Lockdown Diaries: Day 11 (A Martian’s Guide to Budapest)

Locked Down in London, Day 11: Hungary Loses the Plot

While here all I have to moan about is the Derbyshire police’s dislike of people in scenic spots, in Hungary Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, better known by the ordinary citizen as Viktátor, or sometimes as King Viktor, has decided that he can’t have too much emergency powers and he can’t have it too long: he’s pushing through a new bill on the extension of the already existing emergency powers – without a sunset clause.

Meanwhile Hungary’s Chief Medical Officer for Public Health advocates that people soak eggs in bleach before eating them (!) – it’s lucky that apparently you can’t get bleach at the moment.


Virtual Escape: A Martian’s Guide to Budapest

Since we were talking about Hungary, today we’ll escape the coronavirus misery by taking a city break in Central Europe’s most beautiful capital, Budapest. I dare you to disagree. 🙂

(Click on the gallery to enlarge the pictures.)

The book that accompanies us has not been translated into English (or any other language) to the best of my knowledge, so you’ll have to make to do with my makeshift translation:

The Martian arrived safely in Pest on a sunny day, took a room in the Bristol, brushed the star dust from his clothes and phoned me to show him the City as previously agreed.


Sir, much respected Alien, first of all I have to ask you emphatically: do not to listen to journalists and eminent observers who tell you that the people of Pest are like this and like that. The people of Pest of whom they are talking about are exactly like merchants everywhere, if you have no money. What does it matter for a Martian? In fact, people in general, are people actually important in a city? In Paris it’s only the people who are disagreeable and boring.

I want to introduce you to the city; I think the houses are really important. Or maybe not the houses: the eroticism of the streets curving into each other, which sometimes expresses strength, on occasion grace; the traffic’s degree of heat perhaps; the climatic conditions of the squares and statues; the literary associations relating to bus numbers, or something like that. You know what I mean.

(Antal Szerb: Budapest Guidebook for Martians)

Although the Budapest Guidebook for Martians is not available to read in English, Antal Szerb is a very highly regarded author and one of the few Hungarian authors whose books have been widely translated. Try any (or all) of the following:

  • Journey by Moonlight
  • The Queen’s Necklace
  • The Pendragon Legend
  • Oliver VII
  • Love in a Bottle

And then let me know how you liked them!

Keep safe, keep sane – keep holding on to your democracy.

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