29th April 2022


2 minutes read

Zsuzsa Takács

If we indeed have souls

translated by George Szirtes

29th April 2022

2 minutes read

It has no single form. And that’s the point!
Can we trust in that which constantly changes
its appearance? In Blind Hope? It could be
a beggar on the street corner, or a young woman,
servant to a house, marched off to Auschwitz
together with her masters, to the Danube Delta
or Vorkuta where she remains in service to them,
digging out roots from under the snow or going through
the rubbish. Ancients are there to tell us stories
to protect the soul in us, if we indeed have souls
and are not merely creatures perpetuating our species.


Should night last not the usual eight hours, but
continue for weeks or years or even whole decades,
so that when the sun appears it’s only by mistake,
would we still trust it? Pretty soon

disaster tourists
arrive in air-conditioned buses to visit our
disaster-stricken city,

and our tyrant’s pet gelding
conducts them round the luxury hotel and turns on
taps of gold, – though that’s not what they paid for,
they say, as they beat the table demanding whisky
in our Potemkin village – no, they want to meet us.


Do we have rights, and soap, do we have books,
hospitals, schools, and paid overtime? they ask.
They’re particularly keen to know about our
orphanages because they have seen others elsewhere
and those remain their fondest memory.
And would we like to travel the way they do?
They mention a tsunami in Asia and show us photos
of themselves in such places, as they explain,
with Sony camcorders round their necks among
bodies buried in mud. They offer us chairs
and want to share their salmon with us, while we


stand gawping in the restaurant, caught on CCTV,
eyes popping out, not touching the food. If their looking
disturbs us, they say, they can turn away but we are
constantly being looked at, we answer, and gaze at them,
admiring their beauty.

Do you still have hope,
they ask us,

and we recall the beggar on Petőfi corner
and the young woman who accompanied us to Auschwitz,
the Danube Delta, and Vorkuta, and their cameras click and flash
and then to make sure they won’t confuse us with others,
they carefully note the time and place of their visit.

written by

Zsuzsa Takács

More about the author

Issue 01


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translated by

George Szirtes

More about the translator


If we indeed have souls by Zsuzsa Takács
In this poem by Hungarian Zsuzsa Takács, translated by poet George Szirtes, Eastern European trauma transforms into the spectacle of disaster tourism.