A feature by Gábor Schein
The themes of memory and forgetting are not as distinct from the theme of responsibility as we would like them to be. Gábor Schein's beautifully developed and persuasive essay begins with the physical description of a specific part of Budapest, tracing it from its origins as a swamp through its development as an industrial slum and then as a quarter for the wealthy, going on to examine the regular changing of the city's street-names as a series of excisions from memory. Such excisions, he argues, lead to apathy and indifference. Corpses float down the river in 1945 but no one notices any more. The homeless and hungry of today move past us in the street but liberal public opinion uses them more to flatter its own conscience than to do anything. The Sebaldian sense of deep ground constantly opens at our feet but we move on, returning to the moral and psychological equivalent of the swamp out of which the city sprang . . .