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Light Reading before the trip

Eclipse of the Cresent Moon (in Hungary, it is a book that every kid reads) by Geza Gardonyi. It culminates in the first Turkish siege of Eger.
Iron Curtain: The Crushing of Eastern Europe 1944-1956 by Ann Applebaum if you want to understand more about how this part of the world transitioned from post WW2 to communism and a bit beyond, read. Specifically Poland, Hungary and East Germany.
Twelve days - the Story of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. The book is written by a journalist whose own family fled from Hungary by Victor Sebestyen
Prague . The name is misleading. The book is about Budapest. I will borrow from New York Times Book Review: a novel startling scope and ambition, Prague depicts an intentionally lost Lost Generation as it follows five American expats who come to Budapest in the early 1990s to seek their fortune. They harbor the vague suspicion that their counterparts in Prague have it better, but still they hope to find adventure, inspiration, a gold rush, or history in the making by Arthur Phillips.
The Forbidden Sky: Inside the Hungarian Revolution by Endre Marton – Cold War Historical
The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler and Changed the World by Kati Marton – WWII Historical
Enemies of the People: My Family's Journey to America by Kati Marton – Cold War Historical
A History of Hungary by Laszlo Kontler – General History
When Angels Fooled the World by Charles Fenyvesi – WWII Historical
Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire by Victor Sebestyen (Hungarian) – Cold War Historical
Central Europe: Enemies, Neighbors by Lonnie Johnson – Cold War Historical
The Sword and the Crucible. Count Boldizsar Batthyany
Natural Philosophy in Sixteenth-century Hungary by Dora Bobory - History
Budapest: A Critical Guide by Andras Torok, Andras Egyedi and Andras Felvideki – History
The Paul (Pal) Street Boys, Ferenc Molnar – Historical Novel
The Invisible Bridge, Julie Orringer – WWII Novel
Under the Frog by Tibor Fischer – Cold War Novel
A Taste of the Past: The Daily Life and Cooking of a Nineteenth-Century Hungarian-Jewish Homemaker by András Koerner – Golden Age Account
Nobody Knows the Truffles I've Seen by George Lang – WWII / Cold War Historical
The Smell of Humans: A Memoir of the Holocaust in Hungary by Ernö Szép – WWII Historical
The Budapest Protocol by Adam LeBor – WWII Novel
Budapest 1900: A Historical Portrait of a City and Its Culture by John Lukacs – Golden Age Historical
The Envoy: The Epic Rescue of the Last Jews of Europe in the Desperate Closing Months of World War II by Alex Kershaw – WWII Historic
Kasztner's Train: The True Story of an Unknown Hero of the Holocaust by Anna Porter – WWII Historic
Ligeti, Kurtág, and Hungarian Music during the Cold War (Music in the Twentieth Century) by Rachel Willson – Cold War Historic
Ballad of the Whiskey Robber by Julian Rubenstein - a true story of a ice hockey goalie who decided to supplement his income by robbing banks and post offices around Budapest. Good insight into the early days of post communist Hungary and the fate of those Hungarians trapped in Transylvania, Romania after WW1. (courtesy of @Worldinbetween)
The Bridge at Andau by James Michener - Great story for anyone interested in the 1956 Hungarian revolution. We planned our first visit to Budapest around sites from this book. (courtesy of @Worldinbetween)
Sunflower and Life Is a Dream, 10 stories "Focusing on the poor and dispossessed, these tales of love, food, death and sex are ironic and wise about the human condition and the futility of life, and display fully Gyula Krudy's wit and mastery of the form."

Posted by
12560 posts

Any trip to the region should begin by reading Darkness at Noon. Of the Hungary specific titles these are my favorite:

The Forbidden Sky: Inside the Hungarian Revolution by Endre Marton – Cold War Historical
The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler and Changed the World by Kati Marton – WWII Historical
Enemies of the People: My Family's Journey to America by Kati Marton – Cold War Historical

Fred, can you add to this??????

Posted by
6570 posts

Informania: So much information provided that you cannot begin to comprehend it all.
Wikipedia on my destinations is all I have time to read before I go somewhere.

Posted by
12400 posts

Thanks...I would heartily recommend any of the books on Hungarian and Austro-Hungarian history by the British historian CA MacCartney, agree with "Darkness at Noon" (by A. Koestler) on totalitarianism. Definitely J Lukacs' "Budapest 1900" for its cultural, political, social historical aspects. Besides, like CA MacCartney, anything J.Lukacs writes is good, competent, etc.

Re Hungary: To understand why Hungary stood at the outset as a revisionist country after its treatment by the Allies at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 culminating with Trianon in 1920, read the coverage in BF Pauley, "The Habsburg Legacy"

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12560 posts

Fred you like history and you know that any historical account is biased based on who delivers the account. That's what makes The Forbidden Sky: Inside the Hungarian Revolution by Endre Marton and Enemies of the People: My Family's Journey to America by Kati Marton so interesting. The first is an autobiography of a wire news reporter during the early years after WWII and on to the revolution of '56. The second is the biography written by his daughter after she gained access to the secret police files after the change. Two accounts and two interpretation of the same events. Very interesting when read together. The other book by Kati Marton is also fascinating because of the people and the events it covers.

Posted by
12400 posts

"...any historical account is biased...." That's a very debatable statement. I personally would not use the word "biased." to apply to an historical account.

Posted by
12560 posts

Once you get past the quantitative accounting the report of the events that transpired is very much a personal interpretation.

Posted by
12400 posts

Whether one writes a sympathetic account of the said events or a critical account, depending on their use or misuse of evidence, lack of evidence, both can attacked as "biased." In doing historical research of a topic, no one says you cannot write a highly biased account, ie, using all the damning evidence you can muster and omitting any excupatory evidence or even mitigating evidence. If the author has an axe to grind on a particular person, an historical topic, etc., it's the writer's prerogative to produce a biased account. I would not fault the writer on being biased, s/he has a right to that. I would critique the work on other grounds.

From the above list, Kershaw and Lukacs are scholarly, competent, critical, and balanced. They don't appear to have an axe to grind...both are very recommendable.

Posted by
47 posts

Thanks for the great list and comments, I will certainly be spending time at the library researching them!

I just finished Central Europe by Lonnie Johnson after my trip to Prague, Vienna and Budapest in April / May. I realized I wanted to understand more about the incredible history and all the forces at play in these countries.

Maybe a something of a list on movies could be offered as well? Our guide recommended a couple of movies on Budapest which we recently saw: Sunshine with Ralph Fiennes spanning 3 generations of a Jewish family in Budapest and Kontroll, about ticket inspectors on the Budapest Metro.

Gene

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12560 posts

Between the Woods and the Water, Patrick Leigh Fermor. A very interesting account of an English gentleman that walks across Europe just prior to WWII. This book covers his trek across what we now call Eastern Europe on his way to Istanbul.

If you survived Kontrol you can survive anything. Creepy movie. But it will be fun to walk the same places when you go to Budapest.

Another really revealing move is: Budapest to Gettysburg http://www.amazon.com/Budapest-to-Gettysburg/dp/B004MBNO0G/ref=sr_1_cc_1?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1439392085&sr=1-1-catcorr&keywords=gettysburg+to+budapest

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2164 posts

I'm surprised My Happy Days in Hell by Gyorgy Faludy is missing from the list--what a book! From the back cover: "My Happy Days in Hell (1962) is Gyorgy Faludy's grimly beautiful autobiography of his battle to survive tyranny and oppression. Fleeing Hungary in 1938 as the German army approaches, acclaimed poet Faludy journeys to Paris, where he finds a lover but merely a cursory asylum. When the French capitulate to the Nazis, Faludy travels to North Africa, then to America, where he volunteers for military service.

Missing his homeland and determined to do the right thing, he returns--only to be imprisoned, tortured and slowly starved, eventually becoming one of only 21 survivors of his camp".

All 521 pages have been a joy to read, he mixes great humor with sad truths and when I reached the part where he was taken to 60 Andrassy ut, I realized that was the Terror House and could totally imagine everything since I had visited last year, the perfect "aha!" moment.

Posted by
12560 posts

Christa, what is most amazing is I purchased a copy at a little book store on Andrassy ut 4 days ago. Will start reading it on the plane when I return home.

Thx