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Record of a life. An autobiography
 0860910717

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c An Au obiography

Georg Lukacs Record of a Life An Autobiography This revealing autobiography of the Hungarian Marx ist ph i losopher Georg Lukacs is centred o n a series of interv iews that he gave i n 1 969 and 197 1 , shortly before h is death o n 4 June 1 97 1 . Stimulated by the sympath etic yet incisive questioning of the interv iewer, the Hungarian essayist Istvan Eorsi, Lukacs discusses at length the course of h is l ife, h is years of pol itical struggle, and h is formation and role as a M arxist intell ectual. From a h ighly evocative account of h is chi ldhood and school years, Lukacs proceeds to discuss h is pol itical awaken ing; the debates within the social ist movement over the First World War form the prelude to an assessment of

Tactics and Ethics,

written i n 1 919; from there the d iscuss ion turns to Lukacs's early major contribution to M arxist philosophy

History and Class Consciousness.

After consider ing at length the years of em igration i n V ienna and the Soviet Un ion, Lukacs finally recal ls h is return to Hungary after the Second Wor ld War, and h is new position as a revolutionary left critic of actual ly existing social ism. 'By soc ia l ist democracy', he wrote in 1 970, 'I understand democracy in ord inary l ife, as it appeared in the Workers' Soviets of 1 871 , 1 905 and 1 9 1 7, as it once ex isted in the social ist countries, and i n wh ich form it must be re-animated.'

This Record of a Life, wh ich includes an

introduction by Istvan Eorsi, furnishes a compe l l ing tribute to a remarkable man.

£15.00/$22.50

ISBN

0 86091 071 7

D istributed in the U S A and Canada by SCHOCKEN BOOKS 200 Madiso n A venue New York NY 100 1 6 U S A

Georg Lukacs

Verso

Record of

a

Life

An Autobiographical Sketch

Edited by Istvan Eorsi

Translated by Rodney Livingstone

Photos on front cover, clockwise from top, centre: Lukacs in

1917

(Lukacs

Archives of the Institute of Philosophy of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences); decree on the working conditions of apprentices, Budapest

1919;

Commissar

Lukacs thanks the proletariat for its help in overcoming the counter-revolution (from a newsreel in the Hungarian Film Institute); Lukacs's membership card of the Soviet Writers' Union (Lukacs Archives); Commissar Lukacs ninth from the left, second row, among the troops of the Hungarian Commune, July drawing of Lukacs from Friss Ujsaf:, April Bela Balasz and friends, April

1909;

1919

1919;

(Lukacs Archives); Lukas with

Lukacs at the age of

11

(Lukacs Archives).

Photos on back cover, clockwise from top right: Hungarian Communist Party poster of

1946

'Intellectuals! You should join us!' (Institute of Party History);

stills from the film Our People Want Peace (1951), showing Lukacs addressing the

Third World Peace Congress in Budapest (Film Archives of the Hungarian Film Institute); Lukacs, on the left, welcoming Pablo Neruda at Ferihegy airport,

1951 (Photo Service of the Hungarian Telegraph Agency); Hungar­ ian CP poster, 1946, proclaiming 'We are building the country for the people, not the capitalists' (Institute of Party History): Georg Lukacs in 1971, very Budapest, in

shortly before his death. Grateful acknowledgement is made to Corvina Kiad6, Budapest, whose Gyi.ir;�y

Lukcics: l1is lij�' in pictures and dornmctlts, edited by Fekete and Kaddi, is the source for all the photos listed above. This edition of Rcwrd 411 LUr is

:i translation of the German

edition, incorporating corrections. additional footnotes, and emendations and further entries to the Biographical Notes prepared by the editor.

The interview with New

Ltft Rct'itw,

appendix, originally appeared in NLR

published here as :in

68, July-August 1971.

Translated from the Germ:in edition. This translation first published by

Verso Editions,· 15 Greek Street, London \Vl

© Verso Editions 1983 Interview with Nell'

@

NLR

1971

Lcji

Rt•l'it'll'

Filmset in Bern by Comset

Gr:iphic Desigm

Printed by

The Thetford Press Ltd

Thetford. Norfolk ISBN

0 86091 071 7 86091 77 I 1 Pbk

CONTENTS

6 8

Editorial Note Translator's Note Istvan Eorsi: The Right to the Last Word

9

Record of a Life:

Georg Lukacs in Conversation About his Life 1. Childhood and Early Career 2. War and Revolution 3. In Exile 4. Back in Hungary

26 44 70 112

Georg Lukacs: Gelebtes Denken: Notes towards an

143

Autobiography

Appendix: Interview with New Biographical Notes Notes

Left

Review

171 183 202

Editorial Note

W hen Georg Lukacs was told t hat he was sufferi ng fro m an i ncurable disease, he made extraordinary efforts to speed up his work on the corrections to The Ontology of Social Being so as to complete them . However , t he rapid deteriora­ tion of his condi tion prevented h i m from attend i ng to this task , which was of such overriding i mportance to h i m , with his customary i ntensi ty . I t was at this t i me that he embarked o n a sketch of his life , partly because of the relative freedom from t heoretical effort which i t entailed , and partly to fulfil the wish of his late wife . But once t he sketch was fi ni shed , it became obvious that he lacked t he strength to elaborate i t further. The sheer exertion of w ri ting was something to which his physical powers proved i ncreasi ngly unequal . Si nce he could not endure the idea of a life wit hout work , however , he followed t he advice of pupils close to h i m and , with his strength rapidly fading, he recorded t he events of his life on tape i n 1 9 7 1 by answeri ng q uestions put to him by Erzsebet Vezers and myself which we had based on t he sketch L i 1 ed Thought (Gelebtes De11ke11). We had frequently m ade such taped i n terviews w i t h Georg Lukacs, particularly in 1 969. In assembling a nd cdi ting t hese materials I had two aim s i n view . In t he first place I wished to give a complete accou n t of t he co11terlfs o f t he i nterviews , to record everything Georg Lukacs fel t to be of value about himself and his age . Secondly , I was at pai ns to produce a readable and coherent text . For this reason , i n addition to t he usual s tylistic corrections . I also made a series of structural changes . As for as possible I have ordered the material chronologic­ ally . Where passages arc repeated I have opted for t he more trenchant and com plete version . In a n umber of places I have preferred earlier phrases and formulations to t hose of the 1 9 7 1 i n terviews , chiefly because in 1969 Georg Lukacs was still in full possession of his powers of expression . In places I have m odi fied t he questions to fi t t he answers a nd have t rea ted the q uestions of t he two in terviewers as though t hey were one. I have also woven a number of 1

theoretical statements into the biographical narrative where I felt that these convey better than any others an accurate picture of Georg Lukacs as he was on the threshold of death. It follows that in strict philological terms the present text is not 'authentic'. However, it is authentic in the sense that every utterance recorded is guaranteed by the statements on tape. I have resisted the temptation to publish anything I cannot actually document, even where my recollection of what was said is accurate in every detail.

A

further aspect of the authenticity of the text

is that I have not made any 'selective' use of the material. Neither political nor any other considerations have induced me to censor Lukacs' s words in any way. During my work on the text I felt encouraged partly by the fact that I had performed similar tasks for Georg Lukacs during his lifetime, and partly by my belief that I was proceeding very much in his spirit. Throughout his en­ tire life he had felt a greater esteem for the sort of fidelity that i concerned with an accurate reproduction of the essentials of a form or a process than with Iiteral fidelity and philological pedantry. I stvan Eorsi

Translator's Note

I s tvan Eorsi ' s introduction, 'The Right to t he Last Word ' , has already ap­ peared in English , in New German Critique, N umber 23 , Spring/Summer 1 98 1 . The present translation is new , although I have consul ted t he version by Geoffrey Davis and am grateful to New German Critique for permission to use t he occasional turn of phrase . Most of Lukacs ' s own books referred to i n t he text are available i n English translatio n . I have added some references where appropriate . I have also added some footno tes to t he text where clarification seemed neccessary . These are marked : ( Trans. ); other foot notes are t he edi tor ' s . I wish t o express my t hanks t o Professor Peter Evans of Sout hampton Universi ty , for providing me with useful information about Bart 6 k ; to Mrs Ilona Bellos , for help with some H ungarian words used in t he original ; to A ndrea Rei ter of Southampton U niversity, for resolving some of t he am­ bigui ties of the German tex t ; and to Ali on Haml i n , for havi ng typed t he manuscri pt so efficiently at short notice. Rodney Livingstone Southampton

Istvan Eorsi The Right to the Last Word

After Georg L ukacs was given his party card back i n 1 967 after ten years i n t he wilderness, he had t he feeli ng that t his new t urn of events i n his life made i t desi rable fo r h i m to make a statemen t . After all, h e had been Minister of Culture at t he time of the popular uprisi ng in 1 956 and he had not publicly di ssociated himself subseq uently fro m the Com muni sts who had been ab­ ducted to Romania along wi t h hi m . Despite offici al promi ses of good treat­ men t , some of t hose men had not man aged to survive t heir peri od of i ntern­ men t-to put i t tactfully . Lukacs hi mself was permi t ted to return to Budapest in 1 95 7, but fo und him self type-cast for t he role of 'chi ef ideological ri sk ' . His writi ngs could not be p ublished in H ungary and every t hing was done to en­ sure that t hey would not appear abroad . This was how mat ters remai ned until preparations began for a reform of the H ungarian economy . In a new climate o f destali nization i t evi dently became i m possible to conti nue treating Georg Lukacs as the carrier of a contagious ideological disease . I n addi tion the convic­ tion appears to have gained ground in leading party ci rcles that i t would be pruden t to bri ng ab out a reconci liation before his death in order to avoid a repeti tion of t he case of that other outstanding Hungari an Communi st , A ttila J6zsef, 1 who had been expelled fro m t he party in t he early t hirties and with whom the reco nci liation had been brought about after his death by means of all sorts o f lies and falsificati ons . ' I don ' t know whether you have already heard that I have become a party member again ? ' , Lukacs said to me wi t h that sly sidelong glance he used to have. I nodded , w hereupon he began to list t he reasons for his deci sion to j oi n . First , t here was t he economic reform, which made a rapprochement objective­ ly possible, even though he viewed t he planned reforms , which t he party con­ si dered extremely radical , as merely t he fi rst step on t he road towards a ge­ nuine sociali st transformation . And as a Marxi s t , he added he thought t he economic i nfrast ructure could not be m odified significant ly unless there were

10 accompanying reforms o n the political plane . For i ts part , the party wi shed to confine the changes to t he economic sphere . Yet Lukacs thought that the pro­ posed reforms would provide some scope for dialogue. In the second place , he had acted out of a sense of obligation towards his student s . He h i msel f could make a living from philosophy a nd was able at least to publish his wri tings abroad w i t hout serious admi nistrative repercussions . H i s students, however , were for the most part condem ned to silence , chiefly on account of his position , and hence forced to earn their living i n unsui table fields in which t heir talen ts were unable to thrive . The party had n ow p romis­ ed to resolve their problems along with the question of his membership; t hey were to be offered academic posts as well as publishing opportunities. Lukacs was particularly proud of the third reason . H e had received a n assurance t h a t h e would b e permi tted to maintain his special i deological posi­ tion and to voice i t as the occasion arose . This opened up a new perspective , a new opportunity to exert i n fluence that would enable him t o fu nction as an ideologi st and also a party member without havi ng to make any compromises . H aving listened to all his arguments I said to h i m : ' I t sounds to me as i f i t i s not s o much t h a t Comrade Lukacs has rej oined t h e party, as that t h e party has rejoined Comrade Lukacs ! ' He gave me ano ther of his sly glances and sai d , ' Unfor tuna tely i t would b e premature to claim as much . ' *

*

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We both knew full well tha t , however seri ously he took them . t hese three reasons simply represen ted a deeply buried human need whose articulation had now become historically possible . W hen he returned to H ungary from Romania in 1 957 Lukacs had wri t ten to the H ungari an Socialist Workers Party , saying that he con t inued to regard himself as a member. He never received a reply to this let ter . Obviously no one had t he courage to sign a let­ ter expelling him even a t the time w hen the propaganda campaign against him was at its heigh t . ' I have stuck in their t hroats , ' was Lukacs ' s descri ption of such si tua tion s : 'They can ' t swallow me and t hey can ' t spi t m e ou t . ' La ter he read in the official encyclopedia that he had been expelled fro m the party . The encyclopedia article had been written by a former pupi l , J6zsef Szigeti . ' He only had one idea that he hadn ' t stolen from m e , and that was that I ough t to be pensioned off, ' was Luk:lcs' s opin ion of him . The encyclopedia article cannot be regarded as an official reply . Although Lukacs j oked abou t i t , there is no doub t that he fel t sligh ted . He needed to be accepted by t he party . ' My party . right or wro ng' seems a stra nge sen tence i n

The Right To The Last Word

11

the mouth of a phi losopher, but he used i t to explai n why he had never resi sted Stali nism , even during the purges . Not even i nwardly! A nd of course he j ustified thi s on historical ground s-for exam ple , in the i n terview he gave to New Left Review which did not appear un til after his deat h . 2 He explici tly rei terated here his con viction that ' one could only figh t effectively against fasci sm w i thin the ranks of the Com munist movemen t . I have not changed in thi s . ' As a perceptive adm i rer of wri ters l i ke A t t ila J6zsef and the Mann bro t hers , Lukacs could only have stuck to hi s belief as late as 1 9 70 from some deep psychological need which al lowed him to place the facts in abeyance . He frequen t ly explai ned his atti tude by mai ntai n i ng tha t , while the con fl ict be­ tween Stal i n and H i tler was still unresolved , it was a moral necessi ty to post­ pone any cri tici srn one might have of the Soviet U nion . But even if that were defen sible , why did he not b reak his silence subsequen tly? Why, even after hi� return to H ungary , i n the inner ci rcle of H ungarian Corn munists who had no personal experience of the Soviet U n io n , did he behave as if he were ignorant of the m ons trous rest rictions on physical and i n tellectual exi stence, of the at­ mosphere of uni versal fear , of the labour camps which also functi oned perfect­ ly as death cam ps, in a word , of the whole phenomenon of Stalinism in the Soviet U n io n ? The answer to this q uestion ca n be found in the con ti nuation of the quotation from New Left Review: ' I have always thought that t he worst form of socialism was better to live in than the best form of capi tali sm . ' He expressed t he same view even more categorically in the May 1 969 number of t he Vienna Neues Fomm : ' But even the worst soci alism is still bet ter than the best capi tali sm . Thi s only appears to be a paradox . ' A man who defends such an opi nion has no need of particular historical ci rcumst ances or moral con­ siderations to j ustify hi s joining a party which i s directing the establishment of a socialism as vaguely defined as thi s . Lukacs ' s psychological, o ne might even say h i s religious need i s , i n my view , a consequence of his origi n s , on the one hand , and of his i n tellectual posi tion on the other . 3 The son of an i mmensely weal thy banker , he soon ceased to have any illusions ab out t he moral and i n tellectual atmosphere in hi s parents' house or about the conven tional attitudes that prevailed t here , the ' spiri t of pro toco l ' as he term ed i t . He must have experienced a profound desi re to become part of a large, mean ingful com muni ty . The party as the ' bearer' of class co nsci ousness-or , i f you like, of the World Spiri t-creates, albei t someti mes in a roundabout way , t he ' conscious realization of one ' s species essence ' . This gives the i ndividual , a s a com ponent i n this process , the best opportuni ty to raise h i m self to the consciousness of his own species essence . On the o ther hand , Lukacs had won an i n ternational reputation for

12 t he books he had writ ten i n his idealist phase and , given t he general level o f his cultural and intellectual attainments , i t must have been impossible to fi t s moothly into a hierarchical movemen t based on discipli ne and sanctions . Thomas Mann , whose character N aphta i n The Magic Mountain is known to have been based i n part on Lukacs, gave a very sensiti ve accoun t of t he subtle and even i nsoluble con tradictions i mplici t in such a man and such a s i tuati o n . N aphta is a Jesu i t ; that is to say , h e is t he ideological champion o f an organi za­ tion which is striving for world domination . But at t he same time, his keen i ntellect places him ou tside t he m ovement to which he dedicates his life. Although t he movement guarantees his freedo m , i t views him wi t h constant mistrust , provoked i n t he fi nal analysis by his bold ideas whose rigorous logic leads him to t he brink of heresy . Lukacs was no Jesuit and never managed to come to terms with the pro­ blems i mposed by t hi s i nevi table i ntellectual remoteness. It constantly brought h i m , t he theoretician , i n to conflict with a movement t hat was guided by tac­ t ical considerations and demanded discipline on tactical mat ters of the momen t . I t w as hard for him to reconcile himself to a situation in w hich he was constantly being driven to t he verge of an exco mmunication w hich in his eyes was tan tamount to a sentence of death . Since he was a t heoretician , he responded to this situation wi t h an idea , the so-called t heory of t he partisan . The most explicit statement of t his t heory dates from 1 945 and is to be found in the con text of a discussion of party li terature . ' The party author is never a leader o r a s i mple soldier , but always a partisan . That means that i f he is a genuine party author he will experience a profound sense of identity with the great historical voca tion o f the party and with t he great strategic l i ne determined by it . But within t hi s s trategic line he must reveal his views w i t h his own methods and o n his own responsibility . ' The pathos of this tex t , t he generali ty of t he formulations , m ake us suspect that t hey apply not j ust to li terary authors , but also to t he philosopher, to Georg Lukacs himself. I n another passage he speaks explici ty of himself. ' I was compelled , t herefore , to conduct a sort of partisan war on behalf of my philosophical ideas . ' The partisan t heory aroused very li t tle enthusiasm i n party circles . Instead of narrowing t he gulf between the philosopher and the m ovement , it widened i t . I n 1 949 , a fter t he crea tion of a Com munist m o nopoly of power , the par­ t isan theory was an i nsurmoun table bone o f contention i n t he debate w hose ulti mate purpose was to eradicate Lukacs ' s ideological position and influence . As usual , Lukacs reacted to this debate with a formal act of self-cri ticism so as to fores tall his excom mu nica tion . The partisan always concealed his weapo n

The R(f!ht To The Last Word

13

behi nd h i s back when the gaze o f h i s leaders focused too sharply upon hi 1 11 . W hat he calls ' loyalty' i n his discussion of party l i tera ture, i s something he always places above his own l ife ' s work and i t s moral and i n tellectual reputa­ tio n . I n bourgeoi s li tera ture, Lukacs wri tes , loyalty is often nothing more than a path ologica l , kitschy emotion . ' Party d iscipline, o n the other hand , i s a higher, abstract level of loyalty. A public figure ' s loyalty i nvolves a deep and ideological relationship to one or other historically given tendency-and it re­ mains loyal ty even if, on a particular i ssue, there is not com plete harmony . ' But what becomes of loyal ty when t he essen t ial determinants of a particular historical tendency change or are even i n verted ? What happens , for exam pie , when the revolutionary system of workers ' councils, which the phi losopher has loyally supported , is replaced by a bureaucra tic police dictatorshi p ? In such an event his steadfast loyalty has to confi ne i tself to remaining true to the con­ tinuity of names and slogans . But i f this loyal person chances to be a highly gifted phi losopher of im mense i n tellectual powers , he fi nds himself forced to insert this loyal ty i n to a perspective of world history and to bridge the gulf be­ tween that perspective and reality by means of will-power and fai t h-by means of religious values , in short . I n Lukacs ' s case , his cri tical sen se was too highly developed to enable h i m to perform this i n tellectual tour de force in a way t hat was disagreeable to the dominant power . On two occasions i n his later years, in 1 956 and again i n 1 968, his tory even presen ted h i m w i t h a painful reckoni ng , b u t h e was unwil­ l i ng to declare hi msel f bankrup t . Only once , in autum n 1 968, not l ong after t he en try of the Warsaw Pact troops i n to Prague , did I hear him concede as much : ' I suppose that the whole experiment that began in 1 9 1 7 has now fai led and has to be tried agai n at some o ther time and place . ' I t is true that he never repea ted this sen tence , never wrote i t down and never even mentioned i t in his last i n terview , even though that i n terview was not dest ined for the public. He may partly have been unwilling to contemplate the fa tal consequences this would have had i n retrospect for the last five decades of his life . T h i s did not prevent h im-and this i s w h y the Lukacsian version of ' loyal ­ ty ' is s o unacceptable-from elaborating a theory about t h e Soviet Union which main tai ned that it was an atypical transition to socialism and led him to appeal for a ' reform ' and ' renaissance' of Marxism . Thi s appeal culm i nated in the slogan , ' Back to Marx ! ' It was an historical perspective designed to confer a meaning on the decades he had spent in the m ovem en t . But at the same time it forced actually exi sting socialism i n to an uncomfortable confrontation wi th Marx . The fulfilment of Marxist theory under modern condi tions is a challenge that, with the best will i n the world , actually exi sting sociali sm has

14 simply been unable to meet . But by t he same token i t i s a challenge that can­ not be openly opposed . This is t he reason w hy Lukacs could be nei t her sw all owed nor spat out . Thus w hen he responded to t he terrible hammerblows of history w i t h t he slogan , ' Back to M arx ! ' , even at tempting to specify some of t he i mportant tasks i mplicit in t hat sloga n , he t hereby developed a cri tical point of view tailor- made for hi mself and i n complete harmony w i t h hi s life and work . Ex­ tending his sense of l oyalty back i nto t he past (to Marx and to t he Leni n-phase of t he Revolution) as well as projecti ng it i nto t he future , he assigned to fai t h a single yet decisive role i n t his cri tical projec t : that o f providing t he encourag­ i ng assurance t hat ideol ogical , eco nomic and organi zational reforms from above could open a route from the austere Marxist present i nto an au t hentic Marxist future . *

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I n t he last few months of his life , w hen Georg Lukacs at temp ted to com mit his autobiographical sketch Gelebtes Den ken to paper, his i ntention was to depict his life as one t hat had been domi nated by these aspirations over a period of decades . The ci rcums tances i n w hich he set about w ri ti ng his memoirs were quite extraordi nary . He was eighty-six and had known fo r some m o n t h s t hat h e w a s suffering from cancer . W hen t he doctor broke t he news to h i m , he wan ted to k now how long he would be able to con ti nue to work . He wan ted at all costs to revise t he Ontology, to which he had devo ted his last years and which had been severely cri ticized by some of his pupi ls . The l abour of revi sion proceeded very slowly . This was not due primari ly to his ill­ nes s , but to t he structure of t he book i tself, and i n particular to t he strict divi­ sion i nto historical and systematic chapters , which confron ted him with ab­ solutely i nsuperable problems . A furt her complicating factor was the disastrous shift of perspective t hat resulted from the even ts of 1968 . For Lukacs it was like bei ng a photographer w hose subject suddenly m oves . The effect was to i n tensify the already marked d ich otomy between (conservative) system and (progressive) met hod so characteristic of his last phase. Furthermore his i l l ness underm i ned the harmonious fu nctioni ng of his hi therto admi rable const i tu tion . It was not t he cancer that w reaked the worst havoc , but t he rapid progress of arteriosclerosis t hat made the greatest inroads on his physical strength and his powers of concen tration . Some months l ater, at the begi nning of 1 97 1 , he had to ad mit to himself t ha t-i n his own words-he was ' no longer competent to j udge t he Ontolo,�y' . But si nce he

The R(�ht To The Last Word

15

could not survive without work , his pupi ls suggested that he should wri te his autobiography . Thi s thought had long been in his mind . After al l , his wife, Gertrud Bort­ stieber, who d ied i n 1 963 , had urged him to wri te such a boo k . He now set to work on i t , albeit somewhat tentativel y , because he did not wish to produce anything unreliable or to rely simply on his own memory . But he no longer fel t strong enough to refresh his memory by research and to rei nforce i t with material from archives , libraries and journals . Finally, consci ous of the i ncreas­ i ng urgency of the task , he began to wri te . I n a short time he completed i n note form a fi fty-seven-page typewrit ten text in Germa n . There may have been two reasons for this solution to the problem. In the first place , it was his custom to produce a draft of every major piece of work , and so he was simply using a proven method . But also he may have been influenced by his realiza­ tion that without proper access to libraries , he would not be able in a ny case to produce a thorough and factually reliable boo k . A draft i n note form would enable the reader to research the details for himself. Thi s research began even before his death . For when i t became apparent after he had produced the draft that he was no longer capable of the physical effort of wri ting , it became necessary to think of a new activi ty . Thi s was how it came about that Erzsebet Vezer and I recorded onto tape the conversations we conducted with him between March and May 1 97 1 . The subject mat ter of our talks was Gclebtes Den ken . We had the typewri t ten text before us and we questioned him on specific hi nts or turns of phrase which cal led for explana­ tion or expansion . This resul ted in a substan tial H ungari an transcri pt some hundred pages long containing numerous repetitions and unin teresting details . The May conversations reflect that process o f decay that w as heart -rend i ng to see , and which Lukacs was also able to wi tness with his last spiri tual strengt h . Nevertheless , many important issues were clarified by these conversation s . The draft text w a s expanded , i n terpreted and concreti zed at many poi n t s . The labour which we had t hough t up out of sym pathy and compassion for the dy­ ing man was made meaningful not by our effort s , but by Lukacs ' s own as­ tounding men tal exertion and will- power . *

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I do not think i t is necessary here to give a sys tematic chronological in tro­ duction to R ecord of a Life . I would like only to select some of the passages which highlight the author ' s last word on controversial and important issues . But I would like to preface these with a few com ments on the personality

16 which confronts us i n t his fragmentary record . ' I n my case everything is a continuation of somet hing else. I do not think t hat t here are any non-organic elements in my developmen t . ' Lukacs ut tered t hese proud words in t he course of our i nterview s . His autobiographical sketch is in fact organic and homogeneous in character . Even as a child Lukacs rebelled against t he conventional ethos of his upper-middle-class family. A t t he start o f his career a s a writer he was overwhelmed b y the force o f t he critical spiri t , t he demand for totality and the ' revolutionism without revolu­ tio n ' represented by t he great Hungarian poe t , Endre Ady . Ady ' s i nfluence subsequent ly helped him to arrive at a unique syn thesis i n his study of German philosophy : his conservative epistemology j oined fo rces with a left-wing ethic . And this i n turn gave him a vantage-poi nt outside all possible versions of ' power-pro tected i nward ness' (Thomas Mann ' s expressio n) from which to assess H ungarian and European politics . The First World W ar i ntensified the contempt he fel t fo r all existing powers , institutions and dominant ideologies w hich were driving the world toward s catastrophe amid transports of ent husias m . In his eyes t he world w as caught up in a condition of ' absolute sinfulness ' . Only t he Russian Revolu­ tion held out a glimmer of h ope . Lukacs , who had been prepared by his previous reading of M arx for a change of attitude , finally glimpsed a new perspective in t he midst of universal conflagratio n . And after a brief but i n­ tense inner struggle , he joined t he Communist m ovement to which he re­ mained faithful for t he rest of his life . I n Gelebtes Denken h i s conversion is rightly given t he central i mportance i t deserves : ' My m oving tow ards t he Com munists w a s t he greatest turning­ poin t i n my life . ' Everything which went before-including t he famous wri tings whose i nfluence survives to t he presen t day-only in terests him to t he extent that it helped to prepare t he way for that turning-poin t . From that time o n he regards t he books belonging to his idealist phase as the works of an ideologist of undoubted gifts who nevertheless exerted a pern icious infl uence in many respects and t herefore deserves the most severe cri ticism . His subse­ quent developmen t is something he u nderstands as a progress within Marx­ ism , marked partly by his ever-increasi ng grasp of t heory a nd partly by t he sometimes sincere , someti mes formal adj ustments to practice . This progress logically culminates in the call for a Marxist refo rm or renaissance and in t he p roduction o f his great systema tic work s , t he A cstlzctics and t he Ontolo