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The ELTE Department of Dutch with prof. Judit Gera in the middle | Bianka Májay

Centuries of Hungarian-Dutch Relations

The recent Holland country focus in Diplomacy & Trade included the view on the Hungarian-Dutch relations by the Dutch Department of the University of Debrecen as well as that of the ELTE University in Budapest. This time we have the article by the ELTE department.

Hungarian-Dutch cultural relations go back to the 17th century when Hungarian Protestant students went to study theology or law at Dutch Universities such as Franeker, Groningen, Leiden, Amsterdam and Utrecht. Some of the best known examples are János Apáczai Csere and Miklós Misztótfalusi Kis.

Admiral Michiel de Ruyter freed 26 Hungarian Protestant galley slaves in 1676. In Debrecen, there is still a memorial pillar in memory of the admiral. Also, in the 19th century there were several Hungarian students who continued peregrinating to the Low Countries. The Bernardinum Stipendium made it possible for the theological and literary scholar Zsigmond Nagy to stay and study in Utrecht and to translate several Dutch literary works into Hungarian.

He was the first one to write a short history of Dutch literature in Hungarian. Famous were the children’s' trains after both World Wars which took poor and emaciated children to revive and recuperate in the Netherlands and in Belgium. The revolution of 1956 found great sympathy in these countries and it led to the acceptation of thousands of Hungarian immigrants. Dutch-Hungarian relations are still very vivid today.

In the 1970s/‘80s, it was the poet and translator, Erika Dedinszky, living and working in the Netherlands, who acted as a mediator between the Netherlands and Hungary: thanks to her engagement with both cultures, there were several cultural manifestations both in the Low Countries and in Hungary.

This is still going on partly due to the staff of the Eötvös University (ELTE) Department of Dutch: Hungarian and Dutch/Flemish writers, poets, dancers, visual artists and scholars come and go to and fro. Hungary is one of the countries where the greatest number of Dutch books – fiction and non-fiction – is translated.

This has been made possible not only by the translators but also by our ex-colleague, Erzsébet Mollay who had been working more than ten years on the first medium size Dutch-Hungarian dictionary published in 2002.

Not only prominent Dutch and Flemish authors are translated into Hungarian but also works of Hungarian writers such as Sándor Márai, Magda Szabó, Zsuzsa Rakovszky, György Konrád, Péter Esterházy, Péter Nádas and Imre Kertész into Dutch also.

The international project ‘Circulation of Dutch Literature’ (CODL), supported by the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences and coordinated by our colleague, Orsolya Réhelyi, and of which the ELTE Department of Dutch is a substantial partner, continues maintaining the long tradition of Dutch-Hungarian cultural relations.

ELTE's Department of Dutch

The Department of Dutch at Eötvös University (www.cns.hu) was founded in the 1960s. Its chief assignment is to teach and research Dutch language and the literature and culture of the Netherlands and Flemish Belgium. Translation, interpretation, contrastive linguistics and comparative cultural and literary studies form the center of its work. In the frame of the 'Elck syn waerom' (Everybody has a reason) special course, prominent Dutch and Flemish scholars are regularly invited to give lectures on their specialties. In the so-called Elckerlijc-evenings, a Dutch language literary work in Hungarian translation is discussed by renowned literary critics, experts on Dutch literature and culture and translators for a broader public.

The Erasmus and Huygens scholarships make study and research possible in the Netherlands and Flanders. Students interested in research on Dutch literature can sign up for a PhD training at the department. The staff consists of five Hungarian lecturers and two native speakers. There are also job fairs organized by the Dutch Royal Embassy and The Flemish Representation. As a result, several students find jobs at joint ventures such as Randstad, Inbev, BP, GE, Kelly Services etc.

Professor Judit Gera, ELTE Department of Dutch

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