Miklos Vamos at PostGlobal

Miklos Vamos

Budapest, Hungary

Miklós Vámos is a Hungarian novelist, screenwriter and talk show host. He is one of the most read and respected writers in his native Hungary. He has taught at Yale University on a Fulbright fellowship, served as The Nation’s East European correspondent, worked as consultant on the Oscar-winning film Mephisto, and presented Hungary’s most-watched cultural television show. Vámos has received numerous awards for his plays, screenplays, novels and short stories, including the Hungarian Merit Award for lifetime achievement. The Book of Fathers is considered his most accomplished novel and has sold 200,000 copies in Hungary. Close.

Miklos Vamos

Budapest, Hungary

Miklós Vámos is a Hungarian novelist, screenwriter and talk show host. more »

Main Page | Miklos Vamos Archives | PostGlobal Archives

May 22, 2009 11:54 AM

Stick to Quality Over Quantity

The Current Discussion: American newspapers are in dire financial straits. How are newspapers faring where you are? Are you concerned about the future of journalism in America or in your own country? What does that future look like?

Since the fall of socialism here in Central Europe, we have been hit hard by America's problems. We don't get much in the way of gifts or fancy foreign aid packages, but we do get oil shortages and terrorism scares. Newspapers in Hungary have to cope with the same declines as America's. Moreover, the small size of our country makes the problem more daunting.

But on the Internet, journalism is flourishing. The future lies there, in online papers and blogs. As a novelist, not a journalist, I admit to being less concerned - my favorite pastime is the reading (and writing) of books, and less threatened. Although I know that the book, as such, may also be an endangered species.

What can be done? Journalists can improve their skills and try to better serve their readership. I have a childish belief: that in the long-run, quality will always win, whether in newspaper, book, theater, film, architecture etc. And even if a paper folds, the quality remains in the archives for the readers (or researchers) of the future. Try to stick to this, until the wind turns.

April 15, 2009 11:20 AM

Embargoes Stall Real Change

The Current Discussion: The U.S. will lift travel restrictions on Cuba, but leave the larger trade embargo in place. Is that a smart move? Does it go far enough? Too far?

ALL trade restrictions and embargoes are ridiculous, as is the belief that they can weaken a state or a country. Such actions add further misery to the lives of Cubans (and other poor people in question in the world), but won't hurt their governments and politicians. Embargoes are simply good pretexts for a country's leaders to increase military spending.

If the U.S. is really interested in establishing democratic institutions in Cuba and elsewhere, forget the restrictions and the embargoes right away. And, let the people - any people - visit their relatives and come and go as they like.

April 3, 2009 4:47 PM

Eight Points for Obama. Maybe Nine.

The Current Discussion: Rate Obama's first performance on the international stage on a scale of 1-10, and tell us why you think so.

Let's talk a bit about the G-20 meeting (London, England), where, seemingly, President Obama has been the protagonist. The best I can tell about the meeting is that although the Bobbies arrested 111 protesters, none of them was seriously hurt.

Similarly, the best news on the noted meeting is that it appears it won't harm the world economy. Probably the leader and administration (or government) of each participating country would take the same action to resuscitate the economy and financial institutions that they would have without any meeting at all.

As to President Obama, he's a fluid, gifted speaker and tells his fellow Presidents and Prime Ministers whatever they would like to hear. That is why he seems to be successful on the international stage so far. So far, so good. Eight points. Or even nine.

Let's ask the question again in about six months and see how the answers change.

February 9, 2009 1:47 PM

The Un-Hollywood Activity House Committee

The Current Discussion: The Academy Awards are coming, and an Indian movie, "Slumdog Millionaire," could win best picture. But what are we overlooking? What's the best non-Hollywood movie you saw this year?

Ladies and gentlemen. I am probably not the only East European intellectual who distrusts all Hollywood products, even those with (at least some) talent and ambition. Sorry -- Scorsese, Altman, Spielberg, Lucas, Mendes, Stone and others that fall into this category. I am all for the small budget Romanian-, Bulgarian- and Latvian-type films. Last but not least, I am especially all for the Hungarian movies. There was a time when Hollywood was over-flooded by Hungarian filmmakers, from Adolph Zukor to Béla Lugosi. You can thank us even for "Casablanca." But unfortunately, Americans haven't been spoiling the Hungarian film industry lately. The only Oscar for a real Hungarian film went to "Mephisto," directed by István Szabó -- and even back in 1982, Americans didn't care with the accents in his name and few ever learned its correct pronunciation (Saabow).

There is a new film by a young Hungarian director Áron Mátyássy (Maati-aash-y), entitled "Utolsó idők" (Last Times). It is absolutely smashing. It is too new to compete in this year's Oscars, and I bet it won't be nominated next year's either. Well, what can I say? When it is released on DVD, search the stores for it. The Academy's system is over-Americanized and overrated. This is simply the official opinion of the Un-Hollywood Activity House Committee. The house in question is mine, and the members of the committee so far are three friends of mine. Anyone who proves that he/she has seen five East European films lately can join us. Feel free to contact the committee through me.

February 4, 2009 3:31 PM

Confidence, Our Most Precious Currency

The Current Discussion: The mood at the World Economic Forum in Davos this year was decidedly gloomy, which seems a fair reflection of economic conditions. Let's look forward: tell us what the bright spots might be in the world economy this time next year.

"Gloomy" sounds better than "dark" or "hopeless." In my opinion, the world economy, even if it is in chaotic condition, is still functioning; the problem is that the world morality is extinct. In that sense, we have a chicken-and-egg dilemma: banks and financial institutions do not trust people; people do not trust them, either. Government does not trust people; people do not trust government, either. Certain countries do not trust other countries; naturally, those countries stop trusting them back. People don't trust other people... you get the idea.

Re-creating that kind of trust, even on a small scale, would be a bright spot indeed. Then, people having problems with their monthly payments would go to the banks and related offices first. I think any banker and clerk would appreciate such a gesture. Someone who cannot pay now but is ready to do everything to set himself aright is a better client and citizen than those who simply do not care.

All in all, confidence is a more precious currency than the Euro, dollar, or yen. It has a much higher value than gold or platinum. The best possible news would be that we can produce this "currency" by improving our personal and societal character. People of the world, why don't we give it a try? What do we have to lose?

December 29, 2008 10:47 AM

In Hungary, At Least We Still Have Our Sense of Humor

Now this is the best possible question to send me. You may not be aware of the fact, but in Hungary everybody knows that I am the Good News Man: The one who is in charge of finding the silver lining in all of the clouds. Let me show you how it works. I have a double dose of good news for the world and also for my home country.

Continue »

November 24, 2008 12:23 PM

'Middle Class' Nations Will Suffer the Most

BUDAPEST -- The nature of the universe is diverse and hard to understand. Still, it is a piece of cake compared to the nature of the global economy.

People who have not read Keynes and Greenspan would believe the free market economy follows a few basic rules that are easy to explain. Yeah, even I (with a modest law degree) can explain them. But explaining is much easier than understanding. The way I'm looking at it, the market economy still works and regulates itself without the help or intervention of the state, God or the Union of the Rich.

Unfortunately, the institutions of huge banks, omnipotent stock exchanges and enormous hedge funds work against the natural rules of the free market economy. Asl they rule over much bigger bodies of money than any Administration, they can turn everything upside down.

In my opinion, the poorer and richer countries in the world will be hit the least. A rich man's household has enough reserve. A beggar cannot lose much. It may sound cynical, but it still can be true. Seemingly, then, the "middle class" of the nations are the outstanding losers of the current situation -- the countries that hoped to emerge from the middle of the crowd toward the forth, third rows. Accordingly, I am convinced that Eastern Europe is the region that could lose its stability -- if it had any of such thing. Naturally, everyone is worried that his region will sink, and his family will hurt the must. And, still, please, believe me, I would have the same opinion even if I were Chinese or Filipino.

Here are some kind suggestions for the governments in Eastern Europe. One, they should find a way to co-operate with every power of the opposition to work together. Two, they should find a way to work together with the governments of the neighboring countries and of Western Europe, including the EU Administration. Three, they should help their citizens at least as much as they are ready to bail out their banks and other financial institutions.

Here is a bonus idea. Each politician and party should be much more patient than they used to be. Every cloud has a silver lining, and every depression has an ending. It is true that in the meantime elections should totally change any given government, but nobody has ever said that the job of a Minister, a Prime Minister or a President could last forever.

If it is true that the richer and poorer countries are relatively less endangered, then two other conclusions concerning those countries are obvious.

One, you cannot expect help from the poor and needy. They need help. Even if their problem is not the global recession -- surely, the citizens of a poor African nation are less worried about the low prices of real estate or the fall of their Dow Jones than are their richer counterparts -- their problem is starvation.

So, it is only the richest nations and the richest people in the world who should try to help all rest of the world. Compassion is nice, but some fast financial help would be more appreciated by peoples living on the same globe.

November 4, 2008 7:55 AM

Shake and Make Up

The Current Discussion: What's the first thing you hope Barack Obama does as President-Elect?

I hope that President-elect Barack Obama shakes the hand of John McCain - and that he does so sincerely.

October 6, 2008 12:52 PM

The Terror of Publishing

The Current Discussion: A London publishing house was firebombed for agreeing to publish 'The Jewel of Medina', a controversial novel about Muhammad's wife, which Random House dropped earlier this year because it feared terrorist threats. In hindsight, was Random House in the right? Does this justify censorship of this kind in the future?

Publishers all over the world are happy when they can foretell that a future publication might stir the waters and result in some scandal - maybe the author or the book will be mentioned in the tabloids. From that point of view, any controversial novel is a welcome blessing. But from the point of view of the safety of the publisher, his family, his employees and their families, the controversial novels that may lead to terrorist attacks are dangerous stuff, indeed.

Continue »

October 3, 2008 3:36 PM

Worse Than the Iraq War

The Current Discussion: Will the U.S. financial crisis lead to an erosion of U.S. influence comparable to the Iraq war?

Ever since the U.S. won the cold war, its influence has been soaking in the lukewarm water of erosion. This giant country (or rather its leadership) has not done anything since 1990 that could improve its "influence," in any sense of the word. From this point of view, the victory over the extinct Soviet Union was bloodier than anybody noticed. Before, you could always justify your actions with the threat of another superpower. Not so anymore - the U.S. has no such justification. So, smaller countries of the world feel a little compassion for the 'poor' United States.
Actually, the financial crisis makes the American superpower look more human. Earlier, its limitless economic and military power and even its size was simply frightening. When we can observe the giant bleeding, we experience a number of feelings:

1. Schadenfreude (gloating) and satisfaction.
2. Threat. If even the giant is so vulnerable, we may bleed much more soon.
3. Anger. Why can't the U.S. leadership solve this crisis? Why can't they see that it is really dangerous for the whole world?

All in all, the impotence of American economic and political leaders will certainly lead to an erosion of the U.S. influence. That erosion is not comparable to the one caused by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - because it will be even faster, and even stronger.

PostGlobal is an interactive conversation on global issues moderated by Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria and David Ignatius of The Washington Post. It is produced jointly by Newsweek and washingtonpost.com, as is On Faith, a conversation on religion. Please send us your comments, questions and suggestions.