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István Szabó, the Oscar-winning film director, whose films often tested the line between morality and cooperation, has himself been revealed as an informer for the previous regime.

"During the counter-revolution and for a short while afterwards, he was anti-government," wrote István Szabó in May 1958 of the playwrite Miklós Gyárfás. This passage, published by the critic and film historian András Gervai in a recent issue of the literary weekly Élet és Irodalom, suggest that not all of Szabó's reports to the authorities were harmless. On receiving such a report, it would have been up to the police to decide what they would do with the incuplatory material. While the information about Gyárfás was probably not news to the police, Szabó, then a 20-year-old apprentice director, could not have known how useful his information might be.

The director immediately acknowledged his past, but presented his cooperation with the police as a source of pride. Unlike Medgyessy, he did not claim to have been working against the KGB, but said he had been trying to help his friend Pál Gábor with his work as an informer. "I am grateful to fate, and in retrospect I am proud of my behaviour. My work for the security services was the bravest act of my life. I was able to save a classmate from being unmasked and executed after the 1956 revolution," Szabó said last week.

Things were appearing in a different light by the end of the week. One of Szabó's classmates at college, the director Judit Elek, wrote in a letter to the police that Szabó had only wanted to rescue himself. By Sunday evening Szabó appeared to agree, telling state television that his first reaction had been instinctive.

His instinctive reaction is surprising, since it has been clear since 1990 that the skeletons could clatter out of the closet at any time. It is hard to know whether an individual agent's files remain extant, but it is most likely that files exist concerning just about all external informers. The artistic world's activities are well documented, as is the involvement of the pop music world.

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