Gyorgy Faludy, and No, Not the Crocodile Hunter!

Just read the headlines that Hungarian poet Gyorgy Faludy died at the age of 95. Faludy was an important translator of Villon, before he gained fame as a post-war dissident poet. His latest interviews bemoaned the fall of "high" literature as a central force in Western culture.

While I might argue against some of Faludy's views about the standing of literature (mostly to deal with whether or not it ever held that centrality in popular culture), his passing is sadly, perhaps aptly, overshadowed by the news of the death of Steve "Crikey!" Irwin, the Australian "Crocodile Hunter," and his all too apt death by the barb of a stingray (the power of Karma). Yes, Irwin did couch his manic antics with all the proper environmental messages, but his very intrusion into nature was so bloody wrong--all about inquisition, intervention, and shouting, amid all his mostly staged encounters with the natural world.


twitches said…
I did not know Faludy died, but yes, who didn't hear about The Croc Hunter? Thanks for letting me know, I'm familiar with some of his work but I've not read anything in a long time, and I look forward to reading these interviews.
I have to disagree with you about Steve Irwin. I believe that he did a great deal for conservationism and environmental issues. He taught the world respect for living things, and I would never call his death an "apt death" or the result of karma. Steve Irwin was known for rescuing animals, putting them back in their natural environments if possible. Of course, the encounters with the animals were "staged" to a certain extent. If you just sat somewhere with a camera, and taped whatever happened for an hour, without having an idea of what you wanted to film, and just let whatever happened during that hour be your show, it wouldn't be very interesting. You have to have an idea of what you are going to film, and be in a place where you can find whatever it is that you want to film, in order to get the hour of footage that you are looking for. Is that what you would call "staged"? People who otherwise would not have cared about animals and their environment tuned in to watch Steve Irwin, because of his personality. These people learned from him, and cared about these things because of him.

He was larger than life, yes, but he was also a devoted husband and father, and if for no other reason than that, his death is a tragedy. I am also sorry to hear about Mr. Faludy's death, even though I am not a writer, and know little about him. With the exception of a few people, I would be inclined to be sorry for the deaths of most people.
jim said…
The access of emotion for Irwin's death is both impressive and distressing. Obviously many people loved him greatly.

As I said in my post, he exprsssed all the "right" things about conservation, but as you imply, he had to make a spectacle of an encounter with nature, to make it "interesting." That's my very problem with his work. I found that kind of interaction, where he stressed some animal so that it exhibits basic survival reactions, to be completely disrespectful and pornographic. Obviously his success says more about our culture than it does about his message.

In the for what it's worth category, nearly all nature shows rely on staging techniques, and many needlessly stress the wildlife. For instance, a "benign" example: any scene of animals running in the wild from a nice overhead tracking shot. On film, that shot is usually accompanied by music, something reverential perhaps, following a herd of caribou running across frozen tundra. No harm in that, surely. But in real life, those animals are fleeing a low-flying helicopter, desperate to run away, and expending critical energy that compromises their ability to survive.

I apologize if I cannot rationalize this interaction away as an "educational" enterprise. And I wonder if the quality of Irwin's message, such as it was, wasn't drowned out by its own noise.

About wildlife rescue, I prefer and financially support the quiet work of rehabilitation clincs, like CROW.

P.S. I admit I'm a callous snob. I rarely mourn the death of celebrities, principally because there's something grotesque, uncritical, imbalanced, and indulgent about it all. That's not to say the individual grief is misplaced, but that the significance we confer on those deaths reflects something of our own hollowness.