Monday, March 12, 2007

Hungary for Publicity?

I wrote last week of the new planned stadium on the site of the former Maze prison being up to be named after the highest bidder. Now the financially-strapped village of Ivád in eastern Hungary has offered its streets to be renamed - for no less than three hundred years - after anyone who cares to be a benefactor to its municipality. Streets start at just under €97,000 and range up to €240,000 for the Mayfair on the Ivád Monopoly board, the unnamed 'Street H'. The total package can be purchased for €1.38m. The village plans to use the money to upgrade street lighting, the local sewage system as well as the village nursery school. The only stipulations for being immortalised in the geography of Ivád is that the person in question be 'prominent in their sphere of life' and that they be dead before the renaming can take effect.

The brainchild of the young Mayor of the village, Gábor Ivády, the scheme is reminiscent of one recounted in Jonathan Raban's Bad Land ten years ago where a small town in Montana renamed itself Joe, in an attempt to drum up publicity and revenue (it was to be thenceforth known as Joe, Montana, geddit?) though it has since reverted to its original name. Mayor Ivády, has said that everyone is welcome to tender offers and he personally evoked the names of Jennifer Aniston and Barbara Streisand, the latter of whom '[he] greatly admires'. The only other townsperson cited in the article in Libé is also named Ivády, which makes one wonder. A man that might be a perfect candidate to grace an Ivád nameplate is Mayo patriot Ulick McEvaddy, whose unusual surname sounds like it originated in the village's hinterland.

Joking apart, the story is a sad reflection of the failure of certain post-Communist societies to provide basic infrastructural upkeep for struggling communities. I'm sure that the village did not take the decision lightly but it would be a shame if the entire village be branded for centuries to come just as a quick-fix solution for the present day.