„Not designed to earn recognition for Aczél”

In conversation with István Bánfalvi, President of the board of trustees managing György Aczél’s Manuscript Legacy

György Aczél, the central figure of the Kádár era’s cultural policy was a passionate collector and purchaser of manuscripts. The collection of tens of thousands of items, including Aczél’s liaison documents and private correspondence, is preserved and available for research in the Library of the HAS and its handling is assisted by a board of trustees. We talked with the president of the board about the history and research potential of the legacy.

Social policy expert István Bánfalvi graduated in philosophy and Hungarian from ELTE’s Humanities Faculty in 1976. He worked in the Social Policy Coordination Committee (SPCC) under the Social Policy Committee from 1979, and at the Department of Science, Education and Culture of the HSWP’s central committee from 1982. He was a research fellow at the Social Policy Institute from 1985, and from March 1988 to May 1990 he was the state secretary for social policy at the Ministry of Social Welfare and Health. From 2013 he led the LÉT working group, which drafted the proposal for the Hungarian adaptation of the “unconditional basic salary”. He has been a member of the board of trustees managing György Aczél’s Manuscript Legacy from 1991, and is currently its president.

At the end of 1978, Aczél offered Bánfalvi the job of secretary of the SPCC, which coordinated and managed research projects enjoying nationwide priority and supported by the state.

In his will Aczél stipulated who he wished to be the president and the members of the board of trustees entrusted with handling his legacy, which consists of the collection of his own correspondence, and a ’collection proper’, the items of which he purchased among others from the dealers on Múzeum Boulevard, and those given to him by various people as a gift, including their own manuscripts and even sections of collections.

The Aczél material includes manuscripts by George I Rákóczy, Lajos Kossuth and Indira Gandhi, as well as by great figures of Hungary’s national culture. It is an invaluable collection forming part of our intellectual heritage with some of its documents worth millions and even tens of millions of forints. György Aczél’s daughters, Anna and Ágnes, donated this treasure to the HAS, thus also enriching Hungary’s intellectual and cultural life. The donation was approved by Bertalan Andrásfalvy, the ministry of culture during the Antall government, in accordance with effective law, enabling the collection to preserve its integrity. The catalogue was completed in 1998.

The copyright belongs to György Aczél’s heirs, and, importantly, the collection is overseen by a non-state organisation.

The documents of the Aczél collection have already served as a basis for important source publications and scholarly publications and have been used in literary works, films, articles and interviews.

The board of trustees handling György Aczél’s Manuscript Legacy was not set up to earn recognition for Aczél but to preserve, systematise and make accessible his collection.