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- Baron Pál Podmaniczky and the Norwegian Bible - 1/5 -

Copyright (C) 2002 Martinovitsné Kutas Ilona

Baron Pál Podmaniczky and the Norwegian Bible © 1994, Martinovitsné Kutas Ilona

A short story about the 18 lingual grandfather in 77 languages and in runic script

Martinovitsné Kutas Ilona

The English text was supervised by Grace Tinnell

"First edition appeared in 1994 by the title The Norwegian Bible"


My first, and until now, only short story has become a device with which I could make friends from all over the world and create new friendships. These old and new friends have translated my short story into 58 European, 13 Asian and 6 African languages.

Because of its lucidity, "The Norwegian Bible" short story has lended itself particularly well in representing the languages in Europe and some outside of Europe.

As a basis for qualification and description of languages I used the book "Lord’s Prayer in 121 European Languages" in which the prayers were collected, compiled and the commentaries were written by Zsigmond Németh. All the translations are from a reliable source because they were written by persons who were writing in the language of their mother tongue. The only exceptions are the Esperanto and the other artificial languages and English, because the English was written by me, a Hungarian. The translation into Classical Greek, Latin, Turkish, Croatian and Gipsy was carried out by native speakers of Hungarian. Most friends speak English as a second language, so the language of our friendship was in many cases English. In some other cases the common language was Hungarian, Polish, German, Russian or Spanish.

To some extent I wrote this book for my friends. They can get to know each other’s language from my book. If anyone wants to learn a language on the basis of the similarity and differences between grammatical structures and vocabulary of languages, they can use my book as a textbook. In addition I wrote this book for my 650 students in the secondary school where I work as librarian and English teacher. They can use it as a reference about languages of the world.

Originally, the book was published in 1994 in 50 languages. In the last 6 years, the short story was translated into an additional 27 languages.

During this time, the 50th year anniversary of the death of my grandfather was celebrated at a memorial session in Sopron and in Budapest Lutheran Theology. I got to know even more about my grandfather from these presentations and came to treasure him more than I had previously. I began to appreciate what a precious treasury of jewels he left for us. I met there many theologians and pastors who were once educated by him, love him still and carry on teaching his nuggets of precious truths.

I changed the theme of the "Appendix" of the first edition of my book and have placed therein an essay which presents the life and work of Baron Pál Podmaniczky, professor of Lutheran theology, lover of God and the World of God. I also included two of his beloved hymns which were translated by him from Finnish into Hungarian, and which are, even today, sung often in Hungarian Lutheran and Reformed Protestant churches. In the Appendix, I also submit an autobiography and a short sport story of mine. And hereby I should like to express my gratitude to Mr. Zsigmond Németh for his kindly permission to quote the most peculiar features characterizing different languages described in his works published and forthcoming respectively The language collecting game continues and I ask you, the reader, once again, to translate the original short story into any language not present in this book, and send it to me. I would like to publish a new edition in the year 2005 with 100 languages in it. Thank you, dear reader, for your help.

Martinovitsné Kutas Ilona language collector



I hadn’t thought on that Christmas day, when I addressed the envelopes containing "The Norwegian Bible" to my friends, that it was only then that the great play would begin.

The small bilingual book began its own life. It became a mirror for me through which I could get to know my friends. They introduced themselves in the letters, telephone calls and private talks connected with my first "literary effort". Their reactions to my short story began to give birth to a larger story about my friend’s characteristics, their way of thinking and about the ties that connected them to me.

So here follows the many lives of "The Norwegian Bible":

In the previous semester at the Teachers Training College we had a task of writing a short story in English. I wrote one about my experience while visiting Norway. The short story follows below:


a short story by Ilona Kutas to my grandfather

The discovery of the marvellous world of languages is the great experience of my life. The motivation for this sprang from family roots. My maternal grandfather, a theological professor, had mastered eighteen languages. Language and religion were very important for him. He was not able to teach me German, Hebrew, Polish or English because I was only five when he died. I only feel somewhere in my genes that I should follow in his footsteps.

As a member of a librarian delegation I spent a week in Oslo. After the rich and interesting daily programmes I always ran back to my hotel room to spend the lonely evenings in the company of my new friend, an English–Norwegian bilingual Bible. I had found it on the night table on the first day when I entered the hotel room, my home for a week.

Perhaps it is common in the hotel rooms of Christian countries to have a Bible at the guest’s disposal. I experienced this custom for the first time in my life there in Oslo. Finding that Bible brought to mind remembrances of my childhood as well. As a daughter of a protestant minister, living at the parsonage until the age of sixteen, I used to go to church and read the Bible. During the next thirty years of my life, however, I had not even held a Bible in my hand.

A great game began. I read the English column of the page, compared it with the Norwegian column and, with the help of my past knowledge about the Bible, I began to understand the text and the Norwegian words of mixed English and German origins at the same time.

Day by day the Bible and I became closer and closer friends. I began to fear my impending separation from it.

On the sixth day I felt a great desire to continue the game at home as well. I decided therefore to steal the Bible.

I packed it into my bag on the last evening after reading it. But after I switched off the lamp I could not fall asleep. In the darkness I watched the closed bag with my friend in it. A battle raged in my head.

This battle raised the following questions:

> How could I reconcile being the daughter of a minister and a thief at the same time?

> Moreover it was written in this Bible in two beautiful languages: "Thou shalt not steal!"?

> What would my grandfather say if he knew that his granddaughter had stolen a Bible?

I think you can imagine the end of the story!

In the morning I took the Bible out of my bag, placed it back on the night table and, with bag in hand and a great calmness in my heart, I left the room.


I completed my work with a Hungarian translation later on when I decided to send my short story as a Christmas card to my friends. Though some of them spoke no English, I hoped they would be happy to get the small bilingual book.

After writing the short story in November, our next task was to analyse our own literary work. The first page of my self analysis as follows:


an analysis

The writer begins her story--as classical authors of this genre--with an upbeat expression of the motivating power of the whole story in one sentence. "The discovery of the marvellous world of languages is the great experience of my life."

This idea runs through the story and motivates the climax of the

Baron Pál Podmaniczky and the Norwegian Bible - 1/5

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