- Which is your favorite era? Which period of history would you most rather go back to?
I was very much into ancient Roman history for a long time but my absolute favourite era is the 1920s, the so called ‘Jazz Age’ . After the most destructive war in human history up to that point, World War I, this time period demonstrates an outburst of life, the desire to get over the horrors of the war and start again. The culture of the era: music,art, literature, even fashion reflects this and makes the 1920s one of the most dynamic and exciting periods in history.In my opinion, music has never been better and women have never been more feminine than in the ‘Roaring Twenties’.
- If you were to become a historical queen, who would you choose?
I have the utmost respect for the reigning queen of Britain, Queen Elizabeth II! I think she is a remarkable woman of integrity and self-discipline, someone, for whom being a monarch is not a ‘job’ but service to her nation – for over 60 years now! However, I would never be in her shoes: behind the glamour there is a great deal of responsibility and self-sacrifice, I’m sure!
- What made you decide on teaching history? Did you always like it?
I have been fascinated by history and politics since I was a small child. In secondary school I had good grades in sciences as well, but I was more attracted to the humanities: history, literature, languages. At first I was considering learning English and Russian at university but I eventually decided on history instead of Russian and I have no regrets.
- What do you like the most in this subject?
What I like most about history is its complexity: history is a bit of politics, economics, military studies, arts etc. We tend to focus on outstanding figures of history: kings, politicians and military leaders, but I firmly believe that history is really about the masses: common, everyday people.This is why I’m very much interested in the social aspects of history, people’s lifestyle in different historical periods.
- Have you ever read a book which had a significant impact on the way you think? Which one was it?
Actually, I’ve read several books that had a great impact on me .The first on my list is the Bible: it has clearly defined the way I see the world around me. I still try to make it my daily reading – I do not always succeed…
George Orwell’s ‘1984 ‘ was another defining reading of mine: I think my absolute detest of any totalitarian political regime dates back to reading this book, for me this is a frightening account of human evil.
I’d like to mention two more books that are definitely in the top 5 on my list: ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez and ‘Crime and Punishment” by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Of course, I have Hungarian favourites, too: the absolute favourite is Mikszáth Kálmán!
- Do you have a favourite fictional character? Who’s it?
I’m not sure…, maybe Batman!
- What was your least favourite subject during your studies?
This is an easy one: PHYSICS!
Although I never had a grade worse than a 4 in it, Physics and I were just not meant for one another! ( Sorry, my dear colleagues, Ditta and András!)
- What do you think, what does one need to excel at history?
I think the most important things are motivation, curiosity, a kind of thirst for knowledge and perhaps the ability to connect the dots i.e. to synthesize what you have learnt.
- Did you have a teacher who inspired you? How?
Yes, both in secondary school and at university. In high school for example, my class tutor and English teacher, ‘Vali néni’ ( a tiny lady in her fifties ), was a true example of professionalism and dedication to the teaching profession, and having the energy level of an atomic bomb at the same time.
At university I was inspired by teachers who were extremely knowledgeable in their fields of study (and preferably had a good sense of humour) but remained down-to-earth and humane in their approach to students.
- If you could learn any extinct language, which one would you learn?
I think it would be Aramaic, the language of biblical times or Etruscan, the key to a great but mysterious civilization!
- Do you have a favourite animal? Which one is it?
I can’t imagine a more beautiful and majestic animal than the tiger!
It is the true monarch of the animal kingdom!
- If you could change the outcome of a single event in history, which one would you change and how?
It’s a very difficult question because there have been so many events with disastrous consequences in history but if I had the chance of changing one of them, I would stop the USA from dropping the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945!
- What kind of movies do you like the most?
I’m a great fan of period drama like the film or TV adaptations of Jane Austen or Henry James novels! (Three cheers for the BBC!)
I also like political thrillers, historical films and series, crime stories. Some of my favourites are: ‘ The Remains of the Day’, ‘The Last Samurai’, ‘Gosford Park’, ‘Sherlock’ , ‘The Crown’.
- What do you think, what will the world look like in 10 years time?
In my opinion, the world will be even faster than today and even more ravaged by conflicts over economic resources, water and religion. I’m convinced that we’ll be reaching the limits of human existence very soon unless we come up with viable solutions to the main problems of today, e.g. environmental pollution, extreme poverty, terrorism etc.!
- What’s your idea of happiness?
My idea of happiness is perhaps a bit different from the usual romantic feeling that is usually associated with it. For me, happiness is rather a kind of peace of mind: being content with who you are, knowing yourself and your place in this world, knowing where you come from and where you are heading!
By Sándor Felber & Jeanette Abdelmalek