I Wanted to Remain Silent

By Sándor Márai

The Bourgeoisie Is Never Lost, But It Can Change Forms

Compiled into a monodrama from Sándor Márai’s various pieces, I Wanted to Remain Silent is performed in the Studio of the Vígszínház (Comedy Theatre). The result is a moving and paradoxically, both saddening and hopeful criticism of the bourgeoisie of all eras. One can hardly imagine a better actor to play Sándor Márai than Géza Hegedűs D.

Rewritten by Fruzsina Török, directed by László Marton, the piece establishes a unique relationship between the bourgeoisie described by Márai and that of our era. Márai’s material, entitled I Wanted to Remain Silent aroused philologists’ attention in 2013, after it turned out that the first few chapters of the manuscript had never been printed. In these chapters the author writes about the ten years – from 1938 to 1948 – when the bourgeois literacy, which he had known and loved since his birth, ceased to exist irrevocably. Three or four theatres in Budapest could tell us about what the bourgeoisie is doing today, out of which Vígszínház is the most spectacular, and has the most outstanding position. Thus, Vígszínház presents a monodrama, exactly about the bourgeoisie, and exactly in the most intimate place of the institute, on the Studio Stage hidden on the fourth floor of the building on Szent István Boulevard.

Because the secret of Márai’s text, just like that of the way Géza Hegedűs D. plays, is the realization that even though something has irrevocably been lost, there is still a reason to live.

Stermeczky Zsolt Gábor  2016-09-16

Márai intended his work to be the third and final volume of Confessions of a Bourgeois, however, it remained unpublished in the author’s heritage until 2013. The manuscript is dated 1950, so it should be regarded as Márai’s first completed work written after having emigrated. The author chose the starting date to be the day of the Anschluss in 1938, when Hitler occupied Austria, and this historical event was regarded by Márai as the death of Europe. I Wanted to Remain Silent is a confession about an era that was lacking values, and also a precise account of the bourgeois Europe and Hungary.


In fact, one single day, the 12th of March, 1938 is the centre of the monologue that is compiled using various memories. The day of the Anschluss, when Austria ceased to exist as an independent state. The world-political significance of the event was enormous, as we have realised it. Márai brings the experience down to the level of all people, namely the European bourgeoisie. Who in the morning goes into the editorial office like any other morning, writes the daily allotted articles, as always, then goes for a walk to the Castle like every day before lunch, goes home, has lunch, rests, plays tennis, and in the evening he also prepares to go to the theatre. But it is nothing more than pretence: everything has collapsed, this form of life is over forever.

This time the base of Géza Hegedűs D.’s way of playing is existence – and not the vibrating, the constant changing of the form, as it was, for example, in Camus’s The Plague five years ago. The brilliant actor is just hovering around the suitcases piled in the middle of the stage, he sometimes sits down, lights a cigarette, takes his typewriter, but mostly he deals with us, the audience, and searches for eye contact. He knows that we know who he is, and he plays with this knowledge. He builds it into his sentences, and he does not have to call our attention that we feel a similar destruction of reason around us, today. He does not have to emphasize any words to make us understand each other. This is a mutual game.

He is quite sad. He is not angry, he just feels resignation – he jumps forwards and backwards in the story, we see the bombed flat, and we know that not only walls collapse at the corner of Mikó Street. The realisation strikes us slowly, almost humanely: mentally challenged miniscule people are destroying eternity.

Csáki Judit 168 óra

The presence of Géza Hegedűs D. on the stage is moving. He plays on his own for one and a half hours, and keeps the dramatic tension of the epic text without using almost anything from his acting toolbar: as if we were witnessing a civil self-revelation.

The production is really effective, because Hegedűs’s interpretation of the role is almost totally inornate, it even lacks emotions. The basic tone of the monodrama is resigned harshness and scepticism. Resignation, pure resignation without illusions. At the same time words uttered publically have elemental power, and that is the reason why people in power, of all times, dread them.

The space is inornate too, the bare, black Studio of the Vígszínház. The scenery is made of only a few storm stricken suitcases and a tall, open trunk, which evokes a library or a bourgeois room – temporary circumstances, of course.

Hegedűs does not act. He talks to us. He tells stories, speaks, teaches and recalls. Soberly, objectively, painfully and without illusions. He looks into himself, winks, pauses, then goes on. He is both a witness and a chronicler. An interlocutor, a discussion partner and a strict accuser. He comes close to us. Just in front of us, close to our body, he utters the shocking and grave sentences. “What was the real sense of the act? Some kind of big national renewal? No, what they meant by the act is the robbing, the banishment and the total destruction of the Jews, then the systematic destruction of the needs of Hungarian literacy.

The script is a careful selection of some passages from I Wanted to Remain Silent, from Márai’s diaries (the Complete Diary) and his publications. It was compiled by Fruzsina B. Török, and the dramaturg was Zsuzsa Radnóti. László Marton’s direction creates the frames for the audience and the actor to think together with as little intervention as possible. Softly leaking music (by Zsófia Tallér) can be heard and carefully chosen objects, that is, luggage create the scene.

Kovács Dezső, Színház.org

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