István Bodnár awarded the Jenő Ábel Memorial Plaquette

September 19, 2020

The Hungarian Classical Society awarded this year’s Jenő Ábel Memorial Plaquette for outstanding achievement in classical studies to our faculty member István Bodnár.

His acceptance speech given at this occasion:

It has never crossed my mind that I might receive an award like this. I have been quite rebellious, so it just seemed to be out of question that a society of classical scholarship would think of awarding me a major prize. Hence this decision is out of the ordinary in so many ways that I am truly humbled.

I owe a few more words on this occasion. Most important of all: You have to know that I did not plan to study classics at university. I am standing here by accident. By a very particular accident at that. A week before starting my second year at university, I broke my ankle. Rather severely. I could not set foot on campus for several months. Lying in bed, I thought I should use this opportunity, and had the secondary school textbooks of Latin ordered for me. I could devote all my time to them – and so these months turned out to be the best semester I have ever had.

With this experience in mind, I cannot but follow anxiously, with full sympathy the way students at a nearby university, the University of Theater and Film Arts, are formulating at this moment ways, in order to set up their own most memorable semester, in rebus extremis. A mere broken leg is not comparable to their plight.

But let me get back to my accident. One could just say that after that semester the rest was history. But that history needed a lot of help and advice. I was lucky. At that time István Borzsák could return to Budapest, after having been expelled, for two decades, to Debrecen. And I could continue with names on end. Let me just single out here the very beginning, and the crucial central figure. The beginning – the legendary Tamás Adamik, and György Karsai, now of the University of Theater and Film Arts, with whom we read Winnie-ille-Pooh at that early stage. And then the central figure, my teacher, Kornél Steiger, now professor emeritus of ancient philosophy of Eötvös University. He gave me help and advice at every major turn of my professional life. Even now, before coming here, he told me I should be careful with this plaquette. It is a ponderous beast – one can hurt self and computer unless it is handled properly. As for all, I am most grateful to him for this latest piece of advice. Thank you.