On Understanding Nothing Deeply


Creative responses to political misery in Hungary


“It was like a wall,” Schilling said. “Before 2010 it was like: how can we use art to approach social issues? After 2010 I was like: I don’t care about art.

Before the event, Schilling received notice that he was to receive the Princess Margriet Award for Culture, in honor of his theatrical work. It turned out that the ceremony in Amsterdam was the same day as the teachers’ demonstration. So he wrote politely to explain that he wouldn’t be there.

Instead he was in Budapest, behind the stage in front of parliament, happy to see that tens of thousands of people had come out for the event. Early on in the speeches rain began to fall, and soon it grew into a storm. One of the speakers called for a moment of silence. In fact, she called for five minutes of silence. Here Schilling’s dramatist’s mind kicked in: No! Five minutes is too long! It will never work. But he was out in the crowd by then, getting drenched like everyone else.

“That was the most joyful moment,” he said, “because I knew I was in the right place. No awards, not shaking hands with the princess. I was free.”

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