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from the March 2018 issue

Moonlight Faces

In these short texts, Hungarian writer and visual artist Kinga Tóth writes about the distress wrought by the effects of illness on the body and the uncertainty of a cure.

Listen to Kinga Tóth read "Moonlight Faces" in the original Hungarian​:



it’s always now, sitting in that room with the window. we have two types, they know what one of them will be, but they won’t say, the other is a secret, we will find out. (my pulse is ticking, i’m here, we’re here. the moonlight doesn’t show on my face, but don’t come any closer.) there are different diagnoses, they can be ordered by mood, like places of residence, two or more registered addresses, residing either there (at home) or somewhere between (unknown to the authorities). we think we are in control of the situation. things only rarely slip from our grasp, we learn to examine and to assess. to pay attention to medication, there are papers, when we believe them, we are ill, we are tired and do not want to work, we are ill, when we are angry, we are ill.


mariann has to, she’s told, she pulls it on over her pajamas, and asks in the snack bar if they’re showing, because then she’s not ladylike. wear it as long as possible, as long as your feet are all right, no stitches. i buy a velvet-buttoned miniskirt in the summer, when i'm fine, and some high-heeled sandals, i'm not even sick. but tights are a must, otherwise i catch a chill, wherever i sit, and that’s it. i buy paper toilet seats, there’s a ten-pack in my handbag, and hand sanitizer, paper tissues, so everything is safe, proper ladies are prepared, they hope for the best and are ready for the worst.



icicles pierced my eyes, icicles, police come and take blood. they cut your hair, constantly checking everything for you, this one wasn’t noticed. we broke one from the windowsill, it's like a vagina welder, cold, but it disappears.



the children in the movie say be brave like a lion. be strong, in the drawing the lion is the biggest, it overcomes all obstacles, its hair is huge too, that's its crown, my hair's big too. there are a lot in africa, my name means brave. there's a lion there too, a white one. but it's called kimba. anyway, you're brave too, you're the white lion.



it can end whenever, wherever. the course of the illness and the cure is unknown. there are various diagnoses, they can be ordered by mood. when feeling down, no improvement, healthy in the summer, warm and dry. after rain, the humidity, ill again. i am ill. the illness is me. the illness is writing this. i have a lot of time. i have little time. i am impatient. tricks, vitamins, tonics, products, cures, treatments, magicians.


writing reminders for myself, one on each tissue. drawing frowny faces above the messages, the rest of the paper i leave for beards. no gluten, no flour, no milk, a little cheese, bread none. no sugar, no cake, no pears and grapes, fruit juice only mornings. no preservatives, no conserves. no cans. no gas, no animal, no fat. so i’ll always see them and it’ll never cross my mind to break, because then there are consequences, then i have to face them again. for each rule a frowny face, the bathroom is full of nos, these are the new principles, this is the new life, where every rule is just a good intention.

© Kinga Tóth. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2018 by Owen Good. All rights reserved.

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