Lukács And Library

I am honoured that MúzeumCafé asked me to write about the Lukács Archives and Library (LAK) but I fear what follows will not perfectly fit in with this issue devoted to archives. The sign, sometimes on the door and sometimes next to it said Lukács Archives and Library (also on the volumes published by the LAK); only what preceded it changed from time to time: Institute of Philosophy of the HAS, or the official name of the academy library. And we, humans, sinful as we are, believed such signs. But a few months ago, someone from high up and obviously blessed with far greater competence in these matters than my humble self, pointed it out that although for decades this thing called the LAK had been known by me and many others as an archive, it never was that, not even in the moment of its conception: it was only some sort of a freak. Dear Reader, you can imagine the pain of realisation that struck me and my colleagues: we, who used to work for the archive for shorter or longer periods, had lived a lie and unknowingly misled all those who came to the LAK to do research. The only consolation is that if things go the way they seem to be going, the LAK will become everything from a stool to a player piano but it will never be an archive.

In his will Lukács bequeathed his library to the Institute of Philosophy (with the proviso that it would stay together as a collection) and his manuscripts (including his correspondence) to the Academy. An understandable bias on his part, since he was an academic and together with Béla Fogarasi the father of the Institute of Philosophy, which the Academy never had before.

Before emptying his flat on the fifth floor at 2 Belgrád rakpart, Lukács’s party (for young readers: the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party), i.e. presumably the central committee, decided to keep the legacy together with the books and documents in Lukács’s flat and subordinate the whole lot to the Institute of Philosophy. Back then it might have been an interesting question whether this decision was made reluctantly and whether it was motivated by the party’s intention to domesticate the memory of Lukács, who was always the odd one out, or if it was a gesture of tribute to a man who was in all likelihood among the classics of the 20th-century history of thought; today it barely is. Lukács’s study was made into a kind of museum with his books left on the shelves, and the rest of the flat was furnished by the Academy as an office of sorts. Of course the manuscripts were mainly writings, notes and sketches made for works Lukács could not finish or publish. He left behind countless manuscripts from his Moscow period too. The archives’ safe preserves more than Lukács included (or could include) in his will.

There are rumours that promising talks are being conducted in some high place to save the LAK. In any case, it is a fact that the manuscripts were taken from the LAK this morning at 10.

10 March 2018


Miklós Mesterházi, retired staff member of Lukács And Library