Black Monastery

Black Monastery

Black Monastery
Memoirs of the French Internment
Edited by Éva Jeney
NSZL–Kriterion, Budapest–Cluj-Napoca, 2015.
[Collected Works of Aladár Kuncz, I., series edited by László Boka, Tamás Gusztáv Filep], 554 pages
ISBN 978 973 26

2 490,- Ft

The iconic work by Aladár Kuncz is a novel, a diary, a psychological portrait and a record in one. Black Monastery is not only an exciting read, but also proves that the diversity of genres can be reconciled in an artistic way. “Authentic” is undoubtedly the best word to characterize this account of the five years the author spent in a French internment camp during the First World War. Aladár Kuncz is amazingly moderate and enviably fair at presenting good and bad, without any unnecessary mannerism or pathos. As his fellow prisoner and friend Andor Németh puts it, he presents “those hundred-odd people, all of them separately, one by one, making them all visible among the horrible thick walls”.

The 2014 edition of Black Monastery, the first volume of the Collected Works of Aladár Kuncz series published in cooperation between National Széchényi Library and Kriterion Publishing House, is also the most complete version of the work so far, after a number of scanty and censored editions. “It is not a critical edition. The text was restored after seventy years by the reinsertion of the previously censored parts”, explains the editor, Éva Jeney, in the introductory study. „Our primary source was the first edition of 1931 prepared for printing by Kuncz himself [Erdélyi Szépmíves Céh, 1931]. We compared it line-by-line to the 1996 Kriterion edition, and because we wanted to provide the readers with an authentic version, wherever we suspected an unconfirmed intervention, we checked also the manuscript. [...] We took over the notes to the 1967 edition of Irodalmi Publishing House (Bucharest), corrected them, and what matters most, completed the list. [...] We now publish the complete picture material of the original work, together with the captions. [...] There are also some new illustrations that could not be seen in the previous editions of Black Monastery.”

Collected Works of Aladár Kuncz

It was a hundred years ago, in 1914,  that Aladár Kuncz, the renowned writer, editor, critic and translator, a devoted admirer of the French culture, was interned by the French authorities together with other Hungarians staying in France. It was immediately after the breakout of World War I., but before a state of war between Austria-Hungary and France would have been officially declared. Although Kuncz had been going to France for holiday for years, he suddenly became persona non grata for being a citizen of an enemy state at war, and so did his fellow Hungarians.

The collection and publishing of the entire Kuncz oeuvre has not taken place until this anniversary, but now efforts are being made to fill the gap. Specialized researchers, academic workshops at National Széchényi Library that keeps part of the legacy, and Kriterion Publishing House in Romania, that excels in the publication of the Hungarian literary legacy in Romania, all contribute to the project. Within its framework we plan to complete the publication of the Collected Works (without the translations) of the writer of Black Monastery by another significant year, 2018: the centenary of the beginning of the Hungarian minority literature in Transylvania. The series of seven volumes edited by László Boka and Tamás Gusztáv Filep is planned to include the entire Kuncz oeuvre: novels, works of small epic, reviews, correspondence and monographs on Ferenc Toldy and the evolution of the Hungarian literary science.

Each volume will be complemented by an explanatory study and several critical notes. The  last title of the series is planned to include a bibliography of the articles, studies, essays and portraits expressing opinions on the reception of Kuncz and his works.