Magyar EnglishFrançaisGerman
Commemoration for György Bodnár



Funeral address given by Edit Rőder member of the Board of Trustees, for the late György Bodnár, Chairman of the Board of Trustees, on 7 November 2008

Esteemed Chairman and beloved friend, György Bodnár,

I address you on behalf of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences Milán Füst Translation Foundation with a quotation from a diary entry Milán Füst wrote in 1921 – this was where his Diary opened on the evening of your death. In connection with Ignác Goldziher’s funeral, he writes: “They sang the 23rd Psalm for him, as he had wanted – ‘For you are with me’ […] and quoted from his last will and testament: ‘I shall go to the world of pure spirituality.’ And he, poor soul, was laid out there, the focus of an occasion […]. And now,” Milán Füst concludes his diary entry, “the cells of Arabic, Aramaic, Syriac, Chaldean, Hebrew, and Persian knowledge are decaying. He gathered all that vast treasure for a number of years ­only to disintegrate into nothingness! O horrid tragedy of human, human life! Death!”

Milán Füst knew exactly that a vast body of knowledge would not disintegrate into nothingness on death. His oeuvre and teaching – when, like György Bodnár, he was a teacher – live on, as those before me, qualified as they are to evaluate the work of György Bodnár, literary historian, critic and emeritus professor, have pointed out.

I wish to speak about the eight years György Bodnár spent as Chairman of the three-member Board of Trustees of the Milán Füst Translation Foundation.

We worked together for eight years. I cannot judge whether they were long or short.

If I look back on our ‘stormy term in office’ (his own words), they were long. For years the proper functioning of the Foundation was greatly hindered by a legal dispute in which the form of the Foundation and its powers of disposal over the assets assigned to it by Mrs Milán Füst in her public covenant and last will and testament were challenged and contested.

I would not even have mentioned this subject in these moments of mourning were it not for the exemplary perseverance, loyalty and friendship with which György Bodnár stood his ground, all the while struggling with a malady growing worse and worse year by year. One operation was followed by another; one barely endurable course of treatment by another that was even more trying. This I could not leave unmentioned.

When I think of the accord and of the efficiency of the work performed together, of the friendship evolving and deepening among the members of the Board of Trustees, those eight years were short.

We understood each other from half words.

When we had to decide on the awarding of the Milán Füst Grand Prizes for Translation and the Milán Füst Translation Grants (the last mentioned numbering around fifty), we could always rely on his wide literary knowledge and his judgment of the applicants’ work and abilities. This was how we could arrive at a decision on four applicants from three countries in the case of the Translation Grand Prize, and decisions on forty-eight applicants from nineteen countries in the case of the Translation Grants.

Already gravely ill, György Bodnár wrote a Postscript entitled “Approaches to Milán Füst’s Poetry’’ for Milán Füst’s Collected Poems, which Fekete Sas published in 2008, the 120th anniversary of Milán Füst’s birth. In the same year, he wrote a Postscript to the French edition of Milán Füst’s short novel Abyss, published by Cambouralis, entitled “Milán Füst, Modernity in Hungarian Literature and the Short Novel”.

With his wide-ranging literary knowledge, a specific approach to Milán Füst’s poetic and prose works, and his stories which he related with gentle humour, György Bodnár made the meetings of the Board of Trustees memorable.

A few months before his death, he reminisced about his childhood in Karcag, where he was an altar-boy for many years. He sang the Latin Mass, taking the part of the priest, altar-boy and the congregation. Then he recalled the years he spent at the Calvinist grammar school, and started singing a psalm, and we, too, joined him. We sang, with devotion and loudly, the 42nd Psalm: “As the deer pants for streams of water […]’”. After the end of Verse 2 – “When can I go and meet with God?” – we were silent for seconds, which seemed like hours. I looked at him: he was staring into the distance, smiling.

The next memory is quite recent. On 19 September, the Board of Trustees held a meeting; one item on the agenda was to decide on the contents of the Foundation’s website. He always arrived on the dot or earlier than the time fixed. On that occasion, however, he was more than half an hour late. He was haggard and pale, exhausted even, when he entered. “I’ve had difficulty of late getting ready in the mornings,” he said by way of excuse.

We worked for more than four hours, in the course of which he became more and more spirited, meticulous and witty – his old self, in short. At the end of the meeting, he turned to me and said, as always: “I’m free, except on Thursdays. Call me if I can be of any help.” I followed him with my eyes as he left with slow steps and his back bent… It was the last time I saw him.

After that, only sad news arrived – that he was fatigued, was suffering a lot and had to be given oxygen… He became shorter of breath, life was slipping away. And then it came to an end.

In his work Vision and Emotion in Art, in the summary of his 12th Lecture, Milán Füst replies thus to the question he has raised as to whether an artist “has success or has not”: “If he listens to the quiet words of the daimon in himself and faithfully acts as it commands, dedicating all his life to its service, then we tell him with all our love that he has lived in the right way. And that’s all there is to it!”

Dear friend, György Bodnár, I say with all my love that you did live in the right way, and we thank you for sharing your life with us for eight short years.

In conclusion, in refutation of transience, I shall quote from the Apostle Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians in praise of love: “Love never fails.”

And so, György Bodnár, dear friend, although now departed, you will be here with us in your works, teachings and in our love. For love never fails.

Goodbye to you. God be with you.




 Bodnár György ravatala

 Emlékbeszédet mond
Szörényi László,
az MTA Irodalomtudományi
Intézet igazgatója



Emlékbeszédet mond
Juhász Ferenc
Kossuth-díjas költő

Emlékbeszédet mond
Pomogáts Béla,
az MTA Irodalomtudományi


 Emlékbeszédet mond

dr. Rőder Edit,

az MTA Füst Milán Fordítói Alapítvány


 Bodnár György sírhantja