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This article is taken from PN Review 187, Volume 35 Number 5, May - June 2009.

The Poet, the Anarchist, the Master of Ceremonies Marius Kociejowski

John Rety’s eyes twinkle like cut diamonds tossed onto a haystack darkened by several weeks of rain. They make him look younger than his 77 years. I should think that, like me, he does not own a comb. The accent could be from anywhere east of a certain longitude. It’s not easy to say from where exactly because the years of speaking English have made of it a kind of mélange. The madness, which he has in abundance, is of a species that could not be from anywhere other than what used to be called Eastern Europe. Mitteleuropa really, but because of the Iron Curtain it was twice removed and sealed into a ghetto for our western fantasies. We wanted those countries free, but only in captivity did they ever really shine. When he’s not scowling, which these days seems to be most of the time, Rety scintillates. Short and stout he may be, but, as my wife can testify, because she danced with him once, he is fleet of foot, and although on that occasion the music was an Irish pub band whose cheeriness is of a species that never fails to depress me, he seemed to move to another music altogether and indeed may have been a Habsburg waltzer in a past life. When I told him on the phone that my world journey through London had brought me to Hungary, or at least that part of it which is to be found in Kentish Town, there ...


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