Budapest, winter 1956 – “Now I am simply happy that you’re healthy.” With this expression of relief, the young 27-year-old philosopher Ágnes Heller began her first letter to her academic mentor and teacher, her “dear comrade Lukács”. A correspondence fraught with political risk. At that time, Georg Lukács, an outspoken leader of the Hungarian opposition movement, was imprisoned at an undisclosed location in Romania on Soviet orders from the end of 1956 to April 1957. An exchange of cryptic messages took place between the pupil and master during those weeks, which is now being elucidated for the first time in the winter edition of the Zeitschrift für Ideengeschichte (“Kommissar Lukács”, ZIG, iss. VIII/4, www.z-i-g.de).
Back in the 1950s and 1960s, Lukács must have seemed “ancient” to Ágnes Heller who was still a young woman at the time. Now more than half a century later, Heller herself has reached a ripe, old age, but is as intellectually sharp and brimming with ideas as ever. To mark the official presentation of the latest issue, the Zeitschrift für Ideengeschichte and the Lukács Archive of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences invited Heller to Lukács’s famous last apartment located at Belgrád rakpart 2. The meeting quickly became a small symposium of Hungarian friends with Heller in their midst as their philosophical star. The discussion turned to Lukács’s highly sensitive aesthetic soul, his Marxist exercises and his life-long hero Lenin, whom Heller had never held in very high esteem, and then onto the dialectics of middle-class neuroses, to which Lukács himself was no stranger. The group reminisced late into the night about Lukács’s adventures which took him from Heidelberg to Moscow to Budapest. The evening concluded with a glance at his famous writing desk, atop of which stood the collected works of Sigmund Freud upon his death in 1971.
Ulrich von Bülow speaking with the Hungarian philosopher Ágnes Heller, who first met Georg Lukács in a university seminar at age 18 and later worked as his assistant.