“See, there’s magic hiding in every departure…”

That is a loose translation of a line from Platon Karataev’s “Lombkoronaszint,” “lásd, hogy varázs rejlik minden indulásban.”* Most of the traveling group is now on route to the U.S.; the rest of us will join them on Wednesday. Over the past six months, we all have been planning and preparing, adjusting to circumstances, changing certain plans, preparing the conference papers and presentations (I am presenting too, in a different seminar), scheduling concerts, canceling them, handling vaccinations, lodging, passports, visas, gathering everything together, packing—and now here we are, right at the bundle of moments.

We had to cancel the two concerts in New Haven and NYC because, as we learned, foreign musicians traveling to the U.S. need a special artist visa to perform in any capacity, even for free. Even if we had known about this long in advance, Sebő and Gergő might not have been able to get the visas in time, since they require many steps and extensive documentation (and cost a fortune too). So there will be no Platon Karataev duo concerts at all, but the trip itself and the conference remain intact. (At the 2022 ALSCW conference at Yale, I am leading a seminar on “Setting Poetry to Music,” in which six members of the Hungarian group and twelve composers, writers, and scholars from the U.S. will be presenting.) In some ways it’s even better this way, since we will have more time to enjoy the trip, with less rush from one event to the next.

The concerts leading up to this trip have been some of my favorites in all my five years in Hungary. On Friday night, Cz.K. Sebő, Gábor Molnár, and Grand Bleu held a concert at the cozy Borpatika, the first in a series of concerts intended to help Budapest’s tiny clubs and pubs survive. I think Sebő—and maybe the others who performed that night—created the series. The idea is not only to hold concerts in little pubs, but to give them a personal and relaxed atmosphere. The musicians talk with the audience, tell stories between songs, welcome requests, etc. It was so beautiful and genuine that I had a weird attack of happiness.

In more ways than one, I was not alone. One person invited me to join her and her friends at a table; another treated me to a glass of wine and told me he liked my blog (this one here). These are people I have seen at various concerts and online but never met before. I stayed almost until the end of the concert, then took the latest train back to Szolnok and got home around 2:00 a.m. I didn’t even feel the lack of sleep the next day, which was a work day for us, but an easy one: the “Katalin Day” celebration (an annual tradition: a humorous competition and induction for the ninth graders, along with the equally traditional and legendary skit in which students from Class 11B parody the teachers).

After the celebration, I went home for a few hours and then headed out to Budapest again, visited a favorite Vietnamese hole-in-the-wall restaurant, and then set out for the Táncszínház, where Platon Karataev gave a rich, charged performance, just hours before Gergő, Sebő, and the others would head out to the airport. It had been a few months since I had last heard the whole band (the last time was at Fishing on Orfű). This time I heard new textures in the songs, or combinations of textures. Some of the high points for me were “Most magamban,” “Wide Eyes,” “Lassú madár,” “Elmerül,” “Tágul,” the cover of VHK’s “Halló mindenség,” and “Elevator.” But I was so excited about the trip that even sitting there in the hall was a high point: magic hiding in a departure, and a departure hiding in the act of sitting still.

Art credit: Andrew Walaszek, Departure (1989). Platon Karataev concert photo credit: sinco. I took the three pictures in the middle of the post: (1) of the entrance to the Borpatika, (2) of Cz.K. Sebő and Gábor Molnár, and (3) of Grand Bleu.

*Update: I later learned that the line from Lombkoronaszint is a quotation from Hermann Hesse’s poem “Stufen” (“Stages”), “Und jedem Anfang wohnt ein Zauber inne, / Der uns beschützt und der uns hilft, zu leben.”

  • “Setting Poetry to Music,” 2022 ALSCW Conference, Yale University

  • Always Different



    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.


    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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