I’ve finally finished Arthur Phillips’ excellent novel about expatriates in Budapest, the oddly-titled Prague (2002), and recommend it to everyone who loves Budapest, or just loves great prose and a well-told story. Prague follows five young expatriates who move to Budapest in 1990 for various reasons and discover themselves through their relationships with each other and with a newly-democratized Hungary. It sounds like a well-trod literary path, but Phillips gives it a fresh spin with crisp, insightful writing.
Phillips himself lived in Budapest for a few years in the early ’90s, and his love for the city shows. In fact, I think that he romanticizes the capital so much that he makes it out to be more funky and bohemian than it really deserves, while mostly ignoring the difficult aspects of living in an immediate post-Communist society. But since one of the book’s major themes appears to be nostalgia and how we remember the past (the obsession of one character in particular) perhaps this positive glow of Hungary circa 1990 was slyly intentional on Phillips’ part.
I found the stories and characters inhabiting this book familiar to me as an 1990s expatriate in Budapest myself, although I arrived to the city a few years after Phillips did. And more than just a story about expatriates, the book’s standout section describes the past 150 years of Hungarian history through a clever and fascinating tale of one family over several generations. I also found his observations about Hungarians and the “national character” to be pretty close to the mark (and so did Györgyi, surprisingly).
Well, if you’ve read Prague, please leave us your thoughts here. Our next book review will be another Hungarian-related novel, but this time by a Brazilian! To be continued…
We introduce a new format to our podcast this time – the Survival Lesson! It’s designed for short-term visitors to Hungary to help them manage while in the country. We hope you like this format, which will be offered occasionally throughout the summer. The next lesson will continue with Lesson 10 in the regular format that we’ve used until now. Enjoy!
Please let us know what you think of the survival lessons and give us an idea of what you would like to see in the next one. As always, we welcome your feedback in general and questions about the Hungarian language.
Music: Curtis Maranda, “Playtime.” Thanks to Curtis for again allowing us to use his music on the podcast. You can find out more about Curtis by going to http://www.curtismaranda.com/
The PDF file below contains the written dialogue and vocabulary, and the MP3 file has the audio for Survival Lesson 1. Download both of them below, and thanks for listening!
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Lesson 9 introduces a new native speaker to our podcast – Milán! Milán has a great voice for podcasting and we’re really pleased to have his assistance for this lesson. Hopefully we’ll have him on the podcast again and get the chance to know him a bit more.
See below for the script for this lesson’s material and the new vocabulary. Try and memorize as much as possible so you’ll be ready for the review next time!
Feel free to ask us if you have any questions about this lesson or Hungarian in general, or just to let us know what you think of our podcast. Just leave a comment on this post or on any other one. Thanks for listening!
Music: Nomada, “Aven le Roma.” Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Hungary License. Available at remix.creativecommons.hu.
Funny phrase of the week:
Darázs fészek, darázs fészek, de nem is ember, aki nem részeg!
Wasp’s nest, wasp’s nest, but you’re not a person unless you’re drunk!
What do these four words mean? How are they connected? Write us if you think you know!
“Duna, Tisza, Dráva, Száva”
The PDF file below contains the written dialogue and vocabulary, and the MP3 file has the audio for Lesson 9. Download both of them below, and thanks for listening!
Podcast: Play in new window