I picked up one of the more recent biographies of the famous, and eccentric, mathematician, , while flying to Brazil. It is a good story, of course, and I was excitedly telling Imre all about it one day after I had arrived. Of course I should have imagined so, but much to my chagrin, Imre told me that had come to Brazil during his many travels, and that his family had hosted him for a short time while he was in Brazil, since they shared Hungarian ancestry. They had taken to their Sitio. I enjoyed hearing his stories, but was quite dissappointed that the anecdotes from the book paled by comparison with his first-hand experiences.'
Comment by Istvan Simon, Imre's brother:
Indeed, Erdos was at our Sitio, the last year that my father was still alive, already suffering from cancer himself. I remember Erdos sitting with my Dad on our porch. I had met Erdos myself many times, first at Stanford and then in Cambridge, England and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where this wandering greatest of mathematicians came to "open his brain". In Cambridge he came in 1983 for a special meeting organized in his honor by Bela Bollobas. This was the year after he had been at our Sitio in Brazil. I was at that meeting, though I did not give any presentations. Imre had been invited by Bela to give a talk at this meeting, and he talked about one of the deep loves of Erdos, Ramsey Theory. After his talk, Erdos pulled him aside and they talked about problems that immediately occurred to Erdos. Imre later told me how exhilarated he was by that conversation. He said that what impressed him most is that Erdos was always thinking about everything on the spot in terms of proofs.
Another giant mathematician was Marco Schutzenberger, who also came to our Sitio at Imre's invitation. I thought that Schutzenberger was the most brilliant man I ever encountered. What was so impressive about Schutzenberger, was his enormous breadth of knowledge beyond Mathematics. He could talk knowledgeably about any scientific subject. I remember driving him and his wife to our Sitio. On the way he talked to Karen, my wife at the time, and a linguist, about linguistics. Schutzenberger had deep knowledge about linguistics, in part because of his collaboration with Noam Chomsky, but in fact as the conversation made clear, going much beyond that -- an example of what I said above. On the way to the Sitio, that same day, Schutzenberger surprised me by telling me about his admiration for Imre. He said: "What I like about Imre is his great originality. There are many results discovered by someone, that if they did not discover it, someone else would have. But Imre's results are deep, and so original, that if he did not invent them, perhaps they would never have been invented."
Imre was very proud of his lifelong friendship with Marco Schutzenberger. He told me how the tragedy of losing his only son to a car accident had changed Marco. It is like this terrible tragedy took the enthusiasm and enormous energy so characteristic of Marco out of him, the wind out of his sails, so to speak. He apparently never regained it.