Mihály Babits on the Concept of the Nation Cover Image

Babits nemzetfölfogása
Mihály Babits on the Concept of the Nation

Author(s): Mihály Szegedy-Maszák
Subject(s): Language and Literature Studies
Published by: Erdélyi Múzeum-Egyesület
Keywords: Mihály Babits; Hungarian poet; concept of the Nation; Ernest Renan

Summary/Abstract: The Hungarian poet Mihály Babits was brought up on the ideas of Ernest Renan (1823–1892). The French thinker was elected a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 1859, and his ideas on the nation became the common currency of Hungarian culture by the end of the nineteenth century. Throughout his career Babits accepted Renan's distinction between race, based on ethnicity, and nation, determined by collective memory. In other respects his views changed after 1920. Before 1914 he was critical of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy, and towards the end of World War I he became overly optimistic about international progress. The Peace Treaty of Trianon signed in 1920 convinced him that his hopes had been misguided. In 1928 he published a long essay on La trahison des clercs, a book by Julien Benda (1867-1956), a follower of Renan. In this text the Hungarian poet drew a comparison between the loss of Alsace and Lorraine after the Prussian-French war of 1870 and that of two thirds of the territory of Hungary after World War I. His later essays have two main characteristics: on the one hand, they express a nostalgia for the past, the world before 1914, on the other hand, they present the legacy of Classical Antiquity as an antidote to the rise of nationalism.

  • Issue Year: LXXIII/2011
  • Issue No: 2
  • Page Range: 87-98
  • Page Count: 11
  • Language: Hungarian