George Faludy, a voice inside me has been saying for weeks, it’s time to read his book again. Its wonderful title, My Happy Days in Hell, pretty much gives the story away. A Hungarian poet with a big reputation in his own country, in 1938 he saw the coming of the Germans and Nazism, and fled to France. When the Germans caught up with him there, he fled on to North Africa, and then to the United States where he enlisted in the American army. After the war, he returned to Hungary. Fatal mistake. A classicist quoting Greek and Latin, a linguist, a man of the world and lover of life in all its richness, he could never have been a Communist. Sure enough, they arrested him as an American agent, and he confessed that he had indeed been recruited by Captain Edgar Allen Poe and Major Walt Whitman, both of them reporting to the sinister club-footed chief Z.E. Bubbel, an anagram of Belzebub. So they sent him to the infamous concentration camps of Kistarcsa and Recsk. After the 1956 revolution he escaped again to the United States, only to return home to Hungary after the collapse of Communism.
His memoir spoke to me with the warmth and brilliance I remembered from some forty years ago when it was first published. Why not get in touch with the man in what must be his old age, and tell him so? I know a good friend and fan of his, who not long ago wrote an admiring article about him. So I sent her an email to ask how to get in touch with Faludy. She answered that at the very moment she was hearing from me, she also received the news that Faludy had just died in Budapest. One of Faludy’s Hungarian friends was Arthur Koestler, someone also with a touch of genius and his own experiences of modern hell; and who firmly believed that inside voices and coincidences such as this are evidence of a reality which physics as yet is unable to bring within the bounds of science.