February 9th 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Running on nearly empty: fool's gamble with fuel reserves

EDITORIAL The challenges are really hitting home in 2019

CANBERRA OBSERVED Coalition's female deficit is more apparent than real

ENERGY 200,000 Victorians left powerless in heatwave

FAMILY AND SOCIETY Migration, instability and the erosion of conscience

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Still time to reach a deal on Brexit

LIFE ISSUES 'Viability' argument is wearing a bit thin

NATIONAL AFFAIRS The strategic silence of the secularists

THE RUDDOCK REVIEW The chimera of freedom of religion in Australia

LITERATURE Tolkien's lost epilogue: tying up loose ends

CULTURE AND POLITICS China exhibits its latest assault on human dignity

HUMOUR BMC-Bitzumishi to release musical wallpaper

MUSIC Cuba on the jazz map: Gonzalo Rubalcaba

CINEMA Glass: Gifts of brokenness

BOOK REVIEW Heroism from a crushed nation

BOOK REVIEW Comprehensively corrects the record

CHILDREN'S CLASSIC A breath of fresh air and innocence



WATER POLICY Something rotten led to fish-kill: perhaps fishy environmentalism

Books promotion page

A breath of fresh air and innocence

by Hal G.P. Colebatch

News Weekly, February 9, 2019


by Kate Seredy

(Available at most good bookstores)

This book, first published in 1937, and once regarded as a classic, was read to me as a child. I had forgotten it but rediscovered it, and saw those two names, “Kate” and “Jancsi”, with a feeling of meeting and recognising old friends.

Having read some of the squalid “realistic” novels being forced on young children today, it is a strong breath of fresh air and innocence.

It is a set of episodes of two children, Kate and Jancsi Nagy, on a farm on the great plains of Hungary in the early part of the 20th century – an idyllic time there when age-old ways and rituals still lingered, but with the best of burgeoning modernity too.

The plot is fairly simple: Kate, a sickly and motherless but mischievous girl, is sent by her bewildered father, at his wits’ end trying to raise her in the city, to stay with his brother, the “good master” of the story, a big farmer, who has one son, Jancsi. Kate gradually gains in both physical strength and mental responsibility.

It says more for the real joys and fulfilments of the natural life on the great plains than any greenie tract could.

In a sense the lifestyle that it depicts is reminiscent of the Riders of Rohan, the horse lords, in Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. The shepherds, millers and other people the children meet are also sources of folklore and stories, such as one is hardly likely to encounter elsewhere (Evidently, in Hungarian folklore, Attila the Hun is not a villain but a heroic champion of the nation).

Like Arthur Ransome’s children’s books, The Good Master has information on how to do things, such as make brightly coloured Easter eggs (religious themes are present but unobtrusive). It is beautifully illustrated by the author, showing the colourfulness of old Hungarian dress. Like the books of Ransome and Tolkien (a writer for adults as well as children), it has gone through many editions, saying something about a popular appetite for stories of goodness.

There is some refreshing political incorrectness in the book – the only bad characters are thieving and ungrateful Gypsies (in political-correctness crazed Britain not long ago, the TV puppet fox character Basil Brush was interviewed by police after making a mild joke on TV about a Gypsy stealing his watch).

The strongest impression the book conveys, apart from the innocence of the children and the thoroughgoing decency of most of the adults, is its authenticity. It is no surprise to learn that Kate Seredy spent her school holidays on the great plains she describes so well, among people such as she depicts.

These people, making their own colourful clothes and furniture, are forged by the hard seasons: huge energy goes into laying up supplies of every kind for the winter, but the summer can be scorching and drought-stricken.

Indeed, as in Australia, a prolonged drought could mean ruin:

“The summer wore on. In the daytime it was blinding hot, cruelly hot; the nights were sultry. Only the house, with its two-foot-thick walls and wide shady porches, stayed cool. For weeks it had not rained; the earth was dry and cracked; the brook dried up, leaving only a wide clay bed full of cracks with a small trickle of muddy water in the middle of it. To keep the flower gardens well watered was hard work now, and even Kate’s strong, sturdy little back ached sometimes. Mother gave up trying to water her flowers. She had enough to do to keep the vegetables from wilting. Kate took care of her flowers too, for she couldn’t bear to see them go thirsty …

“Even the sunrise wasn’t beautiful now. The sun came up orange coloured, sultry, flooding the parched countryside with heat – more heat. In church the priest prayed for rain. People came out after service, just to see the same colourless, bluish-white blazing sky above – and went home dejectedly. Hot winds drove clouds of loose dirt over everything, leaving the plains under a blanket of chocking white dust …”

Of course, it all comes right in time, and the seasons move on to a happy and holy Christmas. There is a picture of shepherds, dressed in their colourful national costumes, presenting a hand-carved Nativity scene at Christmas.

But one closes the book with at least a transitory feeling of sadness: this innocent, fulfilling life was about to be swept away by the War and 45 years of brutal, Soviet-backed communism.

And yet, of course, that was destined not to be the last word. The night seemed endless, but end it did, and Hungary stands today, along with Poland and the Czech Republic, in strength, pride and freedom, a beacon to Europe and to the nations.

One hopes that today there are many more Kates and Jancsis riding across the great plains, spinning flax for the joy of creating, catching crayfish in the great rivers, and, of course, riding.

All you need to know about
the wider impact of transgenderism on society.
TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99

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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm