Born 1900: Memoirs

Born 1900: Memoirs

Born 1900: Memoirs

Born 1900: Memoirs

Excerpt

Shall I tell you about young J.H. 14, who on a railway journey between Cegléd and Abony (both in Hungary, about seventeen kilometres apart) was dragged unwittingly by his constant or inconstant travelling companion, the twentieth century, into the most ghastly adventure conceivable and - in company with his entire generation - more gambled with than any chip that was ever tossed on a casino table?

He was a pupil at the Cegléd grammar school. The school year 1913-14 being at an end, the occasion was celebrated with an excursion of several days' duration to what was then the southeastern tip of Hungary. The party descended the Danube as far as the Iron Gate, that is to say as far as the frontier between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Kingdom of Romania.

The excursion ended back in Cegléd and from there I travelled alone to Abony. In the second-class compartment in which with a wordless greeting to the other passengers I took a corner seat, there were two gentlemen from Budapest whose destination was the same as my own. After a few minutes' indiscreet eaves- dropping and skilful decipherment of luggage-labels I was in possession not only of the two gentlemen's names but also of the fact that one of them - Mr Szegö - was an architect, and the other - Mr Kis - a master builder.

School excursions call for a swaggering toilet. My own, swaggering enough in my eyes, was doubtless unkempt in the eyes of those who shared the compartment with me. But how shall a fourteen-year-old just back from seeing and thereby making his . . .

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