An Arrow Pointing at Death

Verzio X opening speech by János Térey.


…everyone distorts others by being distorted
Gombrowicz: The Marriage

…much that is absurd, when one thinks about death
Bernhard: My Prizes


Dear Guests,

In many human situations, one person forces his/her will on the other, putting all the burden on the smaller, the weaker. Or, sometimes, on the greater: and this is really something. Coercing the other to accept one’s sheer stupidity, lily-white or dirty desires, bodily fluids and mother tongue; one’s sympathies and party; one’s order, style and habits.

It is always some kind of Welfare Committee that dictates by infringing on the tiny will of subordinates. The Machiavellian hero, who is not in the least charismatic, spectacularly breaks through and achieves full coverage. And he is happy to coerce. He can do it with nice words, with open fraudulence or with smiles and manipulation. He can push through his ideas tenderly, even with love. Or with an arm in his hand as a terrorist.

Anyone is entitled to make bad decisions. Everyone is human, thus entitled to feeling guilty if one has done something wrong.


Examine those whose desire was double,
That of birth, not accident;
Their existence yet is an arrow pointing at death,
Quivering with the intentions of the mothers and fathers;
Who with their life must respond
To two concordant desires

J.Terey: The Wounded. translated by Ottilie Mulzet

What can you do with yourself if you turn out to be different from what you were supposed to be? The doctor wants the pregnant woman tested for genetic disorders in the fetus, but she does not want the test because it requires piercing the placenta which involves a one percent probability of abortion. The test is not without dangers, but it is not compulsory. And the doctor does not have the mother sign a paper saying that he would prefer the test but she refused.

And the child is born with Down’s syndrome. And the mother, her heart full of bitterness and pain, sues the doctor for both financial and non-financial damages – to the exact amount of an elegant home. The damage that happened is not this new life** but defective realization. The mother declares that she has never been given any information by the doctor about the risks. She states: had she known what would happen, she would have demanded an abortion for sure. Her rights to birth control and self-determination were severely violated by the doctor’s failure to give crucial information.

Her account of their life together is heartbreaking, indeed. They go through unimaginable anguish every day: they are clearly entitled to compensation. Not that that would help anything. Let us imagine, ladies and gentlemen that, quite contrary to the law, that the plaintiff is not the mother but the child in his/her own right, who would be given compensation because he/she was born and is alive. Paradoxically, the child would be paid damages for his/her death not taking place.

“My dear child! I hereby confirm that you are a nuisance to me, and your right to life and dignity is a pain in the neck. And I am forced to lie because of you too. I wish you had never been born. Giving birth is nothing else but reproducing unhappiness on Earth anyway, is not it?”

No, it’s not.


The existence of human rights is as natural as air. That there are places where they have to be talked about means that something is wrong there. I myself do not like to recite them all the time. I have already wasted so many letters on the wrongs. I have articulated my sinister impressions, and not necessarily in a polite way. Now I wish to focus on happiness.

The greatest freedom is to say YES. Yet, saying big NOs feels so good and is very useful. People learn to choose when they are teenagers. They first like saying YES, the taste of nodding in approval after the years of infantile denial. Bashar al-Assad’s father wanted his son to become a doctor who nodded and became an eye specialist because he could not tolerate blood.

I hereby open the festival.

János Térey

Translated by: Judit Hegedüs


** In legal terms, life is not a damage.