Csaba Nagy (1948-2019) joined the Petőfi Literary Museum's (PLM) Department of Manuscripts in 1983. Previously, he had worked at various libraries, and he completed a degree in Library Studies at Eger College, but until the early 1980s he was unable to find a position anywhere. Then he was employed at the National Széchényi Library's Department of Periodicals, which was led by Éva Lakatos. Through Lakatos, he got to know her husband, Ferenc Botka, director of PLM, who invited Nagy to the Museum.
Nagy developed an interest in the Hungarian exile in the West as an amateur historian at the beginning of the 1970s. He wrote articles on outstanding Hungarian scientists and physicians in exile. He became convinced that exile was a segment of Hungarian culture that was very important and needed attention. This inspired him to begin writing a lexicon of emigré writers and intellectuals.
His research focused on three countries over the course of his career: France, Germany, and Switzerland. French culture has always been in the forefront of his interests: he has always been enthusiastic about the language and about Paris, although he was not able to travel to the city for the first time until 1978. He tried to spend as much time in Paris as he could, and he became obsessed with the search for new archival sources relevant to Hungarian exile. He financed most of these trips himself. He developed excellent relationships with several Hungarian authors and artists living in exile, including Ferenc Fejtő and Tibor Méray, editor of the emigré periodical Irodalmi Újság [Literary Gazette].
Nagy was a frequent guest in Germany as well, especially in Munich, where he spent time with the editors of the journal Új Látóhatár [New Horizon], József Molnár and Gyula Borbándi. His professional collaboration with Borbándi was extensive. They helped each other professionally in many ways, and they also nurtured a good personal relationship, but in political terms they began to grow apart, particularly after 1989.
In Switzerland, Csaba Nagy became involved in the emigré network through his namesake, the poet Csaba Nagy, who was an editor of the Literary Gazette for some time. Nagy occasionally stayed also at László Nagy's house in Geneva. Through them, he had the chance to get to know practically everyone in the community of Swiss Hungarians.
Nagy was disgusted by the Kádár regime, and he was repeatedly persecuted by it as well. He was allowed to travel, but every time he left the country, he was interviewed about his plans and what would he talk about with his contacts in exile. Fejtő was one of the figures in whom the police was most interested: Nagy always said that they would speak about a one-time friend of Fejtő, the poet Attila József, who was in the centre of the communist canon at the time.
On one occasion, when he returned from Paris in 1980, he was thoroughly investigated by the custom officers. They took his luggage apart but could find nothing politically compromising, because he was prepared for such an investigation. His girlfriend came back from Paris sometime earlier and informed him that everything had been taken from her, so he should not try to smuggle emigré publications to Hungary. All of his belongings were taken away from him for further inspection, and the record mentioned only a "great amount of papers." He objected, but he was ignored. Nagy knew the tricks of the political police, and he worried that they themselves would provide the compromising materials in order to have him arrested. He was advised to complain at the Department of Administration at the Central Committee of the Hungarian Socialist Workers' Party, but the office responded that everything had been done in accordance with the law. He was invited to the Fiscal and Customs Police, where the officer informally let him know that the investigation had not been initiated by their office.
On another occasion, he was summoned to the police headquarters, where they tried to induce him to report on people in the exile community and to give his impressions of what the emigré intellectuals thought about Hungary. He responded by saying that the people abroad lived in a land in which the freedom of speech was protected. What they thought could be read in their publications, and he would not be able to add anything else. The secret police tried to get him on board for three years: he was harassed by them, and they promised him various benefits. He was approached even in Paris, where he had been invited to the consulate for a discussion. They were particularly interested in Fejtő and his 1986 international conference, but Nagy gave them no information.
As was revealed after the opening of the secret police archives, Nagy was under surveillance by a friend and colleague of his, who was a former political prisoner. They both belonged to a circle of friends around Imre Mécs. The poets György Somlyó and Endre Lázár Bajomi were also his friends. He served as a personal secretary and ghost writer for Bajomi for some time. After the regime change, he befriended the former emigré poet, György Faludy, who returned from Toronto to Budapest. He did not collaborate with the political opposition, but he was on good terms not only with Imre Mécs, but also with Miklós Haraszti and Miklós Gáspár Tamás. He attended the flying university lectures from time to time, and he was a keen reader of samizdat. Nagy has considered himself a liberal, and he felt close to the democratic opposition during and after the change of regimes. But he paid particular attention to not letting his political position interfere with his work, and he turned to every interview partner with respect, no matter what his or her political beliefs were.
- Budapest, Hungary
Gyula Nagy, educator, businessman, agitprop educator of the Vasas Cultural House for 20 years, and the founder and leader of the legendary Black Hole club was born in Budapest. In 1968, he began pursuing studies at the Bem József Industrial Secondary School. Later, he got a job at Ganz-MÁVAG Works. He completed his studies at the Ho Chi Minh Teachers’ Training College (today Eszterházy Károly University).In 1974, he got his job at the Ganz-MÁVAG Vasas Cultural House as an agitprop educator and became the leader of the youth club. This youth club was the direct antecedent of Black Hole. Nagy organized the concerts together with his colleague, Tamás Pap. To do so, they needed approvals both from the local police unit and the municipal district council. He remembers Katalin Kiss, the leader of the Agitprop Educating Group of the 8th District Council. Thanks to her, Gyula Nagy and Tamás Pap could host bands which had very limited chances to play elsewhere in the country. Usually, the police simply gave formal approval of the district’s decisions. However, the organizers had to present the lyrics of the future concert in advance to the Cultural Unit of the Main Police Headquarters of Budapest (BRFK). They also had to provide tickets to the police, who sent undercover agents to these concerts. Normally, they only observed the performances, but they had the right to stop the concerts if they so pleased, as they did for example in the Kinizsi Garden once, when the singer did not sing the lyrics which had been submitted to the authorities. While the police usually consisted simply of László Kerti, who spend most of his time at Black Hole as a kind of “indoor sergeant,” as later was revealed, Black Hole was not without informants, and the files were expanding on the bands under observation (Sziámi, Európa Kiadó, Bizottság, and others) and their activities at Black Hole.
While Black Hole could only be brought into existence in 1988, Gyula Nagy and his friends already hatched plans to establish a musical center for the Hungarian New Wave in 1985. At the time, the cultural house already provided a much needed rehearsal place for many of these bands. For example, the Balkan Futorist led by László Kistamás and Károly Lehoczki regularly rehearsed at the cultural house. On January 1, 1988, the Ganz-MÁVAG was split into seven individual factories and nine divisions. This was the day when the directory board permitted the opening of a new youth club in the former bath. In February 1988, Black Hole opened its gates and became the most popular and disreputable underground club of Budapest. As Tibor Legát maintains, the very existence of Black Hole showed the softening of the dictatorship in the late 1980s. Nonetheless, the club was still a rather rare space of free initiatives, which made it more than a popular nightclub. This unique role of Black Hole changed and slowly disappeared with the regime change. After the transition, Black Hole remained open for another four years, but under the new circumstances, its significance changed. More and more nightclubs with similar profiles were opened, and the audience scattered or simply grew older. The new wave lost its influence. These issues were topped by financial problems and the evolving conflict between the club manager and the director of the community house. Gyula Nagy, Zoltán Molnár, and even some members of the bands all wanted to run the bar, which was the most profitable part of Black Hole. The battles around the bar ended with Molnár emerging victorious. On January 1, 1994 the director terminated the labor contract with Gyula Nagy. After twenty remarkable years, he was no longer the agitprop educator of the Vasas Cultural House. In the same year, the club was closed.Until his death in 2018, Gyula Nagy ran a strip club in Budapest, and while there were several attempts to revive Black Hole, the unique experience could not be repeated.
- Budapest, Hungary
Gáspár Nagy was born in a small village to a poor peasant family which was well-known for its firm religiosity and its loyalty to the Roman Catholic Church, even in the 1950s. He finished elementary school in Bérbaltavár and was admitted to the Benedictine Grammar School in Pannonhalma. Before he could start his studies in Librarianship and Community Education at the College of Szombathely in 1968, he had to work as an unskilled worker for one year. He began to publish poems in the journal of the college, from which he graduated in 1971. At around that time, he was targeted by the political police, which kept him under observation until 1989. Nagy began his career as librarian in Budapest. He later worked as an editor at Móra Publishing House. In 1981, he was elected to serve as the secretary of the Writer’s Union. He was forced to resign in 1985 as a consequence of a poem he published urging the reburial of his namesake, former Communist leader Imre Nagy, who was executed after the 1956 Revolution and buried in an anonymous grave. In 1985, he was made secretary of the Bethlen Gábor Foundation, and from 1988 to 2004 he served as editor of the journal Hitel (“Credit”). In June 1989, he was invited to recite his poems at the reburial of Imre Nagy. He headed the cultural section of the Hungarian Catholic Radio from 2004 until his death in 2007.
As Gáspár Nagy noted in an interview, he found the 1980s a very hard time in political terms. Several of his works were censored and banned, and journals he published in were terminated, all this in a period in which he was artistically the most productive. Nevertheless, he was convinced that he was right in his beliefs. He felt that he was morally incorruptible, and this gave him strength. Reader responses also encouraged him to continue working along the same lines. The actor Imre Sinkovits once told him that he was extremely brave. He responded by saying: “I was not brave. I was just feared being afraid.”
A sociologist and scientific and literary organizer of Hungarian civic life in the United States, Károly Nagy graduated in Hungary and left the country after the 1956 Revolution. In 1962, he obtained a second degree in Psychology at Rutgers University, and in 1970 he completed a third one in Sociology from the School for Social Research in New York. Nagy worked as a college teacher and become one of the most active members of the Hungarian diaspora through his scholarly and public activity aimed at making the U.S. public aware of the existence and the needs of Hungarian communities.
- New York, United States