Hungarian Novelist Takes on American Tragedy

by Hegedűs Máté

(Editor’s note: An article in the author’s original Hungarian language, include the poem comprising the second half of this article, appears here.)

I am a writer from Hungary. I first read about Jonestown in a magazine sometime at the beginning of the 1990’s, but at the time I ignored it.

More recently – in 2013 – I decided to wanted to write a novel that would recount the events of that experience. The title of my book is I’ve Dreamt a World, which is a lyric from a Hungarian music band.

I started collecting information on Peoples Temple wherever I could find it. I read more books, I saw films, and I searched the Internet. I started writing in May 2014 and finished the 228-page manuscript in four months. I tried to place the manuscript with a publisher, but have not succeeded yet.

In my Jonestown story, my protagonist survives the mass deaths of the final day, but not his lover. Because the whole story is a drama that happened in Jonestown, I wrote it from the perspectives of the people. I know there was unimaginable death that day, but I tried to write a smoother story without violent scenes. Instead, I used the names of real Temple members and families – especially the Cordells and the Bradys – and wanted to spend more time writing about the world of their dreams, which was Jonestown.

This website has been instrumental in my learning of what happened in 1978. I thank everyone who has contributed articles and stories about their own experiences – both good and bad – in the Temple. They have been invaluable in my education and in my writing.

I remain curious about one thing: if this was a religious fellowship, what did Jim Jones need military guards for? We know that he was a lunatic, but perhaps he knew what was to come, and planned to use armed mercenaries on that day. I may write a new story about them in the future.

I cannot present my whole book here, of course, but I would like to offer a poem of remembrance that I have written.

There was a day which cannot be forgotten.
What happened actually really happened.
Far away, one day in November.
The shadow of death descended upon Jonestown.
It was a religious group, the Temple of People
Giving peace and faith to the generations.

The blood of 900 innocents had to descend,
Remember always the disaster.
They had to listen to the voice of Jim Jones.
Where are those who helped them?
Pray for the 900 innocent
Give comfort to their souls.

They believed generations can come together,
Dream of a happy homeland far away.
There was also belief in a world
Of living the good life in Jonestown.
They also believed they could stay for a long time,
Maybe forever

The blood of 900 innocents had to descend,
Remember always the disaster.
They had to listen to the voice of Jim Jones.
Where are those who helped them?
Pray for the 900 innocent
Give comfort to their souls.

It happened 40 years ago, the world needs to know
The Temple of Peoples was filled with full of life.
18 November, remember of the victims,
Do not forget! There was a Temple of Peoples.
Remember, pray for innocents.
Hereafter light a candle for them as well.

The blood of 900 innocents had to descend,
Remember always the disaster.
They had to listen to the voice of Jim Jones.
Where are those who helped them?
Pray for the 900 innocent
Give comfort to their souls.

The blood of 900 innocents had to descend,
Remember always the disaster.
Many years have passed since you existed
But never regret how you lived
You believed in a man with powerful words,
Now you can live in Eternity.

Originally posted on September 28th, 2018.

Last modified on July 18th, 2020.
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