Outspoken Essays

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Heller had gone to the science academy’s resort every year.“The Orban government had recently passed a new law that was going to dismantle the academy, and Agnes was still trying to fight that decision,” she wrote.

“Full of energy and terribly concerned about the plight of Hungary and other countries in Europe, she was not about to give up.”Agnes Heller was born on May 12, 1929, to a middle-class Jewish family in Budapest.

She wrote prolifically on philosophy, Marxism, ethics and modernity but was also a strong critic of the right-wing government of Viktor Orban as well as the Communist regime. Heller had gone for a swim, a favorite activity, when her body was found floating in the lake. Feher said, saw no sign of a heart attack or aneurysm. Her eventful life included losing her father in the Holocaust, falling into official disfavor after the Hungarian uprising of 1956, and, most recently, speaking out against Viktor Orban, Hungary's right-wing prime minister.“A story is always a story of choices,” she wrote in one of her last essays, published in the journal Social Research last spring.

Agnes Heller, a prominent Hungarian philosopher and dissident who repeatedly found herself unwelcome in her own country, died on July 19 while vacationing on Lake Balaton in western Hungary. She had been staying at the summer resort of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in the town of Balatonalmadi. “It was not written in the stars that Hungary would fare worst among all post-Soviet states or that it would be the most radical in its elimination of freedom of the press or balance of power in government and wind up with a system I call tyranny.”“Tyrannies always collapse,” she continued, “but whether Hungarians will escape with their sanity and sufficient clarity for a new start remains to be seen.”In a tribute to her, Judith Friedlander, a former dean of the New School for Social Research in New York, where Professor Heller taught for more than 20 years,called Ms.

In addition to her son, she is survived by a daughter from her first marriage, Zsuzsa Hermann. Heller lectured and taught all over the world and spoke out often about the political situation in Hungary.

In a memorial that Professor Grumley said he would include in a forthcoming book of her lectures that he is editing, he wrote that “the European public sphere will miss her” because of her stand “against xenophobic populism.”“Hungary will miss her even more,” he added, “a fearless critic of Viktor Orban’s nationalist right-wing authoritarian and anti-Semitic government at a time it really needs a robust opposition.”An earlier version of this obituary included a quotation from a statement by Judith Friedlander, a former dean of the New School for Social Research in New York, where Ms. She did not express skepticism about the circumstances of the death. Yet Heller’s emigration to Australia in 1977 was followed by an enormous burst of theoretical productivity. At her death, her son said, she had been living primarily in Budapest. Heller’s first marriage, to Istvan Hermann in 1949, ended in divorce in 1962.Writing in another language and re-establishing her credentials in novel surroundings was just the challenge that she needed.”She published at least 20 books after leaving Hungary, including “A Theory of History” (1982) and “Can Modernity Survive? Her second husband, Ferenc Feher, another member of the Budapest School, died in 1994.Heller said in a talk in 2014, when she was awarded the Wallenberg Medal by the University of Michigan, given in memory of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who rescued tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews during World War II.“You will not forget it even if you want to forget it.The greater part of the book consists of previously unpublished matter."Confessio Fidei" is an attempt to put in order what Mr.Her father, Pal Heller, was a lawyer and writer who had been helping people escape Hungary and the Nazi sphere when he was sent to Auschwitz in 1944; he died there.She remained in Budapest with her mother, Angela Ligeti, expecting to be executed — an experience, she said, that stayed with her permanently.“A trauma cannot be forgotten,” Ms.Long after I had read the whole collection, resonances of the title poem, “To Sweeten Bitter”, with its poignant opening, remained with me: The magic of good poetry has to do with what it is able to say also between the lines, and Raymond Antrobus succeeds in conjuring up a lexicon of emotions evoked by the experiences, observations and history that craft his identity, drawn from a world that may as naturally includes a classroom in Kenya, a boat trip down Jamaica’s Black River, a confrontation at Miami airport, as familiar home life in Hackney, east London.Occasional light references to other writers - from Louise Bennett, James Berry to Binyavanga Wainaina and Derek Walcott - give me confidence that here is someone who knows what it takes to follow this literary vocation.


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