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The Meeting of Marxist and Modernist Utopias in Kovásznai's Work

Kovásznai was concerned with the legacy of modernism throughout his life, by exploring his approach to it, one may gain a clearer idea of his artistic position as well. Any artistic output during the socialist regime should also be interpreted according to its relation to modernism. The crucial elements of modernism served as key points of reference in the Eastern as well as in the Western "halves of the field".

Tired of the narrow confines of the Fine Arts Academy, he quit the academy at the end of his second year, to work in the mines. Naturally, what he found there had little to do with the glorifying proclamations of party propaganda. As early as at the age of twenty, he put into writing his bitter and precocious experiences both in the form of letters and dramas. "The state is being built here. Right here, on our corpses! They economise on our self-rescue masks, but of course, the state needs the coal. Man is the most valuable asset, but self-rescue mask: there is none."

The outlook on life outlined in these plays basically nails the prevailing regime down to the original Marxist principles; and as is natural, to no avail. Kovásznai was connected to the very intellectual debate that was most characteristic of the leading intelligentsia's critical position during the 1950s and 1960s; i.e., criticising the system from the left without suggesting any need for its improvement toward a possible "human" form of socialism, yet deeming it unacceptable in its existing form.

"I was overcome by a wild hunger for life, which was somehow connected with the fact that I fell in love with the working classes and, slightly madly yet sympathetically, I thought that if I had immersed myself into the life of the factories, mines and industrial units, through personal experience, thrown directly into the everyday dimensions of the workers, circulating in concrete life, and acquiring real, human, working connections - if I had come into contact with the Real Model - well, then my anyway truly logical and correct presumptions would have surely proven to be true and I would have taken part in an art school that was finally more avant-garde than the avant-garde, and more novel than any novelty." - he reminisces in his text, entitled Self- Interview, 1976.

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