Tuesday, 22 November 2016


András Pető and Mária Hári
Another unsubstantiated little vignette

Yesterday, Conductive World's Facebook page quoted from a 2012 newspaper review published in the Budapest Times, of the book András Pető:

This review was written by Bob Dent, a very long-established British ex-pat resident in Budapest, with a wide-ranging knowledge and understanding of things Hungarian going back into the former times. He wrote –

Paradox seems to surround Pető. His unorthodox approach was launched and took off during Hungary’s most hard-line Stalinist period, in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Did he have connections or even sympathy with the ruling party? After all, it was a period when orthodoxies ruled, so it’s odd that a man such as András Pető, who appears to have been attracted more by Buddhism than Marxism, was tolerated and even assisted by some of the people in power. Or was it 'simply' that some of them had been successfully treated by him? (Bob Dent)

Speculation of course, but informed speculation.

The only major political figure of that era whom I have seen documented as in direct connection with András Pető was the late Béla Biszku:

Treatment of his ischialgia (hip pain) developed into something more social, including an interest in András Pető's ideas and the problems of his Institute. This may have played a decisive role in the Institute's transfer from Health to Education (and thence the creation of the trained-conductor profession).

Speculation again, but with the benefit of just a little documentation:
  • a couple of mentions in Véra Sárkony's interview with Karóly and Magda Ákos, republished in the book András Pető
  • Judit Forrai's fascinating interview with Béla Biszku in her history of conductive pedagogy.
So where do the trains come in?

In late 1984, when Mária Hári was helping me to find my first feet in Hungary, I asked something that I rather doubt she had ever been asked before, or was ever asked by anyone again – whether she know anyone interested in model railways. She had absolutely no idea what I was talking about and she found it highly amusing to have it explained to her. She said that she would ask.

A few days later she greeted me excitedly. 'Rákosi.' she said. 'Not the Mátyás, the son, 'He likes such small trains. Do you want to meet him?'

Mátyás Rákosi had been General Secretary of the Hungarian Communist Party from 1945 to 1956, including the time the time that Bob Dent delicately describes as 'Hungary’s most hard-line Stalinist period'. He had died in 1971, but only thirteen years later his shadow lingered.

I regret to this day that I chickened out. I was very new to Hungary and being very cautious on just my second visit, about what I did, whom I met, where I went. Perhaps I was being silly, but I declined. Silly or sensible, I do not know.

But I did ask Mária how she knew the son of Mátyás Rákosi.

'Pető knew his father. He treated his knee.'

Make of any of that what you will.


Dent, B. (2012) Enigmatic ‘miracle man’ helped the ‘incurable’, Budapest Times, 12 November

Maguire, G., Sutton, A. (eds) (2012) András Pető, Birmingham, CEP (Véra Sárkony's interview with the Ákoses: pp. 83-95)

Forrai, J. (1999) Memoirs of the beginnings of conductive pedagogy and András Pető, Budapest, Új Aranyhíd/Birmingham Foundation for Conductive Education (Judit Forrai's interview with Béla Biszku: pp. 125-30)

Sutton, A. (2012) András Pető's patient and supporter arrested. Béla Biszku, a link with the past, Conductive World, 11 September

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