Monday, March 15, 2021

My view on King Lear play by Peter Brook


I already made several videos about King Lear where one of the videos you can see below.

I loathe directors who try improve masterpieces with the passionate desire to reduce genius to their own mediocrity.   The greatest dramatic poet of the modern age could use language to ignite our imagination so that we can see and feel everything.  King Lear asks a blinded character how the world goes. “I see it feelingly” he replies.  We see feelingly what Shakespeare describes. Now the vile practices is to rape that language and our imagination by adding words like “King Lear looks around.” But we already know that, and we know it feelingly! So the only Shakespeare plays you should watch should be the original BBC productions organised by entertainment in the early 1970s.

At the time we were blessed with great actors and directors.  Laurence Olivier crowned his long career and old age playing King Lear.  Derek Jacobi’s Richard II, Kate Milligan in Measure for Measure, Helen Mirren (1978) in As You Like It are creations you will never forget.  One great advantage of them all is that they have subtitles, so people do not miss a word while watching the film. So instead of watching garbage television, it is best to watch the original BBC productions. 

The great versions of plays are the original production, which the BBC did with Time-Live Magazine when the BBC head of entertainment

The original productions with great actors and great expense are the best Shakespeare productions possible and would greatly enhance every viewer’s vocabulary and enjoyment. 

It’s not universally appreciated that the truths Shakespeare writes about so universal and lasting that it dissolves into even other languages and cultures.  I had been in Hungary’s national theatre on October 22nd 1956.  It was a long way from England and an even longer way from the time of The War of the Roses (Richard III), yet the performance was interrupted with strong clapping several times.  We felt Shakespeare was writing about our own experience of tyranny and after the performance that the younger members of the audience went out to the street to demonstrate, which later that night turned into a revolution. 

It also reminds us that the greatest dramatic poet of the modern age we ever had really became what he became from acting.  He was an actor’s playwright, it often happens that in his plays logic is abandoned for the sake of a great scene.  The great characters in Measure for Measure alter in the middle of the play and in the beginning the Lord Angelo is given by the Duke the power of life and death yet in the second part of the play we learn that the villain, Lord Angelo, in fact libelled and discarded the rich woman he betrothed when he learned that her dowry was lost at sea.

It is still a great play despite the contradictions because every scene is powerfully true.  Hamlet, Richard II, King Lear and Twelfth Night along with several other of his plays are free from contradictions.  The plays have no broken storylines, which made the author the greatest figure in literature not only in English, but in many other languages and cultures.

King Lear by Peter Brook

There is one exception: Peter Brook’s direction of the play.  He filmed the play with Paul Scofield who was still a young man back in 1971.   Peter Brook was the most admired director both in France and England at the time. For this version a youngish Paul Scofield played King Lear. I watch this version once every year.


Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The Pugachev Rebellion


I am working now on how common humanity breaks through even enemy lines during the revolution.  During the Hungarian revolution of 1956 I led a group of fellow students (mainly from the Theatre and Film Academy) and I brought them to my mother for breakfast in the morning. We had two rooms on a villa on Buda (the hilly north side of Budapest) on Rosehill.  The huge apartment upstairs belonged to the Stalin-prize winning artist, the head of the Arts Academy. We had a car and we had our Russian submachine guns. When we arrived there was a small mob outside the villa and they wanted to lynch the painter – a famous member of the regime. Mother came out and was worrying about the family upstairs. I wasn’t driving and fired a round over the head of the mob, telling them to disperse as there wasn’t going to be any lynching there. I certainly didn’t risk my life to lynch anybody. I went upstairs to calm the family. The man was about fifty, but his wife was young and beautiful. They had two daughters, two young teenagers. They were scared out of their wits and I felt quite happy being able to calm them.

That very morning we all had a couple of near-death experiences.  I looked down at the barrel of a big gun from a tank and ducked my head.  

None of the others in the car felt any differently from me. When you watch violent scenes of a revolution on television, the rampage is done by people who actually weren’t involved in the fighting.  Before the tank arrived (we were holding out behind a factory wall) I was opening a round 5 pound tin can of Kraft cheese. - It was a couple of inches from my head when I ducked. When I raised my head, the cheese was cut right down the middle by a shrapnel. Had the shrapnel fallen a few inches to the right, it would have split my head in half.  This kind of experience doesn’t make you bloodthirsty.

To finish the breakfast incident, the security police came to get me when the revolution was beaten – but I was already gone, so they took my poor mother.  The Stalin-prize winning artist went and got her out before they could ship her to an internment camp.

The same day the Russians caught me near the Austrian border on the assumption that anyone who was not local had to be fighting against them and was trying to escape. I had to produce my identity card, because Russian soldiers were accompanied by a communist Hungarian security officer who could read the Hungarian ID cards. He was asking everybody for their ID cards. The Russians, thank God, have Cyrillic alphabet and they needed a Hungarian security officer to read the Hungarian ID card. My ID card said I was from Budapest, but I looked at the Hungarian security officer with begging eyes and kept pointing at my ID, saying “Kőszeg, Kőszeg” – the near-border town to Austria when I had been caught. He didn’t gave me away – he said Kőszeg. For all I know, he may have had a nearly lynched experience when the Russians rescued him.

All this came back to me because I’m writing my next blog about Pushkin, the Russian Shakespeare.  His past ancestor was a Nubian Muslim and Pushkin wrote the story of “Negro of Peter the Great”

‘The Captain’s Daughter’ (he and Kleist said more with fewer words than any other writer).

That story is about the Pugachev rebellion.  He was a serf leader and got close to overthrowing Tzarina, Katalin the Great. While organizing his uprising incognito, the hero, a Russian officer, gives him a sheepskin jacket against the freezing winter and as a result Pugachev helps the officer to protect his love and winks at him before he is executed.

He had a Nubian black great grandfather whom Tzar Peter the Great had educated in Paris and before the Tzar died he had his Nubian married to a Russian aristocratic family. So you can see from all his photos and pictures that Pushkin was a black man; he is the greatest writer in the world.  As mixed marriages are very common these days, this is a very significant detail about Pushkin, which I am sure all your friends would love to hear.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

My review of The Prince and the Pauper


People know about Mark Twain mainly as the author of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and later on The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - these are the books which are promoted academics, the champions of inoffensive literature. To my mind the most significant American writer is Mark Twain.  He became a writer during the great American Revolution.

Mark Twain

He grew up during slavery, a friend of General Grant and became the most eloquent champion of racial equality, a scourge of hypocrisy, religion and greed.  As he wrote in his autobiography “I know best myself and I assume that other people are like me and I draw all my characters good and bad from myself”.  It was a tough call. 

At the time Americans were more hypocritical than the English. Louisa May Alcott (author of Little Women), was outraged even by Huckleberry Fin “It’s a pity that Mr Clements cannot have anything better to say to our innocent youngsters”. Hemingway wrote that all of American literature grew out of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but in fact the novels first appeared in Canada and England before they saw the light day in America.

MT is of universal significance because his work embodies the transition from a religious age to the post religious age. You haven’t lived until you read Letters from the Earth and A Mysterious Stranger.  After god created the world the archangels of course praised it, but Satan, one of the archangels wasn’t impressed.  “The spider kills the fly, the bird kills the spider, it is just kill kill kill”.  God was offended and banished Satan to the earth where he wrote back to his fellow Archangels about the strange beliefs of people on earth.  It reads like a prosecutor's speech, listing God’s crimes against humanity.  It is about a century later that the film The Life of Brian caused outrage although it is milder than The Letters from The Earth, so you can imagine what a hard time MT had when he wrote the books.  As Bernard Shaw wrote to him “If people understood what you are really saying they would kill you”.

 “In God we trust is a wonderful phrase and it would not sound any better if were true”, he said to Andrew Carnegie. 

He wrote to a friend "The difference the almost right word and the right word is the difference between a lightning bug and the lightning”.

His specifically American in that his work embodies the idea that all men are created equal and also the many ways that American reality failed to live up to this idea.

He dedicated his first masterpiece The Prince and the Pauper to “Those good mannered and agreeable children, Susie and Clara Clemence, this book is affectionately inscribed by their father”.

Mark Twain is known to most people as a humourist.  His work can be best summarised by Stendhal’s definition of great literature.  “It conveys generous sentiments which inspires people to revolt”.  If you have youngsters, this is the book to give them during the lockdown from the coronavirus, they will be readers forever.  

The story is about a prince Edward the son of Henry VII and a slum kid who look alike and cannot be distinguished from each other, both experience the world in the eyes of both the Prince and the slum kid at a time, when they burnt witches and boiled people in oil and hanged those who thought differently. If you read the book you certainly glad that you weren’t around at the time. As always Mark Twain can give at least a double vision of everything he describes. Horror, cruelty and viciousness is relieved by feeling of goodness, trust and peace which melts your chest.   The emotional sway of the book can be compared to classical music, the loud and shocking passages are melt into adagios.

To continue with the musical analogy I would compare the novel to Hyden’s Morning, Noon, and Night symphonies. 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

My review of Thomas Mann and Felix Krull


While I am waiting for the appearance of my new novel, I am reading Felix Krull for the umpteenth time and every paragraph and sentence is perfect.  Its an incredible thrill to read a joyful masterpiece.

A few decades ago, Thomas Mann was acclaimed the world over as the greatest living writer.  He got the Nobel Prize for The Magic Mountain in 1929, which is about the sanatorium of people suffering from tuberculosis before the cure for it was invented.  Thomas Mann uses this setting to give a summary of all the ideas, which were current at the time. It is like a weekly paper summing up what happened the previous week, except that it is a very, very long book.  I think you have to have professional interested in literature to be able to read it from beginning to end – looking for the flashes of genius.  This is true of most of his work.  For instance in his biblical novel Potiphar's Wife, she, the wife, the heroine and is in love with young Joseph and to test her love she has female friends over for a meal and have Joseph appear just when they are trying to cut some delicacy with a sharp knife.  All the women ended up cutting their fingers when they catch sight of Joseph. 

Like all great writers he could tell you also what he does not say, giving the reader the thrill of imagining what was not actually said.  A memorable moment in Buddenbrooks is when Mrs Buddenbrook is playing piano duets with a young officer. The piano falls silent just as her son comes home and runs to meet his mother.  His father waylays his son before the kid can open the door on the silent pair in order to ask him about his schoolwork.  

You can’t create great works without going through hell.  Thomas Mann was a bisexual and his work at the time when any deviation from the heterosexual norm was considered both a sickness and a crime. He came from a rich and tragic family of suicides where two of his sisters and one of his own sons committed suicide. His experiences enabled him to create works, which are lifted by a breeze and thrown by death.

His most famous novel “Death in Venice” is about a homosexual writer who was caught in Venice during the plague and he dies as he falls in love with a beautiful boy he has seen on the beach.  Falling in love and dying at the same time is one of the most moving masterpieces in literature.  I particularly indebted to The confessions of Felix Krull.  As a German critic spotted it, In Praise Of Older Women is inconceivable without The Confessions of Felix Krull.

It includes all the discreditable things which never find their way into memoirs. It is called “first part” because of the references of his later life in prison.  

Felix Krull is a unique character and I cannot think of any other literary figure you could compare him to.  He was a thief, a gigolo, a confidence man and what makes him admirable, in spite of all this, is his imagination the joy he has playing different roles in his life.

He is a great actor who plays and enjoys every role he plays, which makes his confidence tricks all the more enjoyable.  If you like good books and enjoy wit then you will enjoy Felix Krull.

This novel has an immense reputation in Germany and they clearly did everything to make it into a great movie – proving that there is no way to make a good movie from a great novel. Although the book includes all the discreditable things a young man can do it is also one of the best books on love.  Not sex but love in its deepest sense, which prompts you to touch and stroke a dirty boy’s head even if he may have a contagious disease.  

Felix is trying to seduce a young girl who has a horror of the flesh. He argues that the natural human reaction to other people is shrinking into oneself.  This is what the young girl feels and as he converts her to love, this is one of the best passages in literature. 

What is unique about the writing of the book is that he wrote most of it as a young man and the later part as an old man, yet  they bend together so seamlessly that it would be impossible to say what part he wrote as a young man and what part he wrote as an old man except his German gets more convoluted in the later part. You won’t notice it if you read the excellent English translation by Denver Lindley.  Some people say that Confessions of Felix Krull is an unfinished book, but I feel they are wrong because to finish with and ode to love is a perfect ending.

Thomas Mann described his writing as “Ironic conservatism”.  Quite apart from everything else the novel gives you an idea of what society was at the beginning of the 20th century. I quote Thomas Mann in an Innocent Millionaire, “How inventive life is! It brings our childhood dreams to pass”. In Felix Krull childhood dreams becoming reality, which gives the book its unique charm. 

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Just watched the Death of Stalin.

In early 1950's the movie explains the paranoia and backstabbing when Soviet Leader, Joseph Stalin dies suddenly.    I felt the movie was written by people who know little about power and a total falsification of facts around Stalin’s death.

I felt none of the real characters thought that they could convince anybody with their arguments.  Each of the characters had some armed force behind them.  The only realistic detail was in the fact that marshal Georgy Zhukov who was the head of the red army managed to disarm Lavrenti Beria forces.  Beria was the head of the secret police the NKVD, he had information of the crimes of all the other members of the Politburo including rape, embezzlement.   

He came to meetings with his own secret police. In effect the Politburo were prisoners of Beria’s troops, but while they surrendered the central committee one of Marshal Zhukov’s generals pretended to come to inform the committee of an American attack and was able to get to the committee rooms with his brief case.  Once inside he drew out a revolver from his briefcase and shot with a silencer Beria. So while the NKVD waited outside, the committee left the room by a secret passage and went to Beria’s home to get and burn the evidence, which Beria had on all of them. It was only a day later that Beria’s troops realised that something was wrong, but by then it was too late and Marshal Zhukov’s soldiers managed to disarm them.

I was fascinated by falsehoods, what engaged about the movie is how it twisted reality of what happened after Stalin’s death, although I watched the movie to the end.

There was not much else I can remember about the movie, but I watched the movie till the end.  The movie makes me think about how history is constantly being falsified. 

I noticed that Olga Kurylenko who played Maria in the movie was very stubborn in the how she felt about Stalin.  I remember that in Hungary I was in danger of being reported that I was glad that this mass murderer died.

You can find out more about the film on IMDB

Sunday, December 20, 2020

My stay in hospital

 I am sorry I lost touch with my friends and readers, but I was in hospital over the past few weeks. I am ok now, but recovering slowly.  I received wonderful care in hospital, but the worst thing was that I was unable to sleep there.  So I think at the end I was sick of sleeplessness.  I was diagnosed with a weak heart on entry to the hospital, which led to a heart attack at the hospital.  I had also some kidney problems, because I fell at home and stayed all night on the floor, which the doctors told me would do damage to the kidneys. It is very boring to you and also to me and I long to finish my book and get it printed.

Stephen Vizinczey

While I was at the hospital, I was kept being tested for the coronavirus, practically daily and all the tests proved negative.  I was amazed incidentally that how hungry for literature the nurses were, they all seemed to love hearing about my work and about my books. The nurses practically liked “In Praise of Older Women” and they wanted to read about “An innocent millionaire”. 

Going off topic, Kate Hopkins is a very enjoyable commentator, but I parted company from her when she speaks of the more than fifty percent of people who are idiots.  Perhaps I misunderstand her, but she seemed to locate the idiots among ordinary people.  But stupidity is boundless and can be found in every strata of society.  To give an example from Hungary one of the greatest poets of the 20th century Attila József a genius who was the son of an illiterate washer woman, the intelligence the brilliance of people who didn’t have much formal education is grossly underestimated.  

Attila József 

One of my most often quoted remarks is that “No amount of learning can cure stupidity, and higher education positively fortifies it”.  In fact I know more professors who are total idiots than people without formal education.  In fact I know more professors who are total idiots than people without formal education.

My “3 Wishes” novel, which I believe is my best book is almost ready for the printer and I hope you will be able to read it in about a months-time if the epidemic allows it.  As I often said I am not so much of a writer, but a rewriter and I was writing and revising this novel for 17 years. Reading it over last time, I was amazed how much the world has changed during these 17 years, we are at a better place than we were all those years ago.  So part of the book is already past history.

I dedicate my new novel to my wife Gloria who died on November 19th 2020, it was a big blow when Gloria died, because it must have contributed to my health problems. Anybody who has read any of my books and liked it I would like to comment on Amazon and on Facebook, to keep the books alive.

Incidentally I am asking readers to recommend my books without any financial motives. I had sold more 8 million copies around the world and now the books are building a result by people who have bought them and so those books are their properties, and then they resell those books where any money goes to them.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Stealing my name!

The late Graham Greene complained to me about someone using his name and went into a lot of trouble into trying to find the person did it.  I must say I sympathize, but I felt quite smug, feeling sure that because of the difficulty of spelling my surname "Vizinczey" that nobody else would ever try to impersonate me, but now I see that there is a film that I never even heard of that originates with me.

There were only 2 films of "In Praise of Older Women" both in Spanish and both were awful, so I do not recommend them.  Whoever is interested in my work, should read my books.