I am doing research for my next novel, Ella, which is based on my grandmother’s life. She was born about 1884 in Nagykanizsa, Hungary, a town of about 20,000. She married Ede Harkanyi, a man from the same town, who earned a law degree and PhD in sociology in Germany. The Harkanyis moved to Budapest.
I knew my grandfather Ede Harkanyi was a progressive, although I was not sure exactly what that meant for a young lawyer/sociologist in Budapest in the first decade of the twentieth century. So I started reading everything I could find about that period. I found references to Ede Harkanyi’s books and articles with titles such as “Woman of Tomorrow,” “Men of Tomorrow,” and “The Bankruptcy of Marriage.” Interesting!
I googled Ede Harkanyi, trying to get more information about him. I found some of his 100+ year-old books for sale and the bare essentials of his life, date of birth 1879, date of death 1909, list of his books, and organizations he belonged to. Not a lot of meat for my novel. Frustrated with the lack of detail I tried searching on the name of one of his books, A holnap asszonyai (Women of Tomorrow). I found a pdf of the book! In Hungarian….
Now I am working with translation software.The software is far from foolproof.
Take, for example, this quote from Socrates from the beginning of the book: TANÍTSÁTOK AZ EMBEREKET ÉS AZOK MEGJAVULNAK
Google Translate gives me: Choose the people and these shows
Bing Translate gives me: Teach people and improve
Translate.com gives me: Teach the people, and their reform
And a native Hungarian speaker gives me: Teach the people and they will improve
From what I can tell from the table of contents, my grandfather’s book discusses major issues of women’s rights: the need to educate woman and allow them to be financially independent, birth control and abortion, the treatment of children born out of wedlock, and what marriage is and what it might be. I want to explore these topics in the context of Hungarian history, so I will figure out how to make the software translations make sense.
And I will probably learn Hungarian in the process.