Ödön Márffy, Last Portrait of Csinszka, c.1934
There was no music in the Imperial Panorama - in contrast to films, where music makes traveling so soporific. But there was a small, genuinely disturbing effect which seemed to me superior. This was the ringing of a little bell which sounded a few seconds before each picture moved off with a jolt, in order to make way first for an empty space and then for the next image. And every time it rang, the mountains with their humble foothills, the cities with their mirror-bright windows, the railroad stations with their clouds of dirty yellow smoke, the vineyards down to the smallest leaf, were suffused with the ache of departure. I formed the conviction that it was impossible to exhaust the splendours of the scene at just one sitting . Hence my intention (which I never realised) of coming by again the following day. Before I could make up my mind, however, the entire apparatus, from which I was separated by a wooden railing, would begin to tremble, the picture would sway within its little frame and then immediately trundle off to the left, as I looked on.
Throughout the 1930s, Elizabeth Bowen was writing novels overrun with characters who conspire against historicity only to be ground down by its very relentlessness, so it's strange that her dustjackets are often decorated with pictures of women who flawlessly resemble, both in attire and dysphoric posture, the one Márffy depicts here. Last Portrait of Csinszka is a characteristically Thirties performance of an inversion of mimetic order, by which the least 'realistic' elements of the composition are precisely those which invite the real world into it, that Bowen's novels hint at in the implausible swastika-shaped house in The Heat of the Day or the demonic, unearthly Markie in To the North. Perhaps the best point of comparison here, though, is Antal Szerb's novel Journey by Moonlight, one of the great finds of my spell in Budapest, which maintains an absolute, unstratified simultaneity of register by fusing a massively subjectivised fugue time with intimations of a broader history giddy with its own velocity.