Earlier this year, a friend and colleague, Julius Krinski died at 81, in Jomtien, Thailand. A Hungarian/Australian expatriate, he was a remarkable man - an author, a Bon Vivant, and a world-class lover. With a poignant sadness, I remember an interview with him in 2005.
In 1948, Julius Krinski left home at the age of 19. Europe was devastated. His home and his country, Hungary, were shattered; his family destroyed. After two years as a displaced person, he emigrated to Australia because the U.S. had stymied his entry and he had nowhere else to go. He came to this new land with a meagre education and a profound lack of wordliness.
For the next 40 years, Krinski explored and invented his life. He absorbed literature and philosophy, taught himself music, immersed himself in art. He became a confidante and close friend to Australia's great writer and only literary Nobel Laureate, Patrick White. He was a young lover to a young actress who would become a world-renowned stage performer and director, Zoë Caldwell. The array of his liaisons with Australia's famous, artistic, and eccentric reads like a confessional travelogue a lá Frank Harris' My Life and Loves.
Once he had a few hard-earned "dollars" in his pocket, Krinski began to travel: through Asia, the U.S. and eventually back to Europe. He traveled in pursuit of understanding who he was and what he was. Above all, he pursued his love of art and the ephemeral art of love.
Fifteen years ago, he left Australia and moved to Thailand.
Always a writer, Krinski has published stories and articles from time to time. Currently, he is finishing a novel. His primary resource is his own journal which he has kept since childhood. In 2003, he digested over 2000 pages into a 465-page book and published it in Hungary. Recently, AviarPress published the English version. It is a painfully unvarnished, provocative and imaginative work. As one reviewer commented:
"it is unique and unrepeatable. And it makes it even more gripping and exciting if someone likes it 'hot' - like Krinski. But this life isn't just about pursuing pleasures—it is about someone who wants to know what it really means, needs to remember where he came from and sometimes how hard it was to keep on living."
A few weeks ago, I spent some time with him at his home in Jomtien, Thailand. What follows is a taste of our conversations.
When and why did you begin to write?
When I was a boy and why not? I was so curious about everything around me and I wanted to know where I fit in.
And your journal?
Almost every day, when I could.
For nearly 70 years and over 2000 pages.
Almost every day. It was my secret life, my secret mirror, what I call: confessions with liberty. But I never intended to publish it. It just followed me wherever I went to follow me in this life and out of it. Me.
So then you published it. Why?
In reality, I did publish some small part of it. In my book of short stories, Cantos, in some other works I took the stories out of my journal. Why did I finally publish this larger book? To find the answer. I don't know the answer. The same question again and again: What have I done, was it all worth something? But more important because I realized that I will live as long as someone remembers me. I don't know. I'm not looking for forgiveness, I'm looking for light. Many of the people to talk about are gone; no answers there. But there are some who are still around. And I hope there are some who see my life for the first time who can see what maybe I cannot.
Tell me about your "education", start with the music.
Believe this – I learned most of what I know and like in music from the radio. That's right, the radio. In this, music was alive. Later, there were concerts and recordings, but in this, radio, it took me to the time and place when the music was made. It was intimate much more than concerts and records. It was personal. It still is.
Some of your favorite composers?
Beethoven and Handel and, of course, Bach. Is there any music without Bach?
Tell me about literature?
When I wasn't traveling in Europe or other places, I traveled the streets of Melbourne. I wandered through bookstores and libraries. Whatever caught me, I read. Then one writer would lead to another and it hasn't stopped. I must read, and think about what I have read. And I must re-read and think about it again.
Some of your favorite authors?
Dostoevski, Galsworthy, Faulkner.
Not Patrick White?
I like some of his writing. We were good friends. No, not Patrick.
Lorca, Pushkin, Villon, Rimbaud.
Ionesco, Brecht, O'Neill.
Picasso, of course, very much, and Leger and Kokoshka and Warhol.
Much of the French cinema and the realists, the Italian Realists.
Has your taste, your interest in the arts changed in recent years?
Not much. I feel what comes out of America, that's all. I have traveled in Asia and I like Asian art. But I'm a European and for all the time I have lived away from Europe, my mind, my senses root me in Europe. Maybe that's not good, a limit on me. But it is me.
There have been many women in your life. Tell me about that.
Read about that in the book! Yes, many, many women. I love all things "woman" because all things beautiful in history and life is about "woman" and comes through "woman." Art is Woman.
And is there a woman in your life now?
Yes. At 76, I am in love. I have always been in love with the same woman as she is all the women I have ever loved.
(Excerpts... apropos from 'A Life')
The year 2000.
Two-thousand years. That's a large number for humanity; but it's only a millisecond in all of time. Or even less. In the fifties I didn't even dare to think I'd live to see this day, it seemed so far away. I thought I would be too old. Now I carry it on my back.
Dimensions change with time. A child looks at a windowsill from below and stands on tip-toes to reach the light-switch. When the child becomes a grownup all these things change. When the adult becomes old, he begins to shrink again until eventually he looks at things from below again.
I would never have thought I would be in Asia at the turn of the millennium. I have emigrated three times. The last one differed from the first two.
Old age and illness prepare you for death. It's not fun being old even if you are healthy. I seldom think of death. I have accepted that whether I want to or not, I will die. It's better to be healthy!
I feel fine physically. I exercise, I go to discos. Taurus, a singer in one of the Bangkok discos blows a kiss at me. I look behind me. Maybe she meant to send it to someone else, but she smiles, it was me. Two young girls stand next to me. I ask one of them to dance. True, I shuffle rather than walk; it's not the walk of a young man.
Mostly I'm only around young people. I have no family to remind me of my age. It was very brave of me to buy a pass valid for a whole year at the local health club. When I buy trousers the salesgirl says, "Why don't you dress fashionably. Buy this!"
I take her advice. I feel the same as I did when I put on my first pair of full-length trousers. I felt like a grownup then; now I feel younger.
I am mentally alert. I don't notice any change. My brain reacts just as quickly and well as it ever did.
I still have to struggle through daily activities: grocery shopping, cooking, planning for the future, exercise, reading, daydreaming… My personality has not changed.
Even the reaper looks back if he gets to the end of the line. Is he satisfied with his work? If I could start over, what would I do? An optimistic question.
What have I accomplished in life? If I have given my partner pleasure, happiness even once, it was worth it. My journal elaborates on this. I have not become smarter or wiser. Even today I make mistakes I made in my youth.
Did I ever want to stop time? I'm sure that once I had such a wish. Today I don't remember it, or maybe I don't want to. Time melts together.
I'm happy I have seen Japan and Korea. During my short time spent there I have grown fond of both nations. I'm sorry I spent such a long time where I'm living now.
I must admit, I have forgotten the Lord's Prayer in Hungarian. I can only sing the first four lines of the national anthem too. I haven't learned to yodel either. When I became an Australian citizen, we sang, "God save the Queen…" And today I can only remember the first line. I promote the Republic of Australia. I have been doing so for a while, even back when there were so few of us, I could count us all on two hands.
We have to take off all our clothes. We put on masks. We don't want to be what we were born. People want security and comfort out of life. For sixty years I lived in a European, Christian culture. Now I'm planning to move on; I have to change. I am not satisfied with myself.
My present partner is a 24 year-old Korean girl. Why she chose me, I don't know… indeed, she was the one who chose me, because men my age can't be too picky anymore. Why does she stay with me? I hope she will tell me one day. Unfortunately I cannot make love every night now. Coitus interruptus. I'm happy if she is through. She asks, "What about you?" I can keep up appearances with the help of Viagra.
Am I happy? This is a thirty-second stop. I can't grin forever. How boring that would be.
Like everybody else, I am also searching for the middle road. Most of the time I listened to my heart. I don't know if my life was correct.
Where are the snows of yesterday - Budapest, Sydney, Tokyo, Seoul!
Julius Krinski - A Life is available at AviarPress
The original, EBook version of his latest book:
NUDITY-Nudis Verbis will be available later this year.