Though I had not yet studied Latin, I spelled out each beautifully ringing sentence and their approximate Hungarian equivalents with great delight: Juventus ventus… (Youth is folly…), Per angusta ad augusta (All beginnings are difficult). Could it be possible to build with such diamond bricks the thought bridge that spans the space between minds? I fell in love with languages over a few proverbs—folk wisdom crystallized into laconic figures of speech.Hey - just do it!
By the time I was able to move on to more quality reading, it was 1943 and carpet bombings were upon us. As a result of hours spent in the bomb shelter, I was able to progress faster. All I had to do was camouflage my book. I purchased a thick Hungarian encyclopedia and had a bookbinder acquaintance sew the pages of Gogol’s Dead Souls in place of every second sheet. During air raids, I would wade through entire chapters of it. This was the time I worked out my technique of boldly skipping over unfamiliar words, for it would have been dangerous to consult a Russian dictionary in the bomb shelter.