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Miniature Statue of ‘Hungarian Suicide Song’ Writer Rezső Seress Appears in Downtown Budapest

Fanni Kaszás 2019.09.10.

Another hidden miniature sculpture appeared on the streets of Budapest: this time, guerilla-sculptor Mihály Kolodko’s new tiny artwork depicts Hungarian musician Rezső Seress and tells the story of his infamous song (probably one of the most infamous in history), Gloomy Sunday, also known as the “Hungarian suicide song.”

The new statue of the pianist and former trapeze artist was placed near the Kispipa restaurant-bar on Akácfa street, where he worked as a musician.

Rezső Seress, born as Rudolf Spitzer in 1889, became quite successful as a songwriter in Hungary between the World Wars. His most famous composition, Gloomy Sunday, written in the age of The Great Depression in 1933, was a hit even in the United States, especially Billie Holiday’s version of it, but he was still constantly in need of money.

Lisa Simpson Gets Miniature Sculpture in Budapest

Due to his Jewish origins and Hungary having been an ally of Nazi Germany in the dark times of the 30s and the Second World War, he was forced to do Labour Service, which was a form of forced labour. Seress survived the Holocaust thanks to a military officer of high standing recognizing him as the writer of Gloomy Sunday.

After WWII during the communist regime, he was not allowed to play his songs, as they were blacklisted by those in power, and he was regarded as a supporter of the nationalist Horthy regime. He had to play the piano at the legendary bar, Kispipa, a favourite among the artists and working-class bohemians, to make a living. Battling depression for decades and suffering to make ends meet, Seress committed suicide in Budapest in January 1968. Although he survived jumping out of a window, he later choked himself to death with a wire in the hospital. His obituary in the New York Times also mentioned the notorious reputation of “Gloomy Sunday,” which caused a great number of suicides due to its melancholic melody and bleak lyrics. The song was even banned by the BBC – supposedly due to its negative effects on wartime morale – the ban actually  just being lifted in 2002.

Kolodko’s sculpture is placed under a WIFI pictogram, which may indicate that passers-by will be able to listen to the original version of Gloomy Sunday or one of Seress’ other works for free by connecting to the internet.

The artist placed his first miniature bronze statue depicting Főkukac (Boss Worm) from the iconic 1980s Hungarian cartoon, A nagy ho-ho-ho-horgász (The Great Angler), in the Hungarian capital in 2016. Since then, both adults and children have searched high and low for the miniature figures scattered all across Budapest. A couple of months ago, Hungary Today spoke to the sculptor about his guerilla art, the statuette hunt, and the inspiration behind the miniature figures:

“I want to communicate with the people of Budapest, not with words, but with my sculptures”: Interview with Guerilla-Sculptor Mihály Kolodko

featured photo: Statues of Budapest