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"Superlatively awful statuary": Memento Park, Budapest: (Elelicht CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Memento Park is some miles outside Budapest. But with a couple of hours to spare before heading to the airport, I finally managed the detour. The rain was coming down in sheets as the park opened, and my taxi driver lent me his mackintosh and an umbrella so that I could traipse around.

For anybody who hasn’t been there, the Memento Park is how Hungary dealt with the question of what to do with all the statues. The communists were always and everywhere erectors of superlatively awful statuary. Great statues of Marx, Lenin and Stalin, obviously, but also local officials, cast for eternity in their anoraks, trench coats and post-war glasses. And then there is the school of statuary that can still be seen in Pyongyang, presenting idealised workers striding forward. Others reflected Soviet-Hungarian friendship: linked hands holding up a globe, or an archetypical Hungarian worker shaking hands in a friendly fashion with an equally archetypical comrade from his oppressor to the East.

After communism fell, these statues were all transposed to this remote park. At the entrance is the huge monument that now consists (the rest having been pulled down decades ago by the locals) of Stalin’s boots.  Frankly, I was disappointed with the orderliness of the arrangements after that. There is the top half of a Lenin on the grass as you go in, but otherwise most of the statues are well situated, arrayed with taste and in proportion. I had hoped that they would be more scatter-gun, sprouting from overgrown grass wherever they had been dropped. But still the sight is a tremendous one. And standing alone amid the downpour the best thing of all was noticing how many of these statues now had cavities, exposing the inner workings of the craftsmen who had made them. Then the realisation that before many more decades are out these mementos will follow the ideology they so fervently sought to commemorate.
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These days there is a slightly more bitter taste to all of this than there would have been a decade ago. Not that full communism is likely to return soon. But there are things in the air — in America as much as Europe — causing echoes that ought to be heard more clearly. It is the same note as in all those statues of Soviet workers and leaders: always an arm raised, leading the charge: forward, faster, with more determination. Corbyn, McDonnell and all their gang resound to the cries. Always forward. Never stop, pause or hesitate. Always packed with certainty. But towards where? What is the destination? All we get is the language of Marx with a gloss of antiseptic: equality, equity and fairness. But that’s not it, I think.
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Craig Wallace
July 3rd, 2018
6:07 PM
I became a Christian through an intense reading of Crime and Punishment. That was thirty eight years ago.I also felt as if I were Raskolnikov.

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