Meanings of “Mindíg” in Pilinszky’s Poetry

It’s easy to assume you know what a word like “mindig” means. It means “always,” and we know what “always” means, correct? Not necessarily.

Yesterday I started thinking of Pilinszky’s “mindig” (which he spells “mindíg”) in more than one way. (By the way, speaking of ways, the Pilinszky event is three and a half weeks away!)

Pilinszky’s poem “Egy szenvedély margójára” (“Onto the Margin of a Passion”) begins:

A tengerpartot járó kisgyerek
mindíg talál a kavicsok közt egyre,
mely mindöröktől fogva az övé,
és soha senki másé nem is lenne.

I have translated it as follows (taking liberties for rhythm and sense):

A child who likes to walk along the beach
always finds one among the many pebbles
that has been his for all eternity
and never could become anyone else’s.

I first took this “mindíg,” “always,” to mean that the child does this every day—that he has claimed, loved, and thrown away stone after stone. But there is a different way of hearing the “mindíg.”

It could also suggest an archetype, an eternal state of things. There is “always” a child doing this, it is happening now. The “mindíg” brings space and time together into the current moment.

Why is it spelled “mindíg” in Pilinszky’s poetry, when the supposedly correct spelling is “mindig” (without the accent over the second “i”)? I asked my students this question recently, and they thought that it was a way of giving emphasis to the word. If that is so, then there’s even more reason to suspect that Pilinszky’s “mindíg” is not the everyday “mindig” but something else.

This applies to other Pilinszky poems as well, including “Egy szép napon” (“On a Fine Day”).

These thoughts came to mind yesterday after our short technical run-through for the event. I intend to bring up “mindíg” when the time comes.

I am looking forward to it so much and have so much to do in the meantime. You can already download a program containing the Pilinszky poems and quotes that we will be discussing, with English translations. We might not get to everything on the program—and the event includes a lot that is not listed in it—but it should help you follow along.

A tangentially related thought came to mind: if you are in New York, and enjoy frequenting the Hungarian Pastry Shop, you can easily attend the event from there! Just get yourself situated with a pastry and coffee, don the headphones or earphones, and join via Zoom. I last visited the place three years and a day ago (a couple of hours before my event at Book Culture) and can vouch for its pastries and atmosphere.

Wherever you attend from, we look forward to seeing you.

Photo credits:

Pilinszky image credit: Pilinszky János, Szép versek 1971 (published 1972). Photo # 44.
Photo of Sebestyén Czakó-Kuraly by Pál Czirják, published in
Kortárs Online.
Photo of Csenger Kertai by Dénes Erdős, published in KULTer.hu.
Photo of Gergely Balla by Márton Ficsor, published in Mandiner.hu.
Photo of the Hungarian Pastry Shop by Clayrey. Published in Wikimedia Commons.

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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.”

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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 April 2022, Deep Vellum published 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.

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