Frigyes Karinthy

A Fixed Faithfulness

“The thing is, doctor, it all started with my being in love with a famous actress. I even think I could have had her for a time, without being tied down in any way, like so many others, but please, you must, you have to understand, I loved that woman and I was terribly jealous. The thought that other men might care for her, and that she might care for other men made me ill. I was jealous over the way she moved, over her voice, her eyes, her clothes, over every bit of her that could be seen, everything about her that was a rare feast and inexhaustible source of pleasure for my two eyes.

“I was intelligent enough, however, to know that my love was hopeless, at least in that form. I couldn’t be with her every moment, I couldn’t be a tiny sticking plaster on her face, or a ring on her little finger, something she carried about with her all the time. And I realized too that I didn’t need her soul, what I needed was being able to see her, all the time, everywhere, wherever I wanted, as a vision of my happiness come to life. And that I should always see her the same way, as if she existed only because of me, and for me. I didn’t care if she was out of my reach, like the pale moon high above me, only let her be equally out (if reach for all the others, wandering alone up amongst the clouds. Let me simply be able to touch her with my eyes, only no one else was to be near her either. That’s all the faithfulness I wanted from her.

“One day I saw her in a sort of film-play. There was a scene in the film where she walked alone down an avenue. Slowly she walks to the front, sits down on a bench, and waits. In this scene all the beauty, all the ferment which made me fall in love with her, all which made me act like a fool where she was concerned, shone in her and through her with such concentrated power that I thought to myself: if I could save this scene—which only lasted for five minutes—here she appeared alone, on her own, only for me, if I could save it from passing, if I could hide it away somewhere just for myself, it would be enough to satisfy my passion and bring relief to the jealousy which tortured me.

“I rushed to the agent, bought a print of this film, and cut this five-minute scene out of it. I bought a small home projector, and night after night, behind closed doors, in a darkened room, I projected the moving picture of my loved one on to the wall.

“I had a right to tell myself that this woman whom I kept in a small box, as the giant in the Arabian Nights kept his jealously guarded loved one, so that on opening the little box behind closed doors; she should, for a few happy moments, come to life in front of me, I had a right, as I said, to tell myself that this woman was true to me. I had clutched and fixed moments of her passing, uncontrollable life when she was alone; when there was no hungry male eye near her, when every movement, every flicker in her eyes was meant for me. I could trust this woman; after all she always did the same thing, and in the same way, however often I brought her to life through the magic lamp of the projector, always exactly the same way, the way her skirt swung was repeated with an inalienable precision again and again, thanks to this wonderful invention which could take a brief, transient moment and create an unmoving eternity out of it.

“In the course of the years, as you can imagine: every movement in these five minutes was cut deep into my soul. The woman walks forward in the avenue, she approaches slowly and hesitates a little. She stops. For a moment she glances between the trees, then she continues on her way, and sits down on a bench. I was happy to be in possession of such a treasure.

“It was a few months ago that the thought first hit me: why does this woman stop in that place, and why does she look towards the trees? It was probably part of her role in that film, but the business made me restless. I knew that nothing could happen, that this woman who had been created for me, who was bound eternally to me, could not spring any painful surprise on me, that she could not betray me; after all, she had only one single way of getting to the bench. But in vain. The thought got into me, and after that a special kind of restlessness seized hold of me, a restlessness I cannot understand, whenever I come to this part in my little piece of film. Why does my one true love stop, who is she looking for between the trees?

“Well, doctor, I know why I came, and I know where I am. I’m curious myself. Have I gone mad? Perhaps I'm right to come to the home of the mentally sick. Check on it yourself. I've brought the film with me.

“I’m telling you, doctor, that this woman is unfaithful to. me. I've been sure of it since yesterday. I was staring at the film, and in the third minute, when she stops between the trees, and looks sideways into the grove, a man jumped out from the trees, promptly kissed her and jumped back again. She then went on her way as if nothing had happened and sat down on the bench. It may be that if we run it through now, this scene won’t happen again. But she was unfaithful to me. The miserable wretch was unfaithful tome, in the film. She got them to change the film. She betrayed me. It’s no use. The faithfulness of a woman cannot be fixed, not even for a second, not even by a movie machine.”

SOURCE: Karinthy, Frigyes. “A Fixed Faithfulness” (A megrógzített hűség), translated by Rudolf Fischer, in Grave and Gay: Selections from His Work, selected by István Kerékgyárto, afterword by Károly Szalay, binding and jacket by István Bányai, 2nd ed., (Budapest: Corvina Press, 1973), pp. 165-167.

"Frigyes Karinthy, Humorist and Thinker"
by Miklós Vajda

Frigyes & Ferenc Karinthy in English

Frigyes (Frederiko) Karinthy (1887-1938) en Esperanto

Futurology, Science Fiction, Utopia, and Alienation
in the Work of Imre Madách, György Lukács, and Other Hungarian Writers:
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Sándor Szathmári (1897-1974): Bibliografio & Retgvidilo / Bibliography & Web Guide

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