Tuesday, 5 April 2016


Contradictory characters

Yesterday Conductive World remarked the recent death of Béla Biszku:

Emma McDowell comments –
No politician can keep his hands clean and some (as Biszku) get them very dirty, indeed. But obviously, he was one who also did some good, too, and not only for some individuals, and accidentally, but with conviction and on a larger scale: he helped to save Pető’s system, because he believed in it.

András Pető was a correspondingly contradictory figure. He was certainly not the mythographers' 100% Mr Nice Guy, as reminiscences of those who knew him consistently reveal. of the. Among other things he is reported as treating people instrumentally, for what he could get out of them.

The writer Andor Német knew András Pető when they were young in Szombathély, and their lives later intertwined in Vienna, Paris and Budapest. Like Béla Biszku he was another visitor to the apartment in Budapest. In his own Memoires he commented that András Pető in his youth had been determined to use people in the way in which men use domesticated horses (p 554, reported by Róbert Szörenyi).

This attribute was apparent in how he ran his Institute. Judit Dévai played a significant role in the early development of András Pető's work in Budapest: she has recalled –
Pető did not have a balanced relationship with the other people working for him: his primary point of view was the persons's usefulness for the Institute (with a capital 'I'!)...

I suspect that, however well András Pető and Béla Biszku might have got on with each other, András Pető would likely have had Béla Biszku's potential political uses very much in mind. It looks like this might have paid off, and that those dinners were an excellent investment.

To be fair (and fairness is the theme of this posting), it does look from Judit Forrai's interview with Béla Biszku that he did take a genuine interest in András Pető's work, the Institute, and the children there. And he was one of those who pestered András Pető' to get it written down for posterity – in the event, as far as one knows, fruitlessly. As for Béla Biszku's possible role in effecting the transfer out of Health and into Education, his must be regarded as more that just a walk-on part in the history of conductive pedagogy and bringing about professional training for conductors.

Emma added –
I wonder whether anybody (apart from you) mentions this over his ashes…

In response, I wonder whether the expression 'Give the Devil his due' is specifically English . It is certainly an old one, already a proverb by the time that Shakespeare quoted it as such. 

Does there exist an equivalent fair-play sentiment within Hungarian culture?


(2016) Bela Biszku, communist-era official in Hungary tried for war crimes, dies at 94, Washington Post, 4 April

Biszku, B. J. (1999) Interview, in J. Forrai, Memoirs of the Beginnings of Conductive Pedagogy and András Pető, Budapest, Új Aranyhíd Kft / Birmingham, Foundation for Conductive Education, pp. 125-130

Devai, J (2016) Personal memories from the days of the beginning of Conductive Education, in G. Maguire and A. Sutton (eds.) András Pető, Birmingham, CEP, pp. 45-70

Szörenyi, R. (2016) Even his friends did not know him, in G. Maguire and A. Sutton (eds.) András Pető, Birmingham, CEP, pp. 207-219

Copies of the book András Pető can be purchased through this link:

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