My first song in Hungarian: Időköz (first draft)

Writing a song in a language other than your own is no easy matter. You want to take risks, instead of just staying with phrases you’ve heard over and over, yet you don’t know how far you can take it before it really sounds strange to a native speaker. Also, there are all kinds of questions of rhythm, intonation, pacing, the way the melody and lyrics interact.

But all of this opens up possibilities, too, in the music and in language. I definitely use expressions here that I would not use in everyday speech. I am going to talk about the song with Gyula and maybe others, and possibly revise it later. But the revision will probably be an entirely (or substantially) different song. So here is this first draft, a first step. You can see the lyrics below.

The vocals were the hardest part to record (in terms of getting the right timbre and consistency). That’s partly because of the limitations of my equipment; I need a real vocal mic, and I need a way to monitor the sound as I am recording it. (Through the headphones, I can hear the other tracks, but not the one I am recording.) But overall, my recent recordings sound much better than the ones I made years ago in San Francisco—even better than the studio recordings in some ways—and I am still getting my bearings.

I would not say that this music is at all similar to what I’ve been listening to recently. But it is slightly influenced. Especially after Cz.K. Sebő’s concert on Friday, I thought that I would try to find the simplicity in the song and work from there. Most of the recording came easily as a result of this. The lyrics may be just a little bit too busy in places, so in addition to fixing the parts that sound off, I might want to prune them a bit. But again, that will be a new song.


Diana Senechal

Éjjel hallgatom
a kétségek mozgását,
én is mozdulok mintha velük táncolnék.

A szíved udvarán
Végre az idő fölvett és elvitt.

Nem ismerem és nem fogom
ismerni az időközt
amit együtt töltöttünk.

Az ilyen idő idegen,
mégis mélyen megéltük
órafigyelés nélkül.

Reggel hallgatom
a pihenés légzését.
Én is lélegzem, mintha vele aludnék.

A szíved portása
régen kirúgott.
a gőgöm mégis elidőzött tovább.

Az első lépés rémisztő,
mint egylábú keringő
minden hegedű nélkül.

De itt az élet kezdődik,
az időköz túloldalán,
a reggel üres csendjében.

And a rough English translation:


Diana Senechal

At night I listen to
the movement of doubts
I move too, as if dancing with them.

I have been camping
in the courtyard of your heart;
finally time lifted me and took me out.

I don’t know and will not
know the interval
that we spent together.

This time is foreign,
yet we lived it deeply,
without watching the time/clock.

In the morning I listen to
the breathing of repose;
I breathe too, as though sleeping with it.

The porter of your heart
kicked me out long ago,
still my pride kept hanging around.

The first step is terrifying,
like a one-legged waltz
without any violin.

But here life begins,
on the other side of the interval,
in the morning’s empty silence.

Leave a comment


  1. Margitte Boerma

     /  June 2, 2021

    Wow Diana, you never cease to amaze me. How wonderful!
    Greetings and love, Margitte


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  • “To know that you can do better next time, unrecognizably better, and that there is no next time, and that it is a blessing there is not, there is a thought to be going on with.”

    —Samuel Beckett, Malone Dies

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    Diana Senechal is the author of Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture and the 2011 winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, awarded by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Her second book, Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in October 2018. In February 2022, Deep Vellum will publish her translation of Gyula Jenei's 2018 poetry collection Mindig Más.

    Since November 2017, she has been teaching English, American civilization, and British civilization at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok, Hungary. From 2011 to 2016, she helped shape and teach the philosophy program at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering in New York City. In 2014, she and her students founded the philosophy journal CONTRARIWISE, which now has international participation and readership. In 2020, at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium, she and her students released the first issue of the online literary journal Folyosó.


    On April 26, 2016, Diana Senechal delivered her talk "Take Away the Takeaway (Including This One)" at TEDx Upper West Side.

    Here is a video from the Dallas Institute's 2015 Education Forum.  Also see the video "Hiett Prize Winners Discuss the Future of the Humanities." 

    On April 19–21, 2014, Diana Senechal took part in a discussion of solitude on BBC World Service's programme The Forum.  

    On February 22, 2013, Diana Senechal was interviewed by Leah Wescott, editor-in-chief of The Cronk of Higher Education. Here is the podcast.


    All blog contents are copyright © Diana Senechal. Anything on this blog may be quoted with proper attribution. Comments are welcome.

    On this blog, Take Away the Takeaway, I discuss literature, music, education, and other things. Some of the pieces are satirical and assigned (for clarity) to the satire category.

    When I revise a piece substantially after posting it, I note this at the end. Minor corrections (e.g., of punctuation and spelling) may go unannounced.

    Speaking of imperfection, my other blog, Megfogalmazások, abounds with imperfect Hungarian.

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