Eulogy by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán at the funeral of Géza Szőcs
14 November 2020, Piliscsaba
Bereaved Family, Fellow Mourners,
Bidding farewell to Géza Szőcs is difficult. You were more than a friend: you were a mentor, a strategist, a spiritual buttress. Whenever before important speeches I was beset by writer’s block or spiritual exhaustion, you were an inspiration for me – indeed an intellectual lifesaver. Géza Szőcs was more than a contemporary poet, more than a politician, more than a public figure, and more than an advisor. I always received from you more than I expected, and more than I deserved. I bid farewell to a friend with whom I not only shared a common past, but with whom I planned the future. Géza Szőcs was a friend in the future tense, who never sat back, and could never sit on the laurels he had deservedly earned: he set himself ever more goals and searched for ever more new tasks. He arrived at every one of our meetings with a sack of ideas and work – most of which, of course, I should have done with his assistance. He was literally my favourite taskmaster. His passing was only ten days ago, but I already miss the chores he handed out to me: what should we organise, save or rebuild, and where and how we should do it. Even on the greyest and most difficult of days, he was nourished by the joy of creation. He was unwaveringly true to the cause of 1848, 1956 and 1989 – but also to the cause of 2148, 2256 and 2389. That Hungary and the Hungarian nation are not only of the past, but also of the future is something he believed and was certain of, and something on which he would have wagered everything. He possessed an imagination of seismic power. He bore within himself an extraordinary world that he had built with a deep and accurate sense of morality, and that we humble mortals were occasionally allowed to glimpse – but literally for no longer than the blink of an eye. He could imagine many futures, and for him it was natural to always choose the one which was best for the nation and the country. Indeed this is also what he sought to convince us of. What struck us as adventurism or fantasy was in his mind and heart the very future of the nation.
There are people who cannot be pigeonholed. They are too talented, too free and too free-spirited to obey the logic of any category. Géza Szőcs was Géza Szőcs. As one of his spiritual and intellectual peers said two centuries ago, he lived in this world poetically. And indeed his truth was poetic truth, its domain somewhere between the earth and the sky. This may have been the reason for the physical miracle that, despite his robust physique, he appeared to be weightless: he was not pulled down by the earth and by gravity; he did not walk, but almost floated. He did not seek to be a philosopher – although he had the ability, the education and the intellect. I believe this was because he knew that we Hungarians understand metaphysics in verse and experience metaphysics in verse. He could have been an academic polymath; instead of this, he told us our stories time and again. He knew that the country, floating on high, had to be anchored to the motherland by someone. He lived his own life. He was convinced that this was not only good for him, but for us all. When he was accused of not being a team player, he said this: “Teams are important, and often crucial. But even the best team is based on the abilities and performance of individuals – and, of course, on the harmony of these.” In his mind, the Géza Szőcs essence of harmony was this: “We do not fight against those who stand facing us, but for those who stand behind us.” He believed this, and believed that this simple truth is enough to create harmony among our troops, even as they fight on the chaotic front line.
There are many who believe that power, governmental power, must be used for good purposes. Géza was the person who taught us that this is not enough: power must be used to accomplish the greatest things. This is the litmus test, this is what sets one apart. We must aim high, beyond our horizons, towards the stars, undaunted by heights and never dizzy. If God has given you power and strength, if you are a grown man and a Hungarian, you can aim for nothing less. For him this was the law. At times he wanted to reclaim Königsberg for Europe, or he would nail his colours to the mast of a Virtual Danubian Republic, or he would see nothing strange in calling together Calvinist bishops to tell them to send emissaries to Central Asia. In 2010, when we received our first two-thirds parliamentary mandate, Géza impatiently pushed for a Christian-national constitution. We only suspected what storms awaited us, but he foresaw them, and he knew that we could only survive them if we built our house on foundations of stone. In 2014, when we won our second two-thirds victory, he said that the time had come to raise to the level of a government programme the notion that we Hungarians cannot be allowed to disappear. At a stroke, he placed the cause of demography at the heart of the Government’s philosophy. We could only surmise the size of this undertaking, but he clearly saw it. Back in 1995 he had already said the following: “Hungarians should return to the family model of parents with several children, or else they will be forced to invite in settlers.” And, we might add, if they do not return to that model they will be forced to suffer all the consequences. He knew from first-hand experience what it is like to become a member of a minority in one’s own country. He also proposed that we should track down every Hungarian around the world. And if there were still not enough of us, we should look for people who are most like us. As I see him now in my mind’s eye, I have the image of a modern-day Friar Julian, setting out to find what has been lost. Finally, in 2018, after we had won our third two-thirds majority, he thought the time had come to present another great plan. He declared that our survival must not only be understood in quantitative terms, but also in qualitative terms. He set out to pursue Hungarian genius, to gather together Hungarian inventions, ideas and visions, and persuade brilliant Hungarian minds to serve the homeland. This was the work brought to an abrupt end by his death. He has left it to us to continue this work until we reach the fulfilment of the vision he recently set out in what we could call his political credo: “I believe that the Hungarian nation is pursuing a historic mission, and this mission is deeply linked to culture and our wonderful ability that ennobles spirit and nation. I want to see a knowledge centre built in this country, this crossroads and witness to history, this meeting point of East and West, North and South. I believe that, with God’s help, our nation will become one of the most cultured in Europe." And why wouldn’t he have believed that? We can all agree with the thesis that even while the nation was moving away from God it was also moving towards Him – having chosen the longer path.
I also learnt from Géza that not every mortal has a destiny: some only have lives. But Géza had a destiny. If you are Hungarian, by definition your destiny can only be difficult. In the minds of Hungarians whatever is easy is not destiny at all. Géza was a lucky man, and he received a difficult destiny: he confronted the Romanian and Hungarian communists; in chaotic times of transition, he sought to give guidance as a poet using words that were both quiet and momentous. Your literary greatness, Géza, was of global consequence, and so we thank you for blessing us with your time. And we thank you, a strict guardian of words and spirit, for teaching us that the bridge of words only has meaning if it leads us across the abyss to the other side.
Hungarians create more history than they can consume. If this is true, he was a Hungarian through and through. He had more ideas than politics could accommodate, he had more words than needed for his poetry, and he had more stories than there is room for in textbooks. He said of himself, and I quote: “I have not written, said or done anything I should be ashamed of. I have no need to take back a single word.” An enviable career and life. All that is left for us is to not forget a single word of his.
In 1986 Géza wrote a poem. When I read it I thought of Prince Csaba on Géza Szőcs’s lute.
“Someday a few Indians
Across the Bering Strait,
Across any strait,
Will cut their way through to us
To come to our aid,
To come to our aid.
The Indians let no one down.
The Indians will not let us down.”
Thirty years later he could still read it and we could still read it together when the generation of young lions following us wrote, "Dear Géza, you were also writing to us to say that we are the Indians. We are the ones that we’ve all been waiting for." Yes, Géza, there is now a new generation following us: a new voice, a new feeling of confidence. You see, you were right, and here is further proof: Hungary and the Hungarian nation are not only of the past, but also of the future.
We bid farewell to one of the greatest. You are leaving us now. We who remain know that we stand at the gateway of great ambitions: the most secret, unspoken ambitions, yet shared by Hungarians. And we know that when we open the gate you will be standing there beside us. Until then, Godspeed Géza, our Dear Friend! Godspeed, Bereaved Family, Godspeed us all who mourn him now.