Esperanto
Author: David Poulson


Kabe: Second Eponym of Esperanto

Author: David Poulson
Published on:October 23, 1998

"Ho Kabe, Kabe, Kabe, Kabe, droninta vive en la morto!" (Kalocsay)

I first came across the name of Kazimierz Bein in the introduction to a book written by Dr Ferenc Szilagyi called Ellernu! That title means Learn thoroughly! and it is one of my favourite Esperanto textbooks. It's a "progresa," or intermediate-level, textbook (it would probably be regarded as advanced-level for any national language) and it can still be bought in Australia for only $7. (You can also buy a beginners' textbook by the same author called A Practical Course in Esperanto for only $2.) I hope to tell you a lot more about Szilagyi in later articles but I thought that I might as well introduce both him and Kabe ( the name under which Bein wrote) at the same time.

Both of the textbooks were written entirely in Esperanto and I'm sorry that my translation does not do justice to Szilagy's beautiful prose style.

"There is no doubt that Kabe was a skeptical figure within the Esperanto movement and his disappearance, although very regrettable, was expected. It would be interesting, someday, to analyse the reasons for that disappearance, because we, who learned from him, cannot ignore the author of the Vortaro, and the classical translator of the Faraono.

See this link for the first volume. http://www.uni-leipzig.de/esperanto/texte/bibl/faraono/vol1/

"In a way, Kabe was typical of the kind of person whose mood alternates between pessimism and optimism. And who can never during his whole life be entirely happy because the pessimistic side of his nature is too strong and always overcomes the optimistic side.

"However, we can learn a lot from these Kabe-characters. From their negativity, we can extract things of positive value. We need to pay close attention to the Kabes of the world so that we don't become blind and self-flattering, but are prompted to look in different directions and further than our own navel."

Szilagyi goes on to describe an Esperanto Conference in the earlier years of this century during which some of the delegates got carried away by their own enthusiasm. When there was general agreement that everybody should learn Esperanto, Kabe stood up an injected a sour (but much-needed) note into the proceedings by reminding the delegates that the first people who ought to learn it were the Esperantists themselves. He knew that too many of the delegates present were satisfied with an elementary or superficial knowledge of the language, and he also saw clearly that it would be difficult, if not impossible to convince others of the value of Zamenhof's International Language if they themselves could not use it fluently.

The lesson was certainly not lost on Szilagyi who, as well as producing very distinguished works of Esperanto literature, was renowned as a teacher and wrote the textbooks mentioned above. The second of them, which I always translate to myself as "Learn it Properly!" serves as a testimonial to Kabe's pragmatism and common sense.

Who was Kabe and what was the mysterious "disappearance" which Szilagyi referred to? To answer the last question first, Kabe suddenly ceased to have anything to do with Esperanto after having made an extraordinary contribution between 1903 and 1911. Only in 1957, after his 80th birthday and not long before his death, did he begin once more to show interest in Esperanto and it is said that he still spoke it fluently.

The Esperanto verb "kabei" means "to act like Kabe who, having been a very active Esperantist, suddenly left the movement completely."

As to the first question? Perhaps I need to treat it as two questions. First, who was K. Bein and secondly, who was Kabe and what exactly was his "extraordinary contribution?"

Kazimierz Bein was born in 1872 and died in 1959. He shared the same profession as Zamenhof and lived in the same city of Warsaw. He became acquainted with Esperanto after the publication of the First Book in 1887 but then, for political reasons, he was exiled for a number of years. A high achiever of the first order, he reached the top of his profession and became Director of the Warsaw Institute of Ophthalmology. He was also a very accomplished amateur photographer.

His high achievements in the field of Esperanto deserve a complete article and I will talk about them next week.

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