) &oie of all the !ar&ellous %ishes they )oul% e"oyHas soo" as the

    oasio" prese"te% itself. 'he o!!u"al i$arette o"ti"ue% its rou"%s. 'he roo!

    reeke% )ith the ra"k s!ell of re3use% to#ao. +et at the &ery !e"tio" of lo&ely ste)s

    or )o"%erful roasts a su%%e" resou"%i"$ o"ert of e!pty sto!ahs re!i"%e%

    e&eryo"e it )as ti!e to ha"$e the su#et. Eah took a fi"al puff at the ti"y stu# to

    al! his tur#ule"t i""ar%s a"% ?uikly )e"t #ak ho!e to %i$est his %rea! #a"?uet

    i" his sleep. 'hat )as, #asially, our soial life at the ti!e.

    ("flatio" o"ti"ue% to soar. Up till the", e&eryo"e ha% #ee" $ui%e% #y t)o%elusio"s4 the possi#ility of $etti"$ a o# a"% the retur" of fi"a"ial sta#ility. oth

    ha% falle" #y the )aysi%e. So "eessity #ea!e the la) at :"$el Court/. (t !ust #e

    a%!itte% that thefts a"% !ur%ers )ere a fre?ue"t ourre"e. 'o #et o" keepi"$ o"e/s

    spirits up a"% o" re!ai"i"$ ho"est i" suh surrou"%i"$s )as of a te!erity #or%eri"$

    o" the irrespo"si#le.

    ;ur situatio" ha% #eo!e )orryi"$ o"e !ore. 'his ti!e fortu"e s!ile% o" us

    #y $i&i"$ !y el%est sister, )ho )as ust thirtee", a helpi"$ ha"%. She )as take" o" to

    %o the )ashi"$3up i" the a"tee" of so!e fir! or other 5 i" the #ak of #eyo"%, it

    $oes )ithout sayi"$. E&ery %ay )ithout fail she )as up at %a)", rea%y for the t)o3hour )alk to our plae of )ork. She "e&er for$ot to take )ith her a %ee"t3size%

    sauepa". Late eah e&e"i"$, o" arri&i"$ #ak, she set the sauepa" of ple"ty, full of

  • 7/23/2019 Gyorgy Cziffra - Memoirs


    lefto&ers, o" the ta#le a"% ser&e% us $e"erous helpi"$s o" our ti" plates.

    'hese ar$a"tua" !eals restore% our $oo% hu!our. E&eryo"e )as please%

    e*ept for !y father. With a %ispositio" suh as his, he oul% "ot sta"% feeli"$

    useless. 0is out#ursts #ea!e !ore a"% !ore fre?ue"t. 0e )as i"o"sola#le at the

    thou$ht that o"e of his hil%re", still of shool a$e, shoul% ha&e take" o&er his role at

    the hea% of the fa!ily to look after our #asi "ee%s. y "o), he )as refusi"$ to sit)ith us at ta#le %uri"$ our :#lo)outs/. 0e sat i" a or"er of the roo!, sile"t, tur"i"$

    his #ak o" us, his hea% #urie% i" his ha"%s, "o) a"% a$ai" shaki"$ a" ausi"$ fist

    at hea&e". 0is "er&es alrea%y sorely trie% %uri"$ his ree"t apti&ity, )ere al!ost at

    #reaki"$3poi"t. ("ter"e% "ear Paris at the out#reak of )ar as a" Iu"%esira#le alie"I, CziffraIs father alo"$ )ith theother priso"ers ha% #ee" su#ete% to false )ar"i"$s that the priso" )as a#out to #e #lo)" up.

    t first, %uri"$ this "e) perio% i" our li&es, !y !other, as if so!eho) shari"$

    his feeli"$s, )ept )he" !y sister $ot #ak. ut she $ra%ually resi$"e% herself to the

    situatio". She rela*e%, her usual $oo% hu!our appare"tly restore%, a"% ofte" took !e

    o" her k"ee a"% sa"$ i" a soft, lear &oie popular )altzes or tu"es fro! operettas oroperas that she re!e!#ere% fro! the past. ( re!e!#er these !o!e"ts so learly

    #eause eah ti!e a stra"$e, i"%efi"a#le se"satio" of )ell3#ei"$ sprea% throu$h !y

    #o%y, )ar!i"$ it )hile at the sa!e ti!e lea&i"$ !e feeli"$ %rai"e%.

    s ( ha&e sai%, ( a!e i"to this )orl% )ith &irtually "o physial resista"e.

    0u$e s?ua%ro"s of !iro#es a"% $er!s of &arious i"fa"tile %iseases re$ale%

    the!sel&es o" !y fee#le or$a"is! a"% the" put !y patheti arass up for autio".

    @o3o"e oul% %ia$"ose the e*at ause of !y pro#le!s. (" :"$el Court/ it )as

    utopia" to thi"k of a "ie steak or of pe"iilli". 'he for!er )as i!possi#ly

    e*pe"si&e, the latter as yet u"%iso&ere%. esi%es, it )as #eyo"% our !ea"s to pay a%otor. 'he 0ealth ;ffiers "e$lete% their %uty si"e they feare% to &e"ture i"to the

    estate. 'hou$h their o"sultatio"s )ere free, people a&oi%e% aski"$ the! i", k"o)i"$

    full )ell that the hief o"te"ts of their first ai% kits )ere a stethosope a"% a #ook of

    #urial per!its. ( lay for !o"ths o" e"% o" a" ol% sak stuffe% )ith stra), yet !y

    health %i% "ot i!pro&e i" the sli$htest. ( )as all )ou"% up i" ol% hea%sar&es, sha)ls

    a"% !oth3eate" o!forters.

    So!eti!es a fe&er )oul% set !e shu%%eri"$. ( k"e) )hat to e*pet of these

    attaks a"%, )eary of fi$hti"$ #ak, )aite% stoially for !y pereptio"s to $ro) %i!

    so as to )ath a sho) o"ly ( oul% see. ( fi*e% !y lethar$i $aze o" the eili"$. 'he

    $rey pathes o" it $re) !ultioloure% a"% the", so slo)ly as to #e al!ost

    i!perepti#le, #e$a" to !o&e. My "th "i$ht!are )as a#out to #e$i". s ( trie% har%

    to stop !yself &o!iti"$, the pathes ha"$e% i"to $ri!ai"$ faes all afla!e. 'here

    )ere se&eral of the!4 a sarlet !o"ster, a $ooey $ree" %e&il a"%, !ost $rotes?ue of

    all, a purplish #lue ape3like reature. 'heir #li"%i"$ )hite eyes, )hih $re) %i! after

    a )hile, )ere the o"ly thi"$ they ha% i" o!!o" a"% it see!e% as if they )ere a#out

    to %isi"te$rate, #ut they %i% "ot %isappear4 o"ly their o"siste"y ha"$e%. ( su%%e"ly

    realize% )hat they )a"te% a"% )as paralyse% )ith fear. 'he $ri""i"$ !asks #ea!e a

    $lauous, elly3like flui% o"sta"tly #reaki"$ up a"% refor!i"$, all )hirli"$ to$etheri" a hi%eous !ass, )hih trikle% %o)" the )alls to)ar%s !y fae. My heart #eat fit

    to #urst a"% the #loo% pou"%e% i" !y hea%. My )hole #o%y, #athe% i" ol% s)eat,

  • 7/23/2019 Gyorgy Cziffra - Memoirs


    #e$$e% to #e spare%, terrifie% at the i%ea the stiky li?ui% !i$ht touh !e. Fust as the

    fri$htful hallui"atio" )as prepari"$ to s)allo) !e up a" eletri shok shook !y

    paralyze% #ei"$ a"% ( )as #ak o" !y !attress, teeth hatteri"$, hea% s)i!!i"$ a"%

    )ith a feeli"$ of "ausea.

    My !other hurrie% to the resue fro! the other e"% of the roo!. She plae% a

    ha"% a$ai"st !y #ak a"% helpe% !e sit up to try a"% relie&e the hoki"$ se"satio".ttaks like these oul% our at a"y ti!e. My !other )as out of )ork a$ai" a"%

    $a&e up seeki"$ a o# for a )hile to look after !e. She still ha% to lea&e !e

    oasio"ally if o"ly to see to the )ater. ( %rea%e% the i%ea of a" attak )hile she )as

    out i" ase ( ha% to !a"a$e #y !yself a"% raise !y fe&er3rake% #o%y, shake" #y

    spas!s u"til it see!e% a#out to fall apart, a"% re!e!#er )hat ( oul% of the !eal (

    ha% "e&er ha%.

    My father/s )orries ease% for a )hile )he" he too at last fou"% )ork. 'o$ether

    )ith a spi"%ly, sha##y ol% &ioli"ist, he li&e"e% up a see%y #ar, #eautifyi"$ the o%our

    of heap )i"e )ith the sou"% of a" a"ie"t pia"o. 'he t)o artists spee%e% up the

    rhyth! at )hih the $lasses e!ptie%, to the %eli$ht of the #ar3keeper, a"% ear"e%

    the! e"ou$h eah e&e"i"$ to fill the #ellies of their fa!ilies the "e*t %ay. 'he herry

    o" the ake )as the pakets of i$arettes the tipsy usto!ers $a&e the! i" $ratitu%e 5

    iro"ially, ust )he" they oul% ha&e affor%e% their o)".

    las2 'his )as "ot to last. My father/s "er&ous ill"ess, a re!"a"t of his

    apti&ity, $re) )orse. Wearie% #y the stru$$le, he spe"t !ore a"% !ore ti!e at ho!e,

    lo"$ perio%s of e*haustio" alter"ati"$ )ith stra"$ely perio%s of o&er3e*ite!e"t.

    Mu!#li"$ i"ohere"tly, he pae% rou"% the roo! ra$i"$ %eliriously. ll of a su%%e"

    he )oul% stop short a"% stare )il%ly at a poi"t o" the )all. ( lo&e% !y father %early

    #ut at suh !o!e"ts ( )as terrifie% of hi!. ( shut !y eyes ti$ht a"% !a%e !yself as

    sare as possi#le o" !y #e%%i"$. ( trie% to persua%e !yself that if ( oul% "ot see

    hi! he oul% "ot see !e either. t other !o!e"ts, at the hei$ht of his )orst attaks,

    he #e$a" to ho)l like o"e possesse%. 'errorize%, ( for$ot !y strate$y a"% #e$a" to

    ho)l e&e" lou%er. So!eti!es he )as so take" a#ak at "ot #ei"$ a#le to hear hi!self

    that he al!e% %o)". Lukily for us, suh $ra&e attaks )ere rare. ;" thi"ki"$ #ak,

    these sy!pto!s %i% "ot partiularly affet us. Co!pare% )ith all the te!pests our raft

    ha% sur&i&e% up till the", they )ere a stor! i" a tea3up. +et still )e lu"$ o". ll of

    us. ut persiste"t, &irtually o"ti"uous spas!s of tre!#li"$ !ea"t that !y father )asi"apa#le of a"y ki"% of )ork a"% )e suffere% )ith hi! fro! e&ery poi"t of &ie).

    0is o"%itio" o!pro!ise% our hopes of sur&i&al a"% seriously u"%er!i"e% our

    resol&e to keep $oi"$ 5 a"% i" :"$el Court/ it )as as )ell to keep o"e/s spirits up.

    My el%er sister, +ola"%e, applie% herself zealously to her )ashi"$3up a"%

    #rou$ht #ak $e"erous helpi"$s of lefto&ers, le&erly tra"sfor!e% i"to shepher%/s pie

    #y !y !other. With her !ea$re starti"$ )a$es, )e oul% "ot affor% to a%% a"ythi"$

    fro! the $roer/s to our %aily fare apart fro! #rea%.

    My sister/s atte"%a"e reor% )as re!arke% o" #y her e!ployers. 'hey e&e"fou"% out that she ha% a little ulture. Like !ost of her ollea$ues, she sa"$ as she

    )orke% to $i&e herself oura$e to fae the a#ylo"ia" pile of %ishes to #e %rie%.

  • 7/23/2019 Gyorgy Cziffra - Memoirs


    'here )as "othi"$ u"usual a#out that e*ept that she sa"$ i" 8re"h. $irl li&i"$ i" a

    plae of suh si"ister repute as :"$el Court/ si"$i"$ i" perfet 8re"h i" a $ri!y

    fatory sullery !iles fro! that #a"%its/ lair see!e% as out of plae there as a

    #a"k"ote i" !y father/s poket. (" short, she )as !o&e% to a"other %epart!e"t, a"

    offie, a"% her pay )e"t up. ;"e e&e"i"$ she a!e ho!e fro! )ork a"% astou"%e%

    !y pare"ts #y %elari"$ for all to hear that she i"te"%e% to hire a pia"o. 'he %eisio")as a" i!porta"t o"e #ut !y father sai% "othi"$, tryi"$ to ath !y !other/s eye.

    Deep %o)", he oul% "ot ha&e #ee" %isplease% #y the i%ea. 0e )as hi!self a

    !usiia", after all. 8i*i"$ her lar$e #lue elo?ue"t eyes o" hi!, !y !other replie%,

    J+es, )e use% to ha&e o"e i" ParisHut i" o"%itio"s like theseHsheer follyHa"% if

    ( e&erHJ

    My father shut his eyes )earily. 0e alrea%y k"e) all a#out the i%ea, thou$h they

    ha% "ot %isusse% )hether the !o!e"t )as opportu"e or ho) the pla" oul% #e

    arrie% out #ut he )a"te% to share the spark of u"e*pete% oy. ut !y !other/s

    !ute% e"thusias! )as as "othi"$ o!pare% )ith !y sister/s zealous %eter!i"atio".(" the e"%, "ot lo"$ after)ar%s, a horse3%ra)" art %re) i"to the #akyar%. We hear%

    the plea%i"$, o!i"ous reak of the stairase a"% the" !y sister appeare% i" the

    %oor)ay, flushe% )ith e*ite!e"t, her eyes shi"i"$ a"% after her a!e t)o !e"

    hea&i"$ alo"$ a lar$e, s?uare o#et. My pare"ts looke% at eah other, %u!#struk.

    Without k"o)i"$ it, ( )as looki"$ at !y first pia"o.

  • 7/23/2019 Gyorgy Cziffra - Memoirs



    +ola"%e a!e ho!e fro! )ork eah e&e"i"$ ea$er to $et #ak to her #elo&e%

    pia"o. Patie"tly a"% %o$$e%ly she tau$ht herself the #asi rules $o&er"i"$ the

    positio"i"$ of the ha"%s o" the key#oar%. fter follo)i"$ the %reary trak of te%ious

    e*erises to $i&e her still hesita"t fi"$ers a !easure of i"%epe"%e"e, she )as soo"

    a#le to take the terri#ly !o"oto"ous, e"%less hi$h)ay of sales. 0er ha"%s ra"easelessly up a"% %o)" the key#oar% a"% their !astery $ra%ually i"rease%.

    ( &i&i%ly re!e!#er those sessio"s, all the !ore as, still o" !y !attress, ( %i% the

    e*erises )ith her. Lyi"$ #y the )all, !y ha"%s u"%er the #la"ket, ( arefully i!itate%

    eah !o&e!e"t of her fi"$ers. s for the pro#le! of shifti"$ the thu!# i" sales, (

    resol&e% 5 )he" !y sister )as out, of ourse 3 to ask !y father to let !e i"to the


    0e trie% to restrai" !y i!patie"e a"%, i" his usual reser&e% !a""er, tol% !e

    ki"%ly that he thou$ht ( )as too you"$ a"%, to stop !e #ursti"$ i"to tears, pro!ise%

    to e*plai" e&erythi"$ 5 i" a fe) years. J(" a"y ase,J he )e"t o", J( %o"/t see ho)

    you oul% take %o a"ythi"$ so %e!a"%i"$ )ith your poor health. +ou a"/t e&e" stay

    o" your feet. +ou spe"% all your ti!e i" #e%.J Drea!ily, he a%%e%, JSpe"%i"$ hours at

    the pia"o e&ery %ay is tiri"$ )ork, as $oo% players k"o) all too )ell.J ( )as o&er

    three a"% !ore or less k"e) )hat he !ea"t. ut %espite the #asi truth of his )or%s, (

    felt &ery #itter.

    'he e"sui"$ %ays #ea!e sa%, %ull a"% i"ter!i"a#le o"e !ore. Lyi"$ )ith !y

    fae to the )all, ( )oul% ha&e "othi"$ to %o )ith a"yo"e or a"ythi"$, i"lu%i"$

    !eals. ( searhe% for so!e for! of pu"ish!e"t i" keepi"$ )ith !y sorro) a"% trie%

    to thi"k of so!ethi"$ else )hile !y sister o"ti"ue% o"sie"tiously )ith her

    e*erises hour after hour. ll i" &ai"4 suh )as !y fasi"atio" )ith )hat she )as

    %oi"$ that i" spite of !yself !y fi"$ers u"%er the #la"ket follo)e% her e&ery

    !o&e!e"t to perfetio" e&e" thou$h her fi"$ers o" the key#oar% )ere "ot &isi#le. (

    ha% ust u"%erstoo% ho) to play a sale. 'his ti!e ( )as areful "ot to #reathe a )or%

    of !y %iso&ery to a"yo"e a"% fell asleep as prou% as Pu"h. "% so it o"ti"ue%4 !y

    sister pro$resse% a"% so %i% (. ( re3%i% e&erythi"$ she oul% %o o" the key#oar% u"%er

    !y #la"ket.

    Strokes of luk "e&er o!e si"$ly. ;"e !or"i"$ ( )oke up feeli"$ u"usually)ell. 'he sort of olu!" of fire, that parasite $"a)i"$ at !y #o%y %ay a"% "i$ht, ha%

    fi"ally %ei%e% to ha"$e 0

  • 7/23/2019 Gyorgy Cziffra - Memoirs


    !y e"%less appetite for pitures a"% of !y #ei"$ #e%ri%%e" to teah !e the ru%i!e"ts

    of rea%i"$ a"% )riti"$ 5 )ith suess. y the a$e of four ( oul% %o #oth fairly )ell. (

    )as please%4 ( )oul% "o lo"$er !iss the o!pa"y of frie"%s so !uh. ;f ourse, (

    still e"&ie% their happy, )il% ries, )hih pu"tuate% their $a!es i" the yar%. My

    rea%i"$ a"% !y %rea!s )ere all ( ha%. 'hey e"oye% the!sel&es )ith e&ery part of

    their #o%ies )hereas ( ha% o"ly !y fi"$ers. ( o#ser&e% their oy throu$h our little)i"%o), )o"%eri"$ )hy they )ere $ra"te% so !uh a"% ( so little. (" the !ea"ti!e, (

    rea% e&erythi"$ ( oul% lay !y ha"%s o"4 stories a"% ol% al#u!s full of %ra)i"$s a"%

    stra"$e haraters )hih people% !y i!a$i"atio".

    ( )as soo" to %iso&er that this preoious !aturity )as Pro&i%e"e/s )ay of

    !aki"$ up for the !isse% $a!es of foot#all. 0a&i"$ )athe% !y sister at the pia"o, (

    took it up 5 )ith !y father/s per!issio", of ourse. ( losely )athe% her e&ery

    !o&e!e"t, the" took !y tur" a"% )as a!aze% at #ei"$ a#le to i!itate her, ho)e&er

    lu!sily. ( felt e"oura$e%. 'he !a$ial sou"%s a"% the i"triay of the key#oar%

    e"oura$e% !e to $o further, )ith the ai% of !y father. ( re$rette% that our share%e&e"i"$ lesso"s )ere so short a"% o"sta"tly aske% for further e*pla"atio"s, )hih (

    put i"to pratie there a"% the". ( )as fasi"ate% #y the &ariety of the )ork a"% )oul%

    "ot $et %o)" fro! the stool. ( au$ht up )ith !y sister a"% for a ti!e )e %i% the

    sa!e e*erises. 'his %i% "ot last lo"$ for soo" ( )as playi"$ )ell3k"o)" little

    !elo%ies perfetly aurately )hile i"&e"ti"$ !y o)" left3ha"% ao!pa"i!e"ts.

    ( ha% #eo!e i"satia#le. 'here )ere "o lo"$er suffiie"t hours i" the %ays

    )hih ha% pre&iously see!e% so lo"$. ( )as !aki"$ rapi% pro$ress. t the ti!e )e

    %i% "ot ha&e a"y sheet !usi, )hih %i% "ot #other !e si"e ( )as u"a#le to rea% the

    "otes i" a"y ase. ( pestere% !y !other to si"$ !e tu"es to a%% to !y repertory,)hih she %i% )illi"$ly, a"% ( $ot to k"o) a lot of e*trats fro! opera a"% operetta. (

    usually retai"e% the! after a si"$le heari"$ a"% let !y fi"$ers ru" o&er the keys

    #efore oyfully $etti"$ to $rips )ith the piee. (t )as hil%/s play to !e, i" the true

    se"se of the ter!. 'ha"ks to these $a!es of :ta$/ a"% :hi%e3a"%3seek/, !y ha"%s soo"

    #ea!e auto"o!ous, playi"$ #oth separately a"% to$ether, a"% this e"oura$e% the!

    to try further e*iti"$ e*peri!e"ts. My tastes #roa%e"e% a"% !y pleasure re%ou#le%

    as little #y little ( e"tere% the e"ha"te% )orl% of sales, the !a$ial la"%sapes of

    hor%s a"% the #ou"%less horizo"s of !o%ulatio". ( $re) a!#itious, i"&e"ti"$

    i"tro%utio"s for the little tu"es a"% e!#ellishi"$ the! !ore a"% !ore. Whe" !y leftha"% oul% reat as ?uikly as !y ri$ht, ( starte% o" &ariatio"s.

    ( )as #arely fi&e at the ti!e. Whe" !y father sa) the rapi% results of his

    teahi"$, he sho)e% !e stra"$er a"% !ore o!ple* har!o"ies )hih to !e see!e%

    #izarre, pote"t %isso"a"es. ;"e ( ha% $ro)" austo!e% to the!, ( use% the! )ith

    assura"e a"% e!#roi%ere% the little )altzes a"% the piees ( i"&e"te% for the fu" of


    ( k"e) the !ai" tu"es fro! ;ar"en a"% e&e" !ore #y ou"o%, )ho! ( a%ore%.

    ( lear"t the $reat )altz fro!Faust#y ear Bit )as "ot u"til !uh later, )he" ( )as

    li&i"$ i" Paris, that ( u"%erstoo% the full %ia#olial #eauty of this piee throu$h

    Liszt/s !asterly tra"sriptio" a"% !a%e haste to reor% it 5 i" !e!ory of a !e!ory.

  • 7/23/2019 Gyorgy Cziffra - Memoirs


    'ha"ks to the $reat Strauss %y"asty, ;ffe"#ah a"% !a"y others, !y %aily )ork at

    the pia"o after the a$e of fi&e o"siste% e"tirely of i!pro&isatio". (t )as !ore tha"

    !ere pleasure4 it )as a po)er )hih e"a#le% !e to esape fro! :"$el Court/

    )he"e&er ( felt the "ee%.

    0o) %o ( feel "o) a#out !y !usial appre"tieship7 Setti"$ out to lear" the

    pia"o seriously )ithout #ei"$ a#le to rea% !usi a""ot %o a"y $reat har!.

  • 7/23/2019 Gyorgy Cziffra - Memoirs


    arpe$$ios i" thir%s, fourths a"% au$!e"te% fourths, hro!ati a"% )hole to"e sales.

    @aturally, ( o"ti"ue% to i!pro&ise %aily, i"orporati"$ the "e) teh"i?ues i"to

    &arious little piees ( ha% i"&e"te%. My ha"%s fle) o&er the keys )ith e&er3$ro)i"$

    %eli$ht. ( felt they )ere su#et to !y po)er a"% that ( )as their sole !aster.

    ;"e e&e"i"$ after !y father a"% sister arri&e% ho!e, ( $a&e the! a surprise #y

    i!pro&isi"$ a :ran0e Fantaisie 9rillante' %esi$"e% to sho) off all !y latest%iso&eries. My father, sile"t as e&er, "o%%e% i" appro&al, )hih e"oura$e% !e to

    atte!pt there a"% the" other ro!a"ti i!pro&isatio"s. My sister )as sta"%i"$ #y !e.

    ( )as too oupie% to look up at her #ut ( se"se% she )as %istresse%, as if

    o&er)hel!e% #y a sorro) as $reat as !y oy. ( o"ly looke% up )he" ( ha% fi"ishe%.

    0er heeks )ere re%, her eyes #ri!!i"$ )ith tears. Without a )or%, she tur"e% her

    #ak o" !e a"% )alke% u"stea%ily to her #e%, thre) herself o" it a"% #urst out ryi"$.

    'his upset !e terri#ly. ( ra" to her si%e a"%, "ot k"o)i"$ ho) to o"sole her, #e$a"

    to so# i" u"iso".

    She pulle% herself to$ether al!ost at o"e a"% s!ile% as she trie% to stop !y

    flo) of roo%ile tears )ith kisses a"% aresses. My oy )as restore% a"% ( su$$este%

    i" a "ai&ely lear"e% to"e that she shoul% spe"% less ti!e at )ork so as to #e a#le to

    pratie !ore. 'he spell )as #roke", ho)e&er. She took out her #ook of sales !ore

    a"% !ore rarely. Weeks passe% )ithout her playi"$ at all. 0er e"thusias! ha% $o"e.

    fter half a" hour or less she )oul% $et up )ith a si$h. (" the e"%, )eary of %)elli"$

    o" her for!er %rea!, she kept a)ay fro! the pia"o alto$ether. y "o) ( )as

    spe"%i"$ as !uh as fi&e or si* hours a %ay playi"$. My !other kept a %isreet eye

    o" !y $ro)i"$ a!#itio". She )as e&e" o#li$e% o" oasio" to threate" to %epri&e !e

    of !y "e*t !eal to !ake !e !o%erate !y e*ertio"s. +et ( )as ri$ht to re%ou#lethe!4 !y first o"ert )as "ot far off.

    ;"e su!!er !or"i"$, a s!ili"$ su" lit up our yar%. 8our #ri$htly3%au#e%

    haraters )ere i$$i"$ oyously up a"% %o)". 'hey )ere lo)"s. 'he first t)o

    %a"e% i" a spri$htly, o!ial )ay, #a)li"$ out o!i so"$s e"li&e"e% #y the others

    )ith the %i" they !a%e o" a #a%ly playe% aor%io" a"% a pair of y!#als !ou"te%

    o" a %ru! a"% $litteri"$ i" the su"li$ht. (" their ru!#ustious hu!our they raise% a

    lou% of %ust a"% as it #e$a" to lear o"e of the! a""ou"e% i" a ste"toria" &oie that

    the !ost )o"%erful irus e&er )as $oi"$ to pith its te"t i" the "e*t fiel%. (t )oul%

    #e, he prolai!e%, "othi"$ less tha" ri!i"al "ot to o!e i" $reat "u!#ers to seesuh a fi"e sho).

    My heart leapt )ith oy. Su%%e"ly, o" so!e u"k"o)" i!pulse, ( let $o of !y

    !other/s ha"%, %ashe% %o)"stairs a"% ra" pa"ti"$ up to the !ost hea&ily3pai"te% of

    the four. 0e )as surprise% #y the spee% of suh a slip of a #oy, au$ht !e o" the ru"

    a"% lifte% !e up at ar!/s le"$th o" a le&el )ith his rai"#o)3oloure% fae. Without

    e&e" $i&i"$ hi! ti!e to put !e %o)" a"% i" "o )ay i"ti!i%ate% #y his appeara"e, (

    e*plai"e% all a#out !y :k"o)le%$e/ of the pia"o. 0e )as asto"ishe% a"% aske% !e

    !y a$e a"% the titles of the piees ( k"e), pu"tuati"$ his ?uestio"s )ith &arious

    liks, hiups, ho)ls a"% fre?ue"t luki"$ "oises. Mea")hile, !y !other ha%

    arri&e% a"% starte% pulli"$ !e i" the other %iretio". y "o) the fello)/s uriosity

  • 7/23/2019 Gyorgy Cziffra - Memoirs


    )as arouse%. 'aki"$ a%&a"ta$e of the ro)% arou"% us, he #e$$e% !y !other i" a

    resou"%i"$, persuasi&e &oie to let !e o"ti"ue !y story 5 )ith hearty support fro!

    the "ei$h#ours. @ot )ishi"$ to #e a spoilsport, she let !e retur" to the lo)"3

    aor%io"ist/s si%e, )hih ( hurrie% to %o, #ea!i"$ )ith %eli$ht.

    My "e) protetor starte% o" a tu"e the" stoppe% all of a su%%e" to ask )hat (

    thou$ht. ( "o%%e% !y appro&al, )hile poi"ti"$ out that ertai" hor%s i" theao!pa"i!e"t )ere out of tu"e. t his re?uest, ( propose% the "eessary ha"$es.

    With a !ishie&ous, o""i&i"$ )i"k, $ri""i"$ fro! ear to ear, he #e$a" a$ai". Whe"

    he reahe% the poi"t i" ?uestio", orret this ti!e, he tur"e% to the au%ie"e )ith

    )histles of a%!iratio" peppere% )ith $ur$les of %eli$ht. E"oura$e% #y his three

    ao!plies, the i"ha#ita"ts of the huts applau%e% lou%ly.

    (t )as a lo&ely %ay. @o#o%y )a"te% to lea&e. fe) of those li&i"$ o" our floor

    shyly su$$este% ( $o #ak up a"% play so!ethi"$. E&eryo"e appro&e% a"% #e$a" to

    lap. 'o e"oura$e !e to !ake up !y !i"%, the lo)"s a%%e% oyously to the $e"eral

    uproar )ith %ru! rolls a"% thu"%erous y!#al3lashes. My ears )ere hu!!i"$ )ith

    the %i". Rela*e% a"% reassure% #y the o&ial at!osphere, !y !other s!ile% at !e a"%

    $a&e !y ha"% a %isreet s?ueeze of e"oura$e!e"t. !o!e"t later, fille% )ith

    u"speaka#le oy, ( ra" upstairs. +ou a" i!a$i"e 5 ( ha% "e&er #efore playe% to a"


    'he %oor a"% little )i"%o) of our roo! )ere ope"e% )i%e a"% the )hole yar%

    resou"%e% )ith !y i"spire%, passio"ately lyrial i!pro&isi"$. ("to*iate% )ith

    free%o! a"% i" their ele!e"t at last, !y ha"%s flitte% o&er the keys at the )hi! of !y

    fa"tasy. My fi"$ers fle) fro! ;ar"entoa Vie Earisienne)ithout pause, )ith a fe)

    Gie""ese )altzes i" passi"$, the last of )hih ( %i% i" 'urkish style to !ake a #etter

    tra"sitio" to Meyer#eer/s 4/ricaine. Do)" i" the yar% there )as a" i!pressi&e

    sile"e #roke" #y lo"$ #ursts of applause. My !other staye% )ith the others a"%

    liste"e% to the sou"% $ushi"$ fro! !y u"%iser"i"$ heart )ith that look of al!

    happi"ess she al)ays )ore )he" ( playe% ust for her. Su%%e"ly !y !i"%, o!pletely

    au$ht up i" its i"spiratio", )as take" to task #y !y sto!ah, )hih "e&er sho)e%

    a"y o"si%eratio" for !y artistry a"% use% to )ar" !e )ith the %ull re$ularity of a

    fatory lok that it )as lu"hti!e. ( rouhe% o" !y stool like a ra# a"% prepare%

    to $et %o)" to telli"$ !y !other, the fairy $o%!other to !y ra&i"$s, of the alar!i"$

    state of affairs. Sha%o)s #loke% the %oor)ay4 the four !usial lo)"s ha% alrea%ystole" a)ay so!e ti!e #efore to )ath !e loser at ha"%. 'hey )ere all s!ili"$

    ra%ia"tly. My !other )as alrea%y sta"%i"$ #esi%e !e )ithout !y ha&i"$ "otie%. 'he

    %ele$atio" stoo% sole!"ly rou"% us a"% o"e of the! sai% i" oraular to"es, J'he

    irus a)aits you, !y #oy2J J(t )oul% #e a si", !a%a!,J o"ti"ue% a"other, Jif you

    )ere to %epri&e the pu#li a"% the )o"%erful )orl% of sho) #usi"ess of the

    e*eptio"al !usial $ifts of this little #oy.J

    s he spoke, he rolle% his $reat #ul#ous eyes i" the %iretio" of the eili"$,

    )hih see!e% to i"spire hi! to prophesy4 J(f you %i%"/t alrea%y k"o), !a%a!,J he

    o"ti"ue% )ith $ro)i"$ passio", Jyour so" is a perfet irus artist, a seo"%


  • 7/23/2019 Gyorgy Cziffra - Memoirs


    8ra"kly, ( %i% "ot really u"%ersta"% his o#sure tira%e, )hih %i% "ot pre&e"t !e

    e"oyi"$ the after!ath of !y triu!ph.

  • 7/23/2019 Gyorgy Cziffra - Memoirs


    'o !e, utterly #e)il%ere% as ( )as #y the uproar o!i"$ fro! e&ery or"er of

    the #i$ top, he looke% like so!e a"ie"t )a*)ork )ith his rake% parh!e"t fae

    u"%er the outla"%ish !ake3up. 0is out%ate% Pierrot30arle?ui" ostu!e !a%e hi!

    look e&e" !ore like a $"o!e. .0e )e"t o" speaki"$ to !y !other, hara"$ui"$ her

    a"% $estiulati"$ )il%ly. My ears ra"$ )ith the yappi"$ of the perfor!i"$ %o$s

    )hih )ere )athi"$ a fire3eater fearlessly #lo)i"$ i!pressi&e #ou?uets of fla!es.Po"ies a"% %o"keys )ere #rayi"$, irritate% #y a little troupe of ta!e !o"keys o" their

    #aks, a##eri"$ a"% s?ua##li"$ o&er a fe) pea"uts. 8ro! outsi%e a!e the shouts of

    fair$rou"% )restlers #oasti"$ of their &itories a!o"$ the pa"%e!o"iu! of the

    lo)"3!usiia"s )ho )ere tryi"$ to tra"sfor! the fer!e"ti"$ uproar i"to the oy of

    the fair. Without tra"sitio", the Mi%$et/s &oie rose a#o&e the uproar )ithout losi"$

    its restrai"t, JSo, la%, you/re fourth o" the pro$ra!!e #et)ee" Colossus the ia"t

    a"% 0erules the D)arf, )ho #e"%s iro" #ars. 'ee hee2J he )e"t, lau$hi"$ at his o)"

    oke. Jut, tell !e, )hat e*atly is it you %o7J he aske%, perple*e% a"% )ith suh

    serious"ess that ( )as fille% )ith pri%e. JWellH(Ha" i"&e"t all sorts of thi"$s o" the pia"oHpretty thi"$sHJ (

    sta!!ere% shyly, s)allo)i"$ !y sali&a. J8i"e,J he sai%, reassure%, JWe/ll ask the

    ho"oura#le au%ie"e to propose the!es for you to i!pro&ise o". (/ll trust you,J he

    sai%, lost i" thou$ht. 0e size% !e up )ith his pieri"$ look. JE&e" thou$h ( ha&e"/t

    as !uh as hear% you, ( ha&e a feeli"$ you/re $oi"$ to !ake a "a!e for yourself.J

    0is to"e ha"$e% all of a su%%e" as he tol% !y !other, so sharply as to #e

    hurtful, to )ath out for the #oy i" har$e of the ri"$, )ho )oul% see to us. With that

    he )e"t off to)ar%s the e*it, !e)i"$ a"% #leati"$ at the top of his &oie to $et all the

    $a)pers to the #o*3offie. 0is tale"ts as a stu"t!a" a"% his fairly oarse okes ha%people $uffa)i"$ a"% soo" tra"sfor!e% !ost of the i%lers i"to payi"$ usto!ers.

    Whe" it a!e to !y tur" to $o o", !y ollea$ue the ia"t, )ho )as the flea3

    trai"er, !a%e !e sit i" the pal! of o"e ha"% hel% perfetly flat a"% stea%y. 0e raise%

    !e $e"tly at ar!/s le"$th a#o&e his hea% to the le&el of the platfor!. While the

    hil%re" applau%e% the feat, the $ro)"3ups )ere alrea%y yelli"$ out a" a&ala"he of

    so"$3titles they )a"te% !e to i!pro&ise o". ;f ourse, they all )a"te% so!ethi"$

    %iffere"t. Lukily, the ri"$!aster spra"$ to !y assista"e. 'ha"ks to his ee"tri

    aro#atis, he !a"a$e% to stau"h the %isor%erly %e!a"%s of the u"ruly ro)%. 'he

    si$ht of all those )il%ly e*ite% people )as e"ou$h to !ake !e )ish (/% #ee" athousa"% !iles fro! suh a %e" of per%itio". ;"e al! )as restore%, !y #oss

    e*plai"e% to the ta!e% pu#li that they )ere to hear a" i"fa"t pro%i$y a"% assure% his

    %isti"$uishe% au%ie"e that the #est )ay to sa&our !usi )as to shut o"e/s fae. E&e"

    those fro! the %epths of :"$el Court/ )ere stupefie% #y suh )is%o!. fter this

    hi$hly ultural i"tro%utio", he helpe% !e o"to !y stool a"%, a!i% a reli$ious

    sile"e, aske% ?uietly for a fe) )ell3k"o)" tu"es. 0e hose three fro! se&eral

    propose% a"%, )ith a o"spiratorial )i"k, $a&e !e a si$" to #e$i". @o) ( k"e) )hat

    ( ha% to %o. ( thre) !yself i"to !y playi"$, "o) li"ki"$, "o) superposi"$ the three

    !elo%ies, %eorati"$ a"% e!#ellishi"$ the! at leisure. My ha"%s )ere s)ept alo"$o" the )i"$s of !y fa"tasy. 'hey fle) all o&er the key#oar%, a#laze )ith e"er$y.

  • 7/23/2019 Gyorgy Cziffra - Memoirs


    Whe" ( #e$a" the au%ie"e )as ?uite sile"t. Certai" !usi3lo&ers, to sho) ho)

    se"siti&e they )ere a"% ho) %eeply i"tereste% i" !y playi"$, e"oura$e% !e )ith

    )or%s a?uire% fro! lo"$ e*perie"e of "ei$h#ourhoo% #ra)ls4 Jo it, la%2 0a"$ o"

    ti$ht2 Keep har% at hi!2 Let hi! ha&e it )ith your left2 Sho) that short3arse a :Court/

    artist has t)o ar!s2J Whistles of a%!iratio", ao!pa"ie% #y lou%er a"% lou%er

    applause, $reete% eah of !y feats. My ha"%s $re) i" ar%our a"% %ari"$. fter a)hile, ( "otie% sile"e ha% retur"e% to the i$ 'op. ut it )as "ot sile"e i!pose%

    #y a %)arf4 it %i% "ot ha&e the sa!e o"siste"y. (t )as a respetful, )illi"$ sile"e.

    ( ha% e"tertai"e% the ro)% a"% )o" its estee!. ( ha% )o" a &itory a"%

    a%&a"e% to the e%$e of the platfor! to take a #o). 'he )a&e of %isipli"e% applause

    aor%e% a" artist )as ?uite %iffere"t fro! the o&atio" for a stu"t!a". Su%%e"ly, ust

    i" fro"t of !e, ( sa) !y !other at the foot of the po%iu!. ;&eroye% at seei"$ her

    a$ai" a"% for$etti"$ )here ( )as, ( u!pe% i"to her ar!s. She took !e #aksta$e,

    al!ost at a ru", a"% )rappe% !e i" a $reat sarf, a" ol% frie"% )hih ha% ofte" share%

    !y "i$ht!ares, a"% )e !a%e our )ay to the e*it #et)ee" the ro)s of people o" theirfeet applau%i"$ e&e" lou%er. t the e*it, the %)arf ri"$!aster a"% !y $reat pal the

    lo)"3!usiia" )ere )aiti"$ to say $oo%#ye. fter the sta"%ar% o!pli!e"ts, #y

    )ay of )ishi"$ us $oo%"i$ht they sai% to !y !other as if it )ere the !ost "atural

    thi"$ o" earth, J'o!orro). Sa!e ti!e, sa!e plae. Ri$ht, !a%a!7J She stare% at

    the!, rou"%3eye% )ith asto"ish!e"t a"% replie% fir!ly, Je"tle!e", "ot for all the

    $ol% i" the )orl% )oul% ( let !y #oy $o throu$h that a$ai"2J

    'he t)o !e" looke% ?uizzially at o"e a"other, the" the %)arf o"ti"ue%,

    e!phasizi"$ eah )or%, JMa%a!, your so" %oes "ot "ee% all the $ol% i" the )orl%.

    0e is alrea%y a seller of %rea!s. eautiful %rea!s ost a lot a"% ( a! "o !iser. sfro! to%ay he )ill #e pai% fi&e ro)"s, fi&e real sil&er ro)"s,J he sai% to !y

    %u!#fou"%e% !other. J8i&e ro)"s per sho) for three )eeks. What %o you thi"k7J

    Mother )as #reathless )ith e!otio". ll the )hile ( stoo% sile"tly #esi%e her a"%,

    realizi"$ the i!porta"e of this e*traor%i"ary offer, s?ueeze% her ha"% as har% as (

    oul% to $et her to aept )ithout %elay.

    'he $o&er"!e"t ha% !a"a$e% to put a" e"% to i"flatio". 8iftee" ro)"s )as the

    salary of a $oo% )orker a"% ( )as #ei"$ offere% fi&e a %ay. 0ea&e"s2 With that

    a!ou"t )e oul% #uy the )hole fa!ily "e) lothes 5 )hih they )ere !ore tha"

    rea%y for 5 a"% still ha&e !ore tha" e"ou$h to li&e o" for so!e ti!e. My !other ha%"ot $i&e" her full o"se"t #efore lea&i"$ #ut prese"te% the )o"%erful "e)s to !y

    father a"% sister, )ho ha% ust $ot #ak ho!e, as a fore$o"e o"lusio" )hih there

    )oul% #e "o $oi"$ #ak o".

    'he "e*t !or"i"$ at %a)" so!e#o%y k"oke% at the %oor. (t )as the aor%io"3

    playi"$ lo)" )a"ti"$ a %efi"ite a"s)er. 0e )as "ot yet !a%e3up a"% out of #reath.

    Perspiratio" flo)e% fro! his #al% hea%. 0e see!e% &ery please% that !y pare"ts

    a$ree%. Whe" all other ?uestio"s ha% #ee" $o"e throu$h )ith !y father, he $ot up

    sole!"ly, leare% his throat a"% sai%, JWe are"/t rih #ut )e/&e !a%e a olletio" for

    our little artist. We/re $oi"$ to ha&e a suit !a%e for hi! to perfor! i" 5 a !athi"$

    )aistoat a"% trousers plus top hat 5 so that he/ll #e a#le to arry o" his areer )ith

  • 7/23/2019 Gyorgy Cziffra - Memoirs


    pa"ahe )orthy of his %e&otio". Welo!e to the irus, %ear you"$ ollea$ue2J he

    e*lai!e% #y )ay of a $oo%#ye, shutti"$ the %oor #ehi"% hi!.

    "% so !y sta$e areer #e$a". ( arri&e% pu"tually at the irus e&ery %ay a"%

    set to )ork, %resse% all i" !y #est a"% as serious as the Pope, i!pro&isi"$ o" a"

    i"re%i#le &ariety of the!es 5 fo%%er thro)" to !e #y the au%ie"e. fter)ar%s (

    #o)e% fro! the four or"ers of the platfor! a"%, !y eyes shi"i"$, )as alai!e% i"triu!ph. So!eti!es the !a$iia", the s)or%3s)allo)er or !y lo)" frie"%s, $ot up

    to their a"tis or playe% outra$eous triks o" eah other to try a"% !ake !e lau$h. s

    the you"$est !e!#er of the lar$e fa!ily, ( )as their !asot a"% luky har!.

    8or the first te" %ays e&erythi"$ )e"t )o"%erfully. fort"i$ht later ( felt

    fati$ue% a"% fe&erish #ut still arrie% o" as the i"fa"t pro%i$y of the fair$rou"%. 'he

    "e*t %ay ( ha% to $i&e up4 %espite all !y efforts, the pia"o ha% #eo!e a $reat hazy

    #lo# #efore !y o"fuse% eyes.

    Lyi"$ strethe% out o" a #eautiful "e) #e%, the fruit of all +ola"%e/s )ork, (staye% at ho!e. My father )e"t to see the !a"a$er for the last ti!e to prese"t his

    apolo$ies a"% a"el a"y further appeara"es. 0o)e&er, )e all hope%, )ithout %ari"$

    to say so, that a fe) %ays/ rest ( )oul% #e a#le to retur" to !y o#, )hih )as, after

    all, e"oya#le a"% profita#le. las2 My physial resista"e )as si!ply "ot up to the

    e*essi&e %e!a"%s ( !a%e o" !yself. Eah e&e"i"$ at the irus re?uire% four or fi&e

    hours/ pratie a %ay. My "u!#er o"ly laste% half a" hour #ut, #ei"$ the star tur", (

    ha% to play last i" or%er to !ake a" i!pressio". (t )as too !uh a"% ( %iso&ere% at

    the a$e of fi&e a"% a half the prie of fa!e for a"y star4 o&er)ork. 'his lesso" ost

    !e three )eeks i" #e% )ith ou"tless attaks of fe&er, %izzi"ess a"% hiups. While

    !y #o%y, like a fi$ure o" a to!# %epri&e% of its su#sta"e, e"oura$e% itself to $et

    #etter, !y !i"% )e"t off i" searh of its &a"ishe% hopes. 'he tra&elli"$ irus )as far

    a)ayHa"% ( )as still i" :"$el Court/.

  • 7/23/2019 Gyorgy Cziffra - Memoirs


    '0E PEDLR/S PRED(C'(;@ ( )as #e$i""i"$ to feel a little #etter a"% o"e !or"i"$ aske% !y !other if (

    oul% $o outsi%e. ( )as still far fro! fit a"% she )as "o"e too kee" o" the i%ea. E&e"

    so, she a$ree%, thi"ki"$ to herself that so!e fresh air )oul% #e a" e*elle"t a"ti%ote

    to the pia"o.

    'he $reat %ressi"$ ritual #e$a". (t )as a real ere!o"y4 it )as "ot e"ou$h for!y !other ust to put !y lothes o". ( ha% to #e fully ri$$e% out. My fee#le

    o"stitutio" )as al)ays lose to risis poi"t. 'he i"si$"ifia"t )ei$ht of !y #o%y

    )as still too !uh for !y !athstik le$s. 'he sli$htest $ust of )i"% )oul% ha&e

    #o)le% !e o&er so she put so!e #allast i" !y shoes a"% pa%%e% !y $et3out to

    pre&e"t the first )il% a"% !ishie&ous autu!" $ust tur"i"$ !e i"to a )eather &a"e.

    'o start )ith ( pulle% o" t)o lo"$ pairs of thik soks, the" a lo"$3slee&e% &est, a

    thik li"e% shirt a"% a hu$e pullo&er )hih )oul% ha&e %o"e ser&ie as a tu"i.

    pathe% ol% o&eroat B)hih ( oul% ha&e fitte% i"to t)ie )ithout all the

    afore!e"tio"e% reahe% to !y a"kles. My !other )oul% "ot shorte" it as ( ha% "olo"$ trousers. 'hese plus a lo"$ sha)l k"otte% rou"% !y "ek a"% a pair of shoes

    )hose le"$th a"% hea&i"ess !ust ha&e e?ualle% a ?uarter of !y hei$ht a"% a thir% of

    !y )ei$ht respeti&ely, !a%e !e look like a sarero). Mother @ature !ust ha&e

    thou$ht ( )as off to the @orth Pole )he" she sa) !e all %resse% up like a $uy. (" fat

    ( )as o"ly $oi"$ %o)" i"to the yar%. My $oi"$s out )ere su#et to &ery si!ple rules

    lai% %o)" #y !y !other. 8irst, ill"ess )as a ostly pri&ile$e reser&e% for the rih-

    poor people ki"%ly refrai". Seo"%, )hy )het o"e/s appetite i" the ol% air )he" o"e

    a" $o hu"$ry i" o!fort at ho!e7 'hir%, o% looks after his o)". 'his philosophy

    )as the &a%e!eu! of !a"y other fa!ilies a"% )as i!!e%iately follo)e% #y asho)er of further a%&ie #efore ( )as allo)e% out i"to :%ropouts/ u"$le/.

    'he preparatio"s o&er, she helpe% !e %o)"stairs for at that seaso" the ol%

    pla"ks of the #alo"yA)alk)ay )ere slippery, as )ere the stairs. Whe" )e reahe%

    the yar%, she patte% the top of !y hea% a"% s)iftly )e"t #ak up. 'here )as "o3o"e

    else i" the yar%. ( )alke% arefully throu$h the !u% looki"$ for a play!ate a"%

    thi"ki"$ "ostal$ially of the $reat e&e"ts of that su!!er.

    'he rai"#o) #u##le of !y %rea! )as #urst )he" a hor%e of ki%s %ashe% i", o"

    the )ay #ak to the )arre" after a $oo% ti!e i" a "ear#y fiel%. 'here )as ust the

    ri$ht "u!#er for a $oo% $a!e of ops3a"%3ro##ers, ( thou$ht, happy to see the!.Most of the! )ere k"o)" to !e #eause they li&e% i" the sa!e #lok. Whe" they

    au$ht si$ht of !e, they stoppe% i" the !i%%le of the yar% to e*ha"$e a fe) )or%s

    the" starte% slo)ly to approah. ( realize% fro! the "asty, sulle" )ay they )ere

    looki"$ at !e that there )as "othi"$ to #e $ai"e% fro! )aiti"$ there a"% yet ( %i%,

    i"tri$ue% as ( )as #y their #eha&iour. 'hey for!e% a irle rou"% !e. 'hey see!e% to

    #e )ei$hi"$ !e up as if they ha% "e&er set eyes o" !e #efore. part fro! a fe) of

    !y o)" a$e, !ost of the! )ere a#out te" years ol%. s ( i" tur" looke% at the! !ore

    losely, ( realize% to !y surprise for the first ti!e ho) like #e$$ars they looke% )ith

    their tor", ra$$e% lothes. Mi"e )ere all pathes a"% "o #etter tha" theirs e*ept that!y !other )ashe% a"% !e"%e% the! re$ularly so that ( shoul% look less like a stray

    %o$. E&e" so, o!pare% )ith )hat so!e of those )ho )ere stari"$ at !e )ith suh

  • 7/23/2019 Gyorgy Cziffra - Memoirs


    persiste"e )ere )eari"$ a"% #y the "or!s of :"$el Court/ it !ust ha&e looke% as if

    ( )ere %resse% i" haute couture. My ree"t e*ploits at the irus, still the hief

    su#et of $ossip o" )i"ter "i$hts, o"ly !a%e thi"$s )orse. "$ere% #y suh

    superiority, the $a"$ i" its !e"ai"$ sile"e o#&iously fou"% it %iffiult to aept that

    suh a )ee% ha% %o"e so!ethi"$ "ot e&e" the tou$hest i" the $a"$ oul% ha&e. ("

    their eyes, suh sho)i"$3off oul% "ot $o u"pu"ishe%. 'hey presse% rou"% !e,prepari"$ for the kill. (" a flash ( )as pushe% to the $rou"%, pu"he% repeate%ly a"%

    rolle% i" the !u%, a"% after that #o!#ar%e% )ith lu!ps of !uk. ( $ot !yself sa%ly

    up out of the pu%%le a"% hear% !y a$$ressors s"i$$eri"$ as they ra" off4 J'hat/ll

    teah hi! to #e suh a #i$hea% a"% ear" so !uh2 (/&e see" hi! fooli"$ a#out...u$h2J

    'he yar% )as %eserte% o"e !ore. ( ho##le% #ak up to our roo!. My !other let out

    a ry )he" she sa) !e retur"i"$ i" suh a state. 'o ut a lo"$ story short, ( prete"%e%

    ( ha% #u!pe% i"to so!ethi"$ fro! "ot looki"$ )here ( )as $oi"$. Pu"ish!e"t )as

    i!!e%iate4 a )eek )ithout a"y pia"o. ( )as u"%resse% "anu "ilitaria"% or%ere% to

    #e% )ithout supper. While the others ate, ( e*a!i"e% !y ha"%s as if they o"tai"e%so!e sha!eful seret. 'he e*use ( $a&e !y !other )as o"ly a half3lie. 'he i"&isi#le

    o#et i"to )hih ( lai!e% to ha&e #u!pe% %i% e*ist4 the po)er of !y ha"%s to

    i"%ue e!otio". Suh po)er oul% arouse feeli"$s of hatre% as )ell as of lo&e. s (

    #e$a" to %oze off, !y eyeli%s half3lose%, ( thou$ht )ith %is#elief of the i!pote"t

    #itter"ess of #oys ( ha% thou$ht )ere !y frie"%s as they stupi%ly trie% to take a)ay

    the o"ly assaila#le thi"$ ( ha%. ei"$ a )eakli"$ )as so!ethi"$ to #e asha!e% of i"

    :"$el Court/. (" the )orl% of the reete%, a%ults a"% hil%re" o#eye% the sa!e la)4

    that of the har%est3hitti"$ fist.

    ;asio"ally, ( )e"t alo"$ )ith !y !other to the $roer/s shop. She )oul% puta ti$ht #a"%a$e rou"% !y )o##ly k"ees o&er !y t)o pairs of lo"$ soks a"% )i"%

    a"other rou"% !y a"kles, )hih ha% a" u"fortu"ate te"%e"y to $o out of oi"t. ( )as

    thus a#le to )alk i" a strai$ht li"e a"% fall o&er less ofte". ( preferre% our "ei$h#ours/

    looks of o!!iseratio" #ehi"% our #aks to the $usts of autu!" )i"% )hih #le) !e

    arou"% like a stra). y fore of iru!sta"es, ( #ea!e a stay3at3ho!e.

    My for!er frie"%s )ere replae%, )ith a%&a"ta$e, #y a luster of e*traor%i"ary

    haraters, )hose )o"%erful e*ploits ( %iso&ere% %uri"$ !y #outs of &oraious

    rea%i"$. Captai" @e!o, Ma" 8ri%ay, the Se&e" D)arfs, fille% !y %rea!s a"% )orke%

    o" !y i!a$i"atio" )he"e&er they hose. ut !y pia"o )as !y o"ly o"fi%e"t, ato"e !y !aster a"% !y sla&e. 'he %e&ilish i"stru!e"t )as a lo%esto"e rou"% )hih

    !y hief preoupatio"s tur"e% a"% a faithful !irror of !y %eepest feeli"$s.

    My father )a"te% to o"ti"ue $i&i"$ a%&ie for a )hile i" a" atte!pt to te!per,

    or at least ha""el, !y ar%e"t a"% re#ellious tale"t. 0e )as "ot a#le to %o a $reat

    %eal. 'he ro#ot3like o#e%ie"e )ith )hih !y ha"%s, as if pre3pro$ra!!e%, sou"%e%

    out the !ysteries of the key#oar% )as to hi! so asto"ishi"$ that, thou$h ( )as o"ly

    fi&e a"% a half, he %i% "ot %are i"ter&e"e for fear this appare"tly superhu!a" $ift, of

    )hih ( )as the pri&ile$e% reeptale, shoul% lose its &itality. (t )as as thou$h ( )as

    %ra)" to the pia"o eah %ay #y so!e stra"$e !a$"eti fore. My father "o lo"$er feltof a"y use at ho!e a"% retur"e% to his )a"%eri"$s )ith apostoli zeal, i" searh of

    the o# of his %rea!s.

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    My !other ha% $o"e #ak to the $roer/s as a :!ai%3of3all3)ork/, o"ly o!i"$

    ho!e to fee% !e at !ealti!es. My sister o"ti"ue% to lea&e at %ay#reak a"% retur"

    late i" the e&e"i"$. lthou$h ( )as lo"ely, the ti!e flashe% #y, )hat )ith pia"o3

    playi"$ a"% rea%i"$. (" the e&e"i"$ "ei$h#ours so!eti!es alle% i" for a hat. s

    al)ays, they pai% for the i!a$i"ary foo% they ha% #rou$ht )ith the heerful li"k of a

    "o"3e*iste"t sil&er ro)". ("flatio" )as u"%er o"trol a"% the purhasi"$ po)er ofthe "e) oi" )as asto"ishi"$. ;" the other ha"%, half the u"e!ploy!e"t i"%e!"ity

    )hih ha% #ee" the sal&atio" of !a"y ha% !elte% a)ay. s their "est e$$ %i!i"ishe%

    they )ere o#li$e% to spe"% as little as possi#le. (" suh har% ti!es, "o#o%y "ee%e% a

    shoppi"$ #a$. fe) potatoes, a half3portio" of ooki"$3oil, a si"$le slie of #rea% for

    eah !e!#er of the fa!ily a"% ust a ?uarter of a a"%le to li$ht their feasts 5 this

    #ea!e the "or! a$ai". 'he o"ly )ay of putti"$ a little asi%e )as to fast or at least

    #eo!e a &e$etaria".

    Whe" a li!pi"$ pe%lar as tall as a house arri&e% i" the yar% )ith t)o #attere%

    suitases, he ertai"ly k"e) )hat he )as a#out. 0is arri&al ause% u"usuale*ite!e"t a!o"$ the %iehar%s of :"$el Court/. Rai" ha% )ashe% the olour out of

    his ases, #ursti"$ )ith sa!ples of loth of all ki"%s. Sarely ha% he put his #a$s

    %o)" tha" a !ass of people ro)%e% rou"%. 0e sprea% out his loth, $ot people to

    feel its soft"ess a"% su$$este% that the riff3raff looki"$ o" shoul% ha&e a le$ ut off

    rather tha" !iss suh a" opportu"ity. 0is #rash patter !es!erize% the au%ie"e a"%

    !a%e the a%&a"ta$es of his :pe""y3#y3pe""y/ i"stal!e"t pla", as he kept repeati"$

    )ith a" o%% s"i$$er, see! irresisti#le. (t )as true. 'his )a"%eri"$ pe%lar )as offeri"$

    a hor%e of out3of3)ork people )ho )ere o"sta"tly hu"$ry suh #ar$ai"s as )oul%

    ha&e !a%e the oo% Sa!arita"/s harity pale i" o!pariso". 'he fello) k"e) all that)as sai% a#out :"$el Court/ a"% that it )as "ot a $oo% plae for tra%e.

    Co"se?ue"tly, he offere% to %eli&er the follo)i"$ )eek the ?ua"tity of loth of their

    hoie or a rea%y3to3)ear $ar!e"t. 0e )oul% $o o" to other slu!s, pro)li"$ the

    re$io" e"%lessly like a #o$ey!a", olleti"$ the !o"ey o)i"$ hi! i" su!s of a

    ?uarter, 1 a !o"th or e&e" 1Np a )eek2 'he usurer of fashio" )as the a!e of

    Pro&i%e"e to all poor u"touha#les for )ho! suh opportu"ities )ere as rare as the

    te!ptatio" )as $reat. Sta"%i"$ rou"% this Ki"$ of the 0i$h)ay, the ro)% of #e$$ars

    )ith their #otto!less #a$s e*ite%ly o"sulte% eah other i" their ray la"$ua$e. t

    the u%iious !o!e"t, the ho##li"$ ha)ker o"ure% up a lar$e #ook shi"y )ith

    $rease. 0e !etiulously "ote% %o)" the "a!e a"% or%er of e&ery &iti! he ha%

    !a"a$e% to set o" the roa% to rui". 'he" he put a)ay his sa!ples i" a flash a"%,

    raisi"$ his lo"$, ape3like ar!s to the sky, s)ore #y all the %e&ils i" 0ell a"% half a

    %oze" i#les Bthose )ere the ter!s he use% i" a &oie su%%e"ly $ro)" )heezy to $et

    o" )ith the )ork. s the ro)% %isperse%, the rook#ak $ot up a"% )ith his %eep3

    set, restless eyes #e$a" searhi"$ )here the stra"$e !elo%ious sou"%s of a pia"o,

    )hih ha% #ee" i"tri$ui"$ hi! for so!e little )hile, )ere o!i"$ fro!. 0e )aite% o"

    the alert for sile"e to retur" to the yar% a"% the" the %ark, star&e%3looki"$ silhouette

    li!#e% the )or!3eate" stairs.

    s usual at that ti!e of %ay, ( )as #y !yself e"$a$e% o" a o!ple*, poeti

    i!pro&isatio", sitti"$ )ith !y #ak to the %oor. (t )as "ot easy to ath !e u"a)ares

  • 7/23/2019 Gyorgy Cziffra - Memoirs


    #eause )hile playi"$ ( !a%e a !e"tal "ote of all the fa!iliar sou"%s i" the #lok,

    )hih reso"ate% like a %ru! )ith the ehoes of &arious o!i"$s a"% $oi"$s. Without

    so !uh as raisi"$ !y eyes fro! the key#oar%, ( oul% tell )hat )as happe"i"$ i"

    a"% arou"% the #lok fro! the reaki"$ of a stair, the s?ueak of pla"ks o" the

    #alo"y3)alk)ay a"% e&e" the %isti"ti&e $roa" of our fro"t %oor.

    fter a )hile, ( stoppe% a"% let !y ar!s fall. Stari"$ ahea%, ( )o"%ere% if ()oul% %are o"ti"ue the terrifyi"$ story of the ;$re )hih %e&oure% hil%re" as

    rea%ily as ( %i% Shepher%/s Pie. ( fi"ally %ei%e% to )ait for !y pare"ts to retur"

    #efore !aki"$ suh a %ari"$ %eisio", for ( )as as fasi"ate% #y the story as #y the

    pitures i" the ol% #ook ( ha% o!e aross. 'he after"oo" )as %ra)i"$ to a lose a"%

    i" the sile"t, half3%ark roo! the pale li$ht )as reflete% #y the pia"o keys, yello)

    )ith a$e. E&e" the thou$ht of !y tea 5 a %ry rust a"% a fe) piees of su$ar o" a ti"

    plate )ithi" easy reah 5 ha% !e thi"ki"$ of the !o"ster/s $hastly !eals. ( )as

    su%%e"ly a)ake"e% fro! !y !usi"$s #y a sli$ht reaki"$ of the floor#oar%s a"% !y

    eyes ope"e% )i%e )ith fear. ( )as sure so!eo"e or so!ethi"$ ha% o!e i"to theroo! a"% )as sta"%i"$ !otio"less #ehi"% !e. efore e&e" tryi"$ to see )hat the

    i"tru%er looke% like, ( )as o"&i"e% it oul% "ot #e a !ortal si"e it see!e% to !e

    hu!a"ly i!possi#le to ath !e out )ithout !y k"o)le%$e or )ithout !aki"$ the

    sli$htest "oise. ( sat as if $lue% to the seat, "ot %ari"$ to tur" !y hea%. 'he &oie of

    o"sie"e, repe"ti"$ too late, ehoe% i" !y hea%, J(f you keep rea%i"$ a#out o$res,

    you/ll e"% up !eeti"$ o"e.J Su!!o"i"$ up suh oura$e as re!ai"e% to !e, ( spu"

    rou"% o" !y stool, hol%i"$ o" ti$ht so as "ot to fall off. (" the %arke"i"$ roo! there

    stoo% #efore !e a stra"$e, $hostly !a" )ith a #la"k $aze, e*tre!ely tall a"% thi". 0e

    looke% lie a !u!!ifie% %e&il. J'ha"k o%2J ( )hispere%. Jt least it is"/t the hil%eater2J

    J@ot e&eryo"e )oul% %are $o )here ( %o,J sai% the &isitor i" a $rati"$,

    other)orl%ly &oie. J(/&e #ee" liste"i"$ to you for so!e ti!e, la%. ( like your )ork

    #ut (/% like you to play e&e" #etter.J 0e $a&e a hollo) lau$h. Jlas2 @o !a$i a"

    replae the pi"h of sulphur )hih )ill soo" !ake your playi"$ %iffere"t fro!

    others/. ut that/s of "o i!porta"e for the !o!e"t a"% e&e" ( a" %o a $oo% %ea% o"

    oasio",J he !u!#le% half to hi!self.

    Jut )ho are you, sir7J ( aske% politely, asto"ishe% #y the harater/s

    appeara"e a"% a#sur% re!arks. JWho a! (7J he roake% i" a stra"$ely o&ial!a""er, )hih struk a false "ote. JDa!!it, you/&e $ot !ore uriosity tha" your

    fi"$ers, la%. Well, for you, let/s see "o)H(/! the %eao" of Desti"y, ha, ha2 (s that

    $oo% e"ou$h for you7J

    ( still faile% to u"%ersta"% )hat he )as $etti"$ at. Lukily !y !other tur"e% up

    u"e*pete%ly a"% the o"&ersatio" took a"other tur". Wei$hi"$ up the lofty, skeletal

    fi$ure )ith o"e $la"e of her #ri$ht eyes, she realize% he )as a pe%lar. JSir,J she sai%

    politely, #ut i" a to"e a%!itti"$ of "o reply, J)e are"/t ust poor, )e/re &ery poor. (/!

    sorry to ha&e )aste% your ti!e so if you )oul% ki"%lyHJ Gery $ra"%ly, she ope"e%

    the %oor for the pe%lar.

    JMa%a!,J sai% the %ei%e%ly o%% reature, J( ha&e"/t o!e to sell !y )ares,

  • 7/23/2019 Gyorgy Cziffra - Memoirs


    thou$h you oul% %o )ith the!. +ou shoul% also k"o) that ( "e&er )aste !y ti!e,J

    he !uttere%, stressi"$ the fi"al )or%s. J( a!e to tell you that your so" has

    e*eptio"al tale"t. 0is plae is"/t i" a #i$ top #ut at the u%apest a%e!y of Musi

    fou"%e% #y 8ra"z Liszt.J 0is )or%s a%!itte% of "o o"tra%itio" either. Jut ho) %o

    you k"o)7J !y !other &e"ture% to ask, ?uite take" a#ak. JMa%a!, (/! "o !ore

    tha" a hu!#le tra&elli"$3sales!a" #ut, er, )ell, ( k"o) )hat ( k"o),J he replie%o#se?uiously. Js proof of !y $oo% faith (/! $oi"$ to !ake a" appoi"t!e"t for you

    )ith the Diretor of the a%e!y so he a" au%itio" your so".J

    J+ou %o"/t e*pet !e to #elie&e that you k"o) hi! perso"ally7J retorte% !y

    !other, looki"$ sharply at the stra"$er/s fraye% lothes. JMa%a!, ( ha&e e&ery reaso"

    to #elie&e he )ill refuse !e "othi"$,J he replie% )ith a sar%o"i lau$h. Je sure to #e

    rea%y4 "e*t )eek (/ll #e #ak to o"fir! the %ay a"% e*at ti!e of your appoi"t!e"t

    a"% the" 5 )hat )ill #e )ill #e2 My respets, !a%a!. See you soo", you"$ !aster2J

    a"% a)ay he )e"t, shaki"$ )ith lau$hter. 0e pike% up his loa% fro! the la"%i"$ a"%

    this ti!e ( hear% his ri"$i"$ lau$hter a"% sli$htly li!pi"$ )alk %yi"$ a)ay as he)e"t %o)" the stairs, )hih $roa"e% u"%er his )ei$ht.

    Dark"ess fell early o&er :"$le Court/ that %ay. s usual, !y father a"% sister

    a!e ho!e e*hauste%. My !other tol% the! e*ite%ly a#out the o%%, sphi"*3like

    harater )ho looke% like a tra!p a"% spoke like the Pri"e of Dark"ess. 8or !e,

    o"e a"% for all, he )as the terri#le ;$re i" !y story to the life e&e" if there )as "o

    out)ar% rese!#la"e. ( )as !ost areful "ot to let suh a fri$htful seret #e k"o)",

    for "othi"$ )oul% i"%ue !e to let the i!a$e of !yself as so!eo"e far ol%er tha" his

    years #e tar"ishe% 5 a" i!a$e ( polishe% repeate%ly. Whe" !y father )as tol% that

    o"e of the top !usial %i$"itaries )as to au%itio" !e &ery shortly tha"ks to this o%%fello), he )e"t )il% )ith oy. ( oul% "ot re!e!#er e&er ha&i"$ see" hi! so happy

    a"% e*u#era"t. ;&er supper, he !a%e $reat pla"s for !y future as a fa!ous pia"ist.

    fter all the e*hilaratio", !y pare"ts/ o"&ersatio" took a %ei%e%ly less e"thusiasti


    J'here/s "o ?uestio" of taki"$ the #oy to the a%e!y i" that urhi"/s $et up,J

    %elare% !y !other, her &oie #reaki"$. J'hey )oul%"/t e&e" let hi! i" %resse% like

    that.J JWhat he "ee%s is so!e "e) lothes,J a%%e% !y father, si$hi"$ )earily. J"%

    %ee"t shoes,J a%%e% !y sister pe"si&ely as she $ot up fro! ta#le to $o to #e%. 'he

    soles of her shoes )ere like sie&es. JDo"/t )ait for !e for supper to!orro)4 (/!#ehi"% )ith !y )ork a"% )ill pro#a#ly #e late,J she sai% as she fi"ishe% u"%ressi"$.

    Joo% "i$ht, all2J

    She $ot i"to #e%, tur"e% her fae to the )all a"% fell asleep at o"e. ( %i% the

    sa!e. My pare"ts )e"t o" talki"$, tryi"$ to resol&e the ta"talizi"$ pro#le!. Where

    )ere they to $et the !o"ey fro!7 @e*t %ay )e )ere #ak to our usual routi"e. (

    staye% at ho!e alo"e, ri&ete% to the pia"o stool, !y ha"%s #rushi"$ the keys a"%

    o"sta"tly looki"$ rou"% u"easily, either #ehi"% !e or at the ol% yello)i"$ #ook,

    e*peti"$ to see the !e"ai"$ i!a$e of the o$ey!a" risi"$ out of it. ( $ot off )ith a


    My pare"ts a"% ( )ere ust fi"ishi"$ our !eal )he" !y sister arri&e%, flushe%

  • 7/23/2019 Gyorgy Cziffra - Memoirs


    )ith e!otio", a lar$e parel )rappe% i" oloure% paper u"%er her ar!. She hel% it out

    to !e sile"tly, s!ili"$. 'his for! of $e"erosity )as "ot the rule i" our o!!u"ity

    a"% ( stoo% there, ar!s %a"$li"$, "ot k"o)i"$ ?uite )hat to !ake of it all.

    JCo!e o", take it, silly, it/s for you2J she rie%, lau$hi"$ at !y shy"ess. reatly

    e!#arrasse%, ( took the #eautiful parel a"% plae% it arefully o" the #e%, really

    sorry to ha&e to tear off suh lo&ely )rappi"$s. ( lu!sily #e$a" to ope" it, putti"$off the !o!e"t of re&elatio" as lo"$ as possi#le. My pare"ts a"% sister $aze% at !e

    te"%erly as ( u"%i% the last k"ot i" the fi"al ri##o". 'he parel )as u"%o"e.

    %azzli"$ sailor suit plus a pair of real leather shoes, )ith suh a shi"e o" the! that it

    reflete% the fla!e of the paraffi" la!p, lay prou%ly i" their #o*. 8i&e !i"utes later,

    %resse% i" !y )o"%erful suit, ( )as strutti"$ rou"% the roo! #ursti"$ )ith oy )hile

    !y fa!ily $ape% i" a%!iratio". 'he a!azi"$ly #i$ ollar )as like a lor%/s- !y first

    lo"$ trousers )ith their i!!aulate reases fitte% ust ri$ht.

    J0o) )ere you a#le to $uess his !easure!e"ts so aurately7J !y !other

    aske% i" asto"ish!e"t. J

  • 7/23/2019 Gyorgy Cziffra - Memoirs


    a"% le$e"%s i"&e"te% for little #oys suh as !yself. Upo" )hih she $ot up, )ashe%

    our rake% plates i" "o ti!e at all a"% retur"e% to the $roer/s, )ar"i"$ !e to

    #eha&e !yself at least u"til she $ot #ak. ( )as alo"e o"e !ore. ;utsi%e the )eather

    )as $loo!y. 'o pass part of the after"oo", )hih looke% like #ei"$ e"%less, ( %ei%e%

    to re3rea% the Piper/s story, lau$hi"$ to !yself at !y pre&ious "ai&ety. My rea%i"$

    )as i"terrupte% #y so!e i"%efi"a#le "oise a"% ( stoppe%. hi$h3pithe% )histle, likea lo"$ la!e"t repeate% o&er a"% o&er, #ea!e e&er !ore pieri"$ as it approahe%. (t

    )as so!e)hat like a athy tu"e yet there )as so!ethi"$ plea%i"$ a#out it, at o"e

    fasi"ati"$ a"% u"#eara#le. ( ha% "e&er hear% a"ythi"$ like it. (" !y uriosity (

    ope"e% the )i"%o) to take a look at the perfor!er of the u"earthly hy!". (t )as the

    o$ey!a". Who else7 0e )as still so!e )ay off. 'his ti!e he arrie% "ot o"ly his

    t)o $reat suitases #ut ha% o" his #ak a ha&ersak of appare"tly o"si%era#le )ei$ht

    as it ause% his lo"$, star&e%3looki"$ arase to #e"%.

    0e !o%ulate% his stra"$e ha"t u"til it #ea!e a stri%e"t )histle, still )alki"$

    i" the %iretio" of our #lok a"% li!pi"$ sli$htly. ( realize% )ith asto"ish!e"t that it)as o"e )eek to the %ay si"e our first e"ou"ter. 0e )as o" ti!e for his

    appoi"t!e"t. ( %o "ot k"o) if he ha% $uesse% !y thou$hts #ut he "o%%e% at !e fro!

    a %ista"e, )hih ( took for a $reeti"$ a"% auto!atially a"s)ere% )ith a )a&e. Deep

    %o)", ( )as al!ost please% to see the stra"$e, )histli"$ o$ey!a" a$ai"4 he ha%

    #eo!e a part of !y )orl%. ll of a su%%e" !y pleasure tur"e% to fear. People

    looki"$ as if they sarely k"e) )hat they )ere %oi"$ a!e out of their houses as he

    passe% a"%, !arhi"$ like sleep)alkers, fell i"to li"e #ehi"% hi!. 'he proessio"

    $re) #efore !y eyes a"% )as fast approahi"$ the e"tra"e to our yar%. Whe"

    e&eryo"e )as i"si%e, the $oo% shepher% stoppe% )histli"$ a"%, tur"i"$ rou"%, alle%out to his flok, JCo!e o", you se*y lot2 (t/s ti!e to reoie2 (/! #ak )ith you

    a$ai"2J 0e #roke i"to a fore%, %e&ilish lau$h. 0a&i"$ reo&ere% fro! their

    stupefatio", his flok stoo% i" li"e a"% applau%e% hi!, titteri"$ as they %i% so. 'hey

    fou"% hi! irresisti#le. 0e let the! $or$e the!sel&es o" the hilarity he ha% pro&oke%

    the" raise% his lo"$, ski""y ar!s i" the air. " oppressi&e sile"e at o"e fell o&er the

    ro)%. 0e $ra&ely ope"e% his $reat #lak #ook a"% i" his e*traor%i"ary sreeh o)l

    &oie alle% out the "a!es of his %e#tors o"e #y o"e. 'hey a!e for)ar% as if

    hyp"otise% a"% )e"t, hea%s #o)e%, up to the s!all fol%i"$ ta#le #ehi"% )hih stoo%

    the seller of illusio"s, prou% a"% $e"erous.

    'o eah o"e he ha"%e% the roll of loth he or she ha% or%ere% a"%, )ith a

    $raspi"$ $esture, s)ept the ti"y pile of s!all ha"$e the people ha% hu!#ly plae%

    #efore hi! #y )ay of a %o)" pay!e"t. oo% sales!a" that he )as, he %i% "ot

    "e$let to !ake the "oses of the #oozers $lo) #y u"asha!e%ly payi"$ ourt, )ith

    atte!pte% ri#al%ry, to the su"ke"3fae% )o!e". 0e pike% out o"e "ie $irl )ith a"

    e!aiate% fae sta"%i"$ a!o"$ her frie"%s, all )ithere% a"% fa%e% #efore their ti!e.

    With a" o#se"e $esture he e*lai!e%, Jy the falle" a"$el, ( s)ear )he" ( see so

    !a"y &irtues i" a si"$le perso" it !akes !e lo"$ for a #o)el !o&e!e"t2 (/% rather

    stuff you tha" the Pope/s !ule2J 'he $irl thus a%%resse% )e"t a"% hi% herself #ehi"%the others i" e!#arrass!e"t )hile they $uffa)e%. 'he o$ey!a" )e"t o" titillati"$

    the )o!e" )ith other suh o!pli!e"ts, k"o)i"$ full )ell that his latest o"?uest, a

  • 7/23/2019 Gyorgy Cziffra - Memoirs


    "otorious prostitute, )as )aiti"$ patie"tly #ehi"% a "ear#y fe"e for hi! to ho"our

    his pro!ises.

    ;"e e&eryo"e )as satisfie%, the pe%lar li!#e% up to our ho&el. J0i, ki%2

    'o!orro)/s the %ay2J he sai% i" the &oie of a )ell3fe% trooper. JMr Doh"O"yi, the

    Diretor of the a%e!y, )ill #e e*peti"$ you at his ho!e at ele&e" o/lok sharp.

    e there )ithout fail,J he )e"t o", tur"i"$ to !y !other, )ho ha% ust arri&e%. J@o,Jtur"i"$ to)ar%s !e a$ai" as if he ha% $uesse% )hat )as o" !y !i"%, J(/! sorry (

    )o"/t #e a#le to $o )ith you #ut ( really a! &ery #usy at the !o!e"t. (/ll !ake sure

    you $et a %ee"t )elo!e ust the sa!e. oo% luk, la%. Perhaps )e/ll !eet a$ai".J

    'hose )ere his fi"al, e"i$!ati )or%s as he stoo% i" the %oor)ay #efore li!pi"$ off.

    @e*t !or"i"$, !y !other a"% ( )ere up at %ay#reak. 'he Diretor/s ho!e )as

    o" the other si%e of u%apest. We ha% a" hour3a"%3a3half )alk to the tra! ter!i"us, a

    t)o3hour our"ey aross the ity, the" a"other hour/s )alk. (t )as the first ti!e ( ha%

    #ee" out of :"$le Court/. 0o) #eautiful the apital )as )ith its flashi"$ ar li$hts,

    fairyla"% shop fro"ts o&erflo)i"$ )ith treasure a"% )i%e, leafy a&e"ues )ith palatial

    %)elli"$s o" either si%e. (t ?uite took !y #reath a)ay. Dotte% here a"% there )ere

    ha"so! a#s, #u$$ies a"% a"ti?uate% arria$es )hih all #ea!e i"e*tria#ly

    e"ta"$le% at e&ery rossroa%s. ;l% haks pulle% #uses a"% sple"%i% tea!s of horses

    )ith shi"i"$ har"ess a"% $ol%3plate% #its )aite% for the! stoially, taki"$ "ot the

    least "otie of the li!ousi"e %ri&ers #ursti"$ )ith i!patie"e a"% #lasti"$ furiously

    o" their hor"s to try a"% $et past. Cro)%s of o&er%resse% people strolle% alo"$ the

    pa&e!e"ts. 0au$hty3looki"$ )o!e", hea%s hel% hi$h, )ore hats %efyi"$ the la)s of

    $ra&ity, or i"%ee% la)s of a"y ki"%. ( $aze% a%!iri"$ly at o"e )ith a tropial forest

    o" her hea% !a%e up of peaok, ostrih a"% okatoo feathers, a"% a fe) others#esi%es. "other )ore, )ith $reat %i$"ity, a three3!aster i" full sail o" her hair,

    )hih ha% #ee" ele$a"tly let %o)". 'he !ost #eautiful of all ha% a hat o&ere% )ith

    fruit. 'here )as so!ethi"$ for e&eryo"e4 a" apple, a pair, a #u"h of $rapes, a

    to!ato. (t )as "ot a hat, it )as a otta$e $ar%e". We ha% %ese"%e% fro! the tra! a"%

    !y !other )as hurryi"$ ahea% so fas