Lockdown Diaries: Day 57 (My Trusty Old Herodotus)

Locked Down in Budapest:

Although I’m one of those few privileged 🙂 who can actually enter Hungary at the moment because I do hold a Hungarian passport, I did not exchange the London lockdown to that of Budapest. (More’s the pity.) The video however is from Budapest, courtesy of my sister. Unfortunately, on trying to upload it, I found that unless I upgrade my free plan, I can’t – this not being the right financial moment to invest in my blogging hobby, I uploaded it instead to the blog’s FB page:

MARADJ OTTHON (STAY AT HOME)

Enjoy.

Virtual Escape: My Trusty Old Herodotus

I know I said that the virtual escape will be photo posts. But I realised that at this rate I will end up becoming just another travel blogger – and not a very good one, doing nothing but sharing other people’s travel photos! So we’re taking a break from that…

Tonight I’m going to curl up on the sofa with a bottle of red wine and my trusty old Herodotus.

An evening with Herodotus

If you don’t want to join me, you can always watch the Eurovision Song Contest. 🙂

Recommended Book:The Histories by Herodotus
Keep safe, keep sane – start reading Herodotus! 🙂

Lockdown Diaries: Day 42 (Cherry Blossom Viewing)

Locked Down in London, Day 42: Olympics in Quarantine

The Two-Tailed Dog Party in Hungary (I did hesitate whether I should be naming political parties here but the name add spice to the story!) is going to run a quarantine olympics this month – events include:

  • Speed Disinfecting
  • Indoor Gazing Into the Distance
  • Synchronised Couch Movement
  • Pancake Making Commentary
  • Toilet-roll Tower Building

Virtual Escape: Cherry Blossom Viewing

I don’t know about you but where I’m sitting, it’s raining cats & dogs and you can’t stir out without getting soaked to skin, with or without a mac. So we need a double escape here, one from this extremely tiresome quarantine and the other from this extremely tiresome weather…

This is the time of the cherry blossom and the Japanese loved to view them for centuries. So today, we’re going to go cherry blossom viewing… with a 17th century poet, the master of haiku, Matsuo Basho!

Cherry Blossoms

cherry blossom viewing –
admirable it is to walk
ten or twelve miles a day

with the sun darkening,
on the blossoms, it is lonely –
a false cypress

with a fan
drinking sake in the shadows –
falling cherry blossoms

(Knapsack Notebook by Matsuo Basho)

 

Further reading / You might also like:Karantén olimpia 2020 (in case you want to participate) :)
⇒ Matsuo BashoFour Seasons in Japan - with Matsuo BashoThe Dark Side of Life (in Nine Haikus)The Master of Cold Mountain
Keep safe, keep sane – view some virtual cherry blossoms!

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.

Give a Quarter of a Year to the Mixture and Beat it Until it Cheers Up

No, I haven’t gone insane (yet) due to having to stay at home: the above gem in the title comes from Google Translate. It’s a paragraph from a tarta di Santiago recipe, which I was sharing with family & friends on Facebook, as part of my Lockdown Diaries. (I have to post bilingual on Facebook for everybody to be able to understand and I was too lazy to translate an entire recipe. 🙂 )  

Continue reading “Give a Quarter of a Year to the Mixture and Beat it Until it Cheers Up”

The Moody Poets’ Gallery (Or a Melancholy Glance at Hungarian Poetry)

The Connection Between Miserable Weather & Hungarian Poetry (If Any)

So the other day it was grey and gloomy and it was also p***ing it down in a typical London fashion. Moreover it was a Sunday afternoon, and you would expect better from a Sunday afternoon in March, even in London.

In any case, the weather was miserable, I was miserable, and I felt like wallowing in some miserable Hungarian poetry.

Not at all a difficult thing to do, that: misery and poetry goes hand in hand in Hungary, and although we do actually also have some cheerful poems you’re not going to get any of those today.

Before we dive in at the deep end, a word of warning: Hungarian is an obscure language and not a lot of her poetry has been translated into English. (And what's been translated leaves you holding your head - in dispair.) The source of today's miserable poetry is a single bilingual anthology, going by the title of The Lost Rider. It's about as representative as a single anthology can ever expected to be. 

(And some of the translations are, well, dire.)

Continue reading “The Moody Poets’ Gallery (Or a Melancholy Glance at Hungarian Poetry)”

Hungary in Ten Books

In a few hours time I’ll be taking a late night flight to Budapest; by the time you’re reading this I might have even arrived. This latest visit home prompted me to write a long overdue book list for you. 🙂

The Széchenyi Chain Bridge in Budapest in winter fog. Photo by Noval Goya via Flickr.

One good way to get to know a people is by reading their literature.  Unfortunately, in the case of the Hungarians this is not easy as the language is obscure and difficult (and no, it’s bloody not related to Polish, or Russian, or German!¹) and not a lot of the country’s literature has been translated into English, let alone into other languages.

So what follows here is not any kind of representative list of Hungarian literature – it is, nevertheless, a list of ten good books which were all translated into English. If you ever decide to visit Hungary, you could do much worse than reading one of them on the flight there. 🙂

Continue reading “Hungary in Ten Books”

How to Live like a Local in Budapest (Summer Edition)

The Expat Goes Home

The trouble with being an expat is that you end up being a stranger to your own hometown. In your absence things move on; after a few years you being to feel alienated. The post How to Live like a Local in Budapest two years ago was born of the experience of visiting my own city with the eyes of a tourist: I was trying to show off the attractions – especially the unique ones – to my children. It was a wintery experience of Budapest, however, so today, you’re going to get the summer edition. If it’ll inspire you to visit one of the most lovable and liveable cities in Europe, good. 🙂

The Széchenyi Chain Bridge spanning the Danube, Budapest. Photo by Anon. via Pixabay.


Continue reading “How to Live like a Local in Budapest (Summer Edition)”

Truth Does Not Depend on Geography (La verdad no depende de la geografía)

Mikes György (better known by the English version of his name, George Mikes) was a Hungarian journalist who moved to England during the 1930s where he married an Englishwoman and lived until his death in 1987. In 1946 he published a humorous book about his experiences as a foreigner in England – a book which betrays as much about Hungarian idiosyncrasies as about English ones! The book was so successful that it was followed by two sequels. And many of his observations of English culture still holds true today.

Mikes György (mejor conocido por la versión inglesa de su nombre, George Mikes) fue un periodista húngaro, quien se mudó a Inglaterra en los años 1930, donde se casó con una inglesa y vivió hasta su muerte en 1987. En 1946 publicó un libro gracioso de sus experiencias como extranjero en Inglaterra – un libro que te revela  tanto idiosincracias húngaras como inglesas. El libro tenía tanto éxito que Mikes escribió dos secuelas. Y muchas de sus observaciones de la cultura inglesa siguen ser verdaderas.

Quote of the Week / Cita de la semana:

Some years ago I spent a lot of time with a young lady who was very proud and conscious of being English. Once she asked me – to my great surprise – whether I would marry her. ‘No,’ I replied, ‘I will not. My mother would never agree to my marrying a foreigner.’ She looked at me a little surprised and irritated, and retorted: ‘I, a foreigner? What a silly thing to say. I am English. You are the foreigner. And your mother too.’ I did not give in. ‘In Budapest, too?’ I asked her. ‘Everywhere,’ she declared with determination. “Truth does not depend on geography. What is true in England is also true in Hungary and in North Borneo and Venezuela and everywhere.’

(George Mikes: Preface to How To Be an Alien)


Hace unos años he pasado mucho tiempo en la compañía de una señorita joven, quien era muy orgullosa y consciente de ser inglesa. Una vez me había preguntado – para mi grande sorpresa – si me casaría con ella. «No», respondí, «mi madre nunca estaría de acuerdo de que me caso con una mujer extranjera». Me miró con un poco de sorpresa y irritación, y  replicó: «¡¿Yo, una extranjera? Qué tontería hablas! Yo soy inglesa. Eres tú quien es un extranjero. Y tu madre, también.» Yo no me di por vencido. «¿Incluso en Budapest?» la pregunté. «En cualquier lugar» me declaró. «La verdad no depende de la geografía. Lo que es verdad en Inglaterra es también verdad en Hungría o en el norte de Borneo y en Venezuela y en todas partes del mundo.»

(George Mikes: Prólogo a Como ser un extranjero)

Implacabile (The Corvette that Never Was)

The Impacabile!

Monostory’s heart sank a little, just a little. The old memory returned: his first ship, the Implacabile, was also a warship… and if she still existed… if she could have taken up her station in Fiume to guard the port… if… and again, if…

(András Dékány: The Black Prince)

I wanted to start this post with the adrenaline-rush of a heroic fight of the Hungarian frigate Implacabile against overwhelming odds during the 1848-49 War of Independence on the Adriatic – as told by András Dékány in his novel The Black Prince

Unfortunately, Dékány didn’t go into sufficient detail.

The legend of the Implacabile lives in the consciousness of the sea-loving minority of the Hungarian public because of András Dékány’s novel. He seduced generations of Hungarian children with it; it forms the background of the protagonist Balázs Monostory. Yet Dékány never fully developed the story of the Implacabile. He contented himself with a handful of suggestive and emotive fragments, like the moment when the Taitsing crosses with Chinese pirates:

The Taitsing surged ahead, running before the wind. She was a wonderful ship, with a wonderful crew.
“The Implacabile!” the joyful memory bubbled up in Monostory.
Yes; the lost, sunk Hungarian frigate sped like this as she charged into battle against the Austrian emperor’s corvette.
“The Implacabile!”

In a novel that runs to more than 400 pages, Dékány only mentioned the ship’s name 13 times. This, however, didn’t prevent him to play expertly with his readers’ imagination and emotions. From the emotive half-sentences he scattered throughout the novel we created an entirely fictitious, glorious fight between the first Hungarian frigate and untold scores of Austrian warships on the bluest of all seas, the Adriatic. And so the legend of the Implacabile was born, thanks to a children’s book.

On the north wall of the cabin, there was, however, one thing to arrest a visitor’s attention: you could see a ship’s flag here, spread out. The flag was rather faded with time but it was a ship’s flag – a rare object. The flag of the Implacabile, the first Hungarian Navy frigate, sunk ten years earlier and commanded by Balázs Monostory, was the only decoration in the cabin of the captain of the Taitsing.

The flag, saved when the frigate sank, had accompanied Balázs Monostory for ten years. But so far he failed to realise his plan of handing it over to his leader, Lajos Kossuth, a man in exile just like the owner of the cabin himself.

Gabriela Malatesta’s eyes clouded over as she looked at the flag. Red-white-green. Those same colours formed the flag of the Italian patriots.

The fragments of information actually shared by Dékány in The Black Prince add up to this:

  • The Implacabile was a Hungarian frigate, intended to defend the harbour of Fiume but has never taken up her station to do so
  • Her captain was Balázs Monostory
  • She fought the Austrian corvette Condor – incidentally also commanded by a Hungarian officer – off the coast of Istria on the Adriatic during the 1848-49 War of Independence
  • During the battle, the sailors of the Implacabile used hand bombs fabricated on board in the manner of the Italian carbonaris 
  • She sunk after the battle and her shipwrecked sailors were rescued by a passing Turkish warship

But what’s the truth – if any – behind the legend? Did the Implacabile even exist? And if she did, did she ever fight a warship of the Emperor of Austria on the Adriatic?

Continue reading “Implacabile (The Corvette that Never Was)”

Quote of the Week: The Blaze of Summer

Photo by Joerg-Design [public domain via Pixabay]

On the other side of the closed blinds, in the scorched, withered garden, summer ignited a last blaze like an arsonist setting the fields on fire in senseless fury before making his escape.

(Sándor Márai: Embers)


A csukott redőnyök mögött, az aszalt, pörkölt és elszáradt kertben utolsó dühével lobogott a nyár, mint egy gyújtogató, aki esztelen dühében felgyújtja a határt, mielőtt világgá megy.

(Márai Sándor: A gyertyák csonkig égnek)

 

Face to Face with My Ancestors (The Scythians in the British Museum)

I went to see the Scythian exhibition in the British Museum on Friday night and I came face to face with a Scythian warrior from over 2000 years ago.

Was this what my great-grandfather 50 times removed looked like?

Continue reading “Face to Face with My Ancestors (The Scythians in the British Museum)”

A Book with a History

The book is green with golden letters, cloth bound. Sunlight faded the spine into autumnal yellow so that you can no longer make out the title and the author very well. When you open it, the yellowed pages rustle, feeling slightly stiff to the fingers. The title page is followed by the picture of the author printed on smooth, glossy paper that contrasts with the coarser pages that follow it. I turn the pages and think: they don’t make books like this anymore.

And then there’s the way it smells. The smell of decades which lingers on  your fingers even after you put the book down.

Continue reading “A Book with a History”

Dazzling Doors (The Hungarian Parliament)

Recently I went on a visit to Hungary to spend time with family and catch up with old friends… and to introduce Young Friend of the Elephants (who caught the photography bug from me) to some of the more prestigious buildings of Budapest. In the course of which we took a copious amount of pictures, most of which proved to be a blurry failure when downloaded to the computer – but of that, more in another post…

Because today I’m contenting myself with nominating some dazzling doors from the Hungarian Parliament in Budapest (the few that came out sharp!) to Norm’s weekly Doors challenge.

Enjoy.

You might also like:Under Italian Influence: The Queen's House in GreenwichSun-DrenchedSpain in Black & White III

How to Live like a Local in Budapest

I just came home from home. The experience was slightly unnerving in both directions (as usual). To begin with, there was the inevitable confusion of languages: while at home, I tended to do it all wrong. I spoke Hungarian to Young Friend of the Elephants and English to my father, not to mention when I creatively mixed the two languages to the changing room attendant in the thermal baths. To end with, back home there was the immigration officer at Heathrow who asked cunning questions to find out if I was trafficking my child into the country to be some sort of a domestic slave. (She’s washing up after dinner right now but don’t tell that to the border police.)

Continue reading “How to Live like a Local in Budapest”

God’s Chosen People?

The other day, reading a history of Spain by Juan Eslava Galán, I came across the following paragraph:

Spain had become the defender of the honour of God. Theologians and thinkers (not so many of these latter) became convinced that Spain and God were united in a pact. God promoted Spain to the rank of the chosen people, protected her and granted her riches and power (the Americas) in exchange for which Spain acted as his armed arm on Earth, champion of the true faith against the error of the Protestants and the Turks.

España se había erigido en defensora del honor de Dios. Teólogos y pensadores (de estos hubo menos) llegaron al convencimiento de que España y Dios estaban unidos por un pacto. Dios la había promocionado al rango de pueblo elegido, la protegía y le otorgaba riquezas y poder (las Américas) a cambio de que ella ejerciese como su brazo armado en la Tierra, paladín de la fe verdadera contra el error de protestantes y turcos.

This notion of the pact with God and the chosen people put me strongly in mind of the Hun-Hungarian legends which I read as a child.

Continue reading “God’s Chosen People?”

Exit

FullSizeRender.jpg
Through the tube barriers on Fatal Friday

If you and I sat down to have a cup of coffee right now… well, to begin with, I’d be drinking lemon tea. And despite of all the interesting books that you think we could or should be talking about, chances are we’d end up talking about politics and football.

???

(Yeah, I know. It pretends to be a book blog.)

But we had a referendum last week and the UK decided to leave the EU. Simultaneously, we reached the knockout stage of the European Championship…

Continue reading “Exit”

On Goulash Communism

I read some books set in the Soviet Union recently – one of them was absolutely brilliant and nothing much was wrong with the other one either – and it really set me thinking back about the times I lived under a communist regime myself. It was not the sort of communist regime that made life all that hard – it went by the name of ‘goulash communism‘ for a good reason – but still it made for a, shall we say, an interesting life experience?

Continue reading “On Goulash Communism”