27th September 2022


7 minutes read

Viktor Horváth

The Eye of the Storm

translated by Thomas Cooper

27th September 2022

7 minutes read

“I shall liberate my people, and for that I am ready to lay down my life.”

(Adolf Hitler)


Father Viktor gave the same sermon that Sunday as he had on previous Sundays. Just the ending was a bit different.

That morning, he’d woken up to two angels in suits and sunglasses standing in front of him tapping their phones.

“Today you shall save your whole country,” one of them said.

“No, that’s a different post. Look, this is today’s. This is the one about him.”

“Right, sorry.

They’re going to arrest him. Today.”

He opened his eyes and thought of Prime Minister Ferenc Ács in the act of inaugurating a stadium. It filled him with rage, but then he reminded himself of the divine commandment of mercy and love, and he thought of how poor Ács had aged.

At church, not many people in the pews. A few elderly communist widows, an old man with Parkinson’s, and a state provocateur from the office of church affairs, as usual. But there were also two new men in suits and ties. Not a great feeling to look at them, he thought. Did agents get the idea of wearing sunglasses from the Matrix?

Back in the old days, rich families had come to church every Sunday, not to mention businessmen and politicians wearing well-tailored wool suits, Louis Vuitton shoes, and Rolexes, and their wives with Cartier jewelry (this was the ritzy neighborhood where the upper class lived, some ten thousand people) and Gucci and Furla. The foreign diplomats and directors of multinational companies did not flaunt flashy designer goods. The men dressed casual, and the women were refined with their elegance. And then, because of the unusual sermons, the crowds started to thin.

As a young man, he had spent a year in New York City, where he had attended worship services from Queens to the Bronx, Manhattan and Brooklyn to Staten Island.

In Saint Patrick’s, it was like being in Europe.

In Harlem, it was like being at a house party, and he found every shade in between. His favorite spot was Trinity Church, where the priest talked to the congregation during mass, and when he had gotten a parish back home, he had asked the faithful churchgoers during mass if they believed in God, because as far as he was concerned, it hardly seemed possible that Jesus had believed in a bloodthirsty, polygamous, polytheistic god. No one had answered, but a dutiful mother had asked him the next day, just among the members of a tight circle, what he had meant by all this.

“A pagan polytheist believes in his god,” he had replied. “He pleads with him for help and gives him thanks him if he thinks his god has come to his aid. So how are we different from him? What do you all think Christianity is anyway? Where’s the adventure in it if we do everything just like the pagans do it?”

The women had traded hasty glances, and the gold bracelets on their arms had jingled like chimes. He had hoped that they would be curious and would ask him what this adventure might be, and then he would be able to tell them that the adventure lay in changing our lives, in stepping out of our comfort zones (he loved to preach), but the women, alas, had not been curious, and they had not come to mass the following week either.

One of them became his lover, but even she didn’t go to mass.

The following Sunday, however, the provocateur showed up.

“Good Father, why does Jesus shudder to see us down here kneeling before an image of him crucified on the cross and praying? Could you explain this to us in greater detail?”

And he had always accepted provocation.

“Yes, my son, I will explain. Imagine what would have happened if, for some reason, Pilate had shown mercy and had had Jesus hanged instead of crucified? It’s less agonizingly painful and humiliating. And then we would have gallows in our public squares with Jesuses dangling from wires. Do you think that would be moving? Jesus would be hanging from gallows in church school classrooms too, and three-year-old girls would have necklaces around their necks with golden gallows. Wonderful. Would Jesus like it if this were how we raised our kids?”

And so these little exchanges had gone on for many, many years, and now here were these two guys from the Matrix.

Father Viktor was scared.

They didn’t even bother to wait for the service to end. At the elevation of the host, they stood up and walked over to the altar, and one of them punched him in the nose. A thousand sparkling meteors shot through the marrow of Father Victor’s brain, and the bell of judgment tolled with a rumble. His knee buckled, but he did not drop the chalice full of wine. He couldn’t allow anything to spill from it, for it had already become the blood of Christ. His arms were trembling, but he carefully laid the chalice on the marble slab. Then the other agent in sunglasses punched him in the stomach. He stooped forward, and his bleeding nose touched the vessel. Then they kicked him in the butt, and this time the chalice did tip, and his face was pressed into the wine. They put a bag over his head and led him out of the church by the arm. The provocateur recorded the whole thing on his phone, and then he followed them, taking care, of course, to close the church door behind him.

In the car, he sat in the back between the two men with sunglasses, his hands cuffed behind his back.

“Look, I sent you the link,” one of the agents said to the other.

“What the hell’s up now?”

“They’re demanding Hungary back.”

“What? Who?”

“The frogs. The French.”

“But back to where?”

“To the Roman Empire. You hear that! They’re saying that Hungary used to be theirs.”

“The French? No way. Nonsense.”

“But it’s right here. Read it.”

“Yeah, I see. For real! But it’s not like the whole thing was theirs. Just up to the Danube. Click on the map, it’ll show you the border. The Danube, that was the border. Awesome, man, know what I’m saying?”

By this time, the cramps in Father Victor’s diaphragm had let up.

“What do you want? Where are you taking me? This is outrageous. In the middle of mass! This is sacrilege. Take this bag off my head.”

“The fuck it’s awesome! Pure conspiracy theory. No way we let the French take Balaton.”

“Why not? We’re EU anyway.

We could go to Lake Balaton without a passport. If it somehow ended up being theirs. And then at least then Zalaegerszeg and Vidi teams would be French teams.”

“Take this bag off me and stop the car! I can’t see, and I’m getting sick to my stomach from all the curves. I’m going to throw up.”

“Balaton never belonged to the fucking French.”

“It’s right here on the map! They had everything, even Barcelona.”

“Under what charges?” Father Victor asked. “I haven’t done anything!”

And then he started to vomit, at which one of the agents barked a quick order to the provocateur driving the car.

“Lieutenant, please slow down when you’re taking the curves, because otherwise he’s going to end up barfing all over the whole car.”

The driver slowed down and then told the men in the back to loosen the bag around the suspect’s neck.


The Roman Empire belonged to the wops, not the frogs.

Why don’t the Italians reclaim Lake Balaton?”

“The French were part of the Roman Empire too. I saw this one film that said Julius Caesar was French.”

“He was Italian. He conquered the French, and now they’re all saying that they conquered the whole thing. That stuff’s all just a bunch of fake news.”



written by

Viktor Horváth

More about the author

Issue 03


More about this issue

translated by

Thomas Cooper

More about the translator


The Eye of the Storm by Viktor Horváth
Father Viktor struggles to contain his rage against Prime Minister Ferenc Ács, until one day he receives a visit from men in suits.