An online coffee-house for anyone interested in British-Hungarian affairs
The British-Hungarian Network is a free service of the British-Hungarian Fellowship, www.hungarian.org.uk, to the British-Hungarian community.
If you have any questions or queries regarding the Fellowship or its events please send your comments to Mrs Eva Norton.
Unless otherwise stated talks start at 7pm at the Hungarian Cultural Centre, 10 Maiden Lane Covent Garden WC2E 7NA. Please ring 0207 240 8448 or email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to attend any of our events.
November 23 2017, Tyndale and Torda: Perspectives on the Reformation in Hungary and Britain
A talk by Roy Rashbrook
There has recently been a wealth of material in the popular media regarding the Reformation in Britain, a time when today’s truth could easily become tomorrow’s heresy, the risk of martyrdom became an occupational hazard for some. At broadly the same time, in Transylvania, King John Sigismund convoked a Diet at Torda in which a local community’s right to choose its own pastors, whilst forbidding the mistreatment of people on religious grounds. Learn more about this fascinating historic period from Roy Rashbrook. We might even sing together.
Roy Rashbrook was educated at Dauntsey’s School, going on to study Music at Goldsmith’s College and Singing under Alexander Oliver, William McAlpine and Rudolf Piernay at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London. After a brief but rewarding flirtation with a career in teaching, Roy became a professional singer in 1998, joining the world famous choir of Saint Paul’s Cathedral the following year; a position which offers some precious stability in the life of a freelance musician! In addition to the broadcasts, concerts, special events and daily services there, Roy also sings regularly with such groups as The King’s Consort and The Clerks, combining their various performing, touring and recording schedules with his work as a soloist, singing teacher and conductor. He has conducted several choirs and ensembles, including the Goldsmiths’ Chorus, The University of London Union Chorus, The Hanover Singers and Candlelight Opera. He is a regular guest conductor of The Waverley Singers and directs two choirs of his own: Hart Voices (Fleet, Hampshire) and The Chantry Singers (Guildford). He is also an occasional lecturer, editor, arranger and (very occasionally) composer.
16 April, George Gömöri will talk about The Anglo-Hungarian Poet Ferenc Békássy
Ferenc Békássy was born into a family of old Hungarian nobility and educated in England, spending five years in Bedales School and four years in King’s College, Cambridge. He wrote poetry both in English and Hungarian and while his poems in English were included in the anthology Cambridge Poets 1900-1913, his poems in Hungarian were published only posthumously. Whilst at Cambridge Békássy was befriended by the economist John Maynard Keynes and with his recommendation became the first foreign member of the famous debating society ‘Apostles’. He and the English poet Rupert Brooke were rivals for the affection of Noel Olivier, whom Békássy had first met at Bedales. Tragically both Békássy and Brooke died in 1915 fighting on opposite sides during World War I. In both cases they wrote their last letter to Noel Olivier. Ferenc Békássy’s letters to Noel, translated into Hungarian were published by Aranymadár Publishers, Budapest, in 2013.
George (György) Gömöri, Emeritus Fellow of Darwin College, Cambridge, taught Polish and Hungarian Literature at Cambridge. He is a Hungarian-born poet and translator. In 1956 a university student at ELTE and already a published poet, he was a key figure in the organisation of the student march demanding reforms from the communist regime, which escalated into the Revolution. In November 1956 he left Hungary and became a graduate student at St. Antony’s College, Oxford. Since then he has published over fifty books, including Polishing October, New and Selected Poems and Rózsalovaglás (Riding with Roses), his latest collection of poems in Hungarian in 2014 and a book of essays, A rejtőzködő Balassi (Balassi Hiding) also in October 2014. He is a member of the Polish Academy of Arts and Science (Cracow) and has received numerous awards and prizes, the last one of which is the Janus Pannonius Prize for Translation at Pécs, Hungary.
21 May, Roy Rashbrook will talk about Bartók's Travels
As a typical English music student in the late 1980s, one of Roy Rashbrook’s chief frames of reference with regard to Hungarian Culture was the music of Bartók. In English schools, the first thing one is taught about Bartók is that he incorporated Hungarian folk melodies into his music. This puts him neatly into the same category as his British contemporary Vaughan Williams. However, as his studies progressed, so increased his frustration at the apparent lack of musical examples to back up this information. They would always be played excerpts from Bartók's oevre, but never an example of real Hungarian folk music to illustrate the similarity. Having first met, then fallen in love with and eventually married a Hungarian, he was keen to find out more about the folk-music tradition, and was astonished to find a musical language that didn't seem to fit with the music of Bartók at all. The real story, (as ever) turns out to be more complicated and provides a fascinating insight into Hungary's past and cultural development.
Roy Rashbrook was educated at Dauntsey’s School, going on to study Music at Goldsmith’s College and Singing under Alexander Oliver, William McAlpine and Rudolf Piernay at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London. After a brief flirtation with a career in teaching, Roy became a professional singer in 1998, joining the world famous choir of Saint Paul’s Cathedral the following year. He also sings regularly with such groups as The King’s Consort and The Clerks, combining their various performing, touring and recording schedules with his work as a soloist, singing teacher and conductor. He has conducted several choirs and ensembles, including the Goldsmiths’ Chorus, The University of London Union Chorus, The Hanover Singers and Candlelight Opera. He is currently musical director of two choirs: Hart Voices (Fleet, Hampshire) and The Chantry Singers (Guildford, Surrey).
Roy has performed as a soloist with many of Britain’s leading orchestras including the City of London Sinfonia, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and the London Mozart Players. In addition to performances in all London’s best-known concert venues, his work has taken him all over the country and throughout Europe as well as to Israel and the States. His recent conducting work includes performances of Holst’s Planets Suite, Rachamaninov’s Vespers, Brahms’ Ein Deutsches Requiem, Mozart’s Requiem, Handel’s Solomon and Rossini’s Petite Messe Solennelle as well as of his own close harmony arrangements of a number of songs taken from the world of film. Recent tenor solo engagements include the rôle of Evangelist in Bach’s St. John Passion at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
June 18, Dr Imre Bangha will talk about Hungarian travellers to colonial Bengal
The talk explores the various approaches Hungarian visitors to Calcutta and other parts of Bengal, mostly scholars, aristocrats and artists, had towards India and its colonial rule. Hungary was not a colonising power and at certain parts of the nineteenth-century rather found itself on the side of the oppressed. Nevertheless, during the period of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy (1867-1918), Hungarian travellers often presented imperial attitudes towards the Indians. The glance of the Hungarians, conditioned by their own background in Hungary, was directed by situational identification with one or another player in Indian politics and culture."
Dr Imre Bangha is Associate Professor of Hindi at the University of Oxford. He studied Indology at Eötvös Loránd University, Hungary and holds a Ph.D. in Hindi from Visva-Bharati, India. He has published English, Hindi and Hungarian books and articles on literature in Brajbhasha and other forms of old Hindi and prepared Hungarian translations from various South Asian languages. His work on the international reception of Bengali culture includes the monograph Hungry Tiger: Encounter between India and Central Europe (2007) and the edited volumes Tagore Beyond his Language (forthcoming) and Rabindranath Tagore: Hundred Years of Global Reception (2014, co-edited with M. Kämpchen).
Thursday 6 November 2014, 7pm Hungarian Cultural Centre
Hungarians in the Ottoman Empire
Hungary and the Ottoman Empire were neighbours for almost 500 years, and the relations between the two varied greatly through that time—often obviously hostile but also, on a more everyday level, mutually beneficial. One indication of the extent of Hungarian-Ottoman contact lies in the surprising number of Hungarians who lived in Ottoman lands. Some of the Hungarians who left Habsburg territory for refuge in the Ottoman Empire after 1848, including Lajos Kossuth, are still widely remembered, but most 'Ottoman' Hungarians are much less known today. Frederick Anscombe will talk about a few of these less-recognized figures and their contributions to Ottoman life, highlighting in particular İbrahim Müteferrika, a native of Kolozsvár who established the first printing press in the empire in 1728.
Born in the US, Frederick Anscombe holds degrees from Yale University and Princeton University, but he has lived in various countries of Europe and the Middle East for most of the last 30 years. Currently he is Senior Lecturer in Contemporary History at Birkbeck, University of London, and his research interests focus primarily upon the history of Arab and Balkan lands since the late seventeenth century. Among his publications are State, Faith, and Nation in Ottoman and Post-Ottoman Lands (2014), The Ottoman Gulf: The Creation of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar (1997), and The Ottoman Balkans 1750-1830 (edited volume, 2006).
Free but booking is required. Please call 020 7240 8448 or email email@example.com.
30 January 2014, 7pm at the Hungarian Cultural Centre
Távlatot kapott az élet (A Life in Perspective): The Hungarian-French sculptor Ervin Pátkai (1937-1985)
A memorial evening with the Rt. Rev. Róbert Pátkai and Mátyás Sárközi
The Rt. Rev. Róbert Pátkai, brother of the artist and Mátyás Sárközi, a widely respected London-based Hungarian writer, will present a personal account of Ervin Pátkai's life and career on the occasion that a new book has been recently released about the Hungarian-French sculptor, published by the Pátkai-Talent Program of the Lutheran Secondary School and Art School of Békéscsaba. The Békéscsaba-born Ervin Pátkai, who left Hungary after the 1956 revolution, is remembered through the memoirs of friends, relatives and contemporaries in the book Távlatot kapott az élet (A Life in Perspective).
The twenty-year-old Ervin Pátkai fled from Hungary to France in 1956 and settled in Paris where he soon started his studies at the École des Beaux Arts' Sculpture Department. After his graduation, he participated in the II. Paris Biennale in 1961 with his monumental public art sculpture, the Kozmosz, for which he was given the Grand Prix of the year. The artwork was purchased and also exhibited for many years by the Musée d'Art Moderne de Ville de Paris. From his grant money, Ervin Pátkai sponsored the Magyar Műhely, the art journal of Hungarian immigrants in France, which was founded by Hungarian artist in 1962.
The public art sculpture works of Ervin Pátkai completely match the leading tendencies of the 1960s emerging post-modern conceptualism. Pátkai's large-scale ferroconcrete artworks are built around one or more axis with labyrinthine paths, which are comparable to an imagined Tower of Babel. Pátkai was elected as member of the selection committee of the Paris Biennale in 1967, and by this time he had already exhibited at several group and international art shows. He started lecturing at the Université Paris Sorbonne in 1970. Later he was invited as member of the art committee of the new urban construction, 'Le Pavé Neuf'. His oeuvre has been acknowledged by the French 'Legion of Honour' Order. He died unexpectedly in Paris in 1985.
In 2006 the Hungarian University of Fine Art organized an exhibition of Ervin Pátkai's artworks and this recently released book finally summarizes his unique artistic approach in the context of such already widely appreciated Hungarian immigrants in France as Judit Reigl, Victor Vasarely, Simon Hantai and Tibor Csernus.
Please note that this event is in Hungarian.
Free but booking is required. Please call 020 7240 8448 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
30 January 2014, 7pm at the Hungarian Cultural Centre
Bridget Guzner: Hungarica at the British Library or the Extraordinary
Journey of the Books of a Hungarian Collector
Bridget Guzner will talk about the birth of what subsequently became the second largest collection of Hungarian books held in any library outside Hungary. After his employment as full-time assistant in 1838, Thomas Watts started acquiring books in all languages for the British Museum Library. With the steady increase of funds, this process culminated in 1870 with the purchase of the library of a lesser known Hungarian collector, István Nagy, a lawyer by profession and founding member of the Hungarian National Economic Society.
His vast collection of printed books, manuscripts, historical prints and maps included rare items of the hitherto finest art collection of another Hungarian, Miklós Jankovich. The talk will take the audience on the journey of this extraordinary repository, making its way into the British Museum. Together with László Waltherr’s collection of pamphlets, also purchased in the 1870s, István Nagy’s books constitute a vivid illustration of the history of printing and Protestantism in Hungary.
Bridget Guzner was born and educated in Transylvania (Romania). After graduating in Phylology at the Babes-Bolyai University in Kolozsvár, she followed her mother’s British roots arriving in the UK in the 1970s. She became a research assistant at the British Library.
Later, she was appointed Curator of the Hungarian and Romanian collections. She took great interest in the collections, organised exhibitions and events, acquired and described old and new material with the purpose of enhancing the appreciation of Hungarian history, language and culture in the UK.
19 February 2014, 7pm at the Hungarian Cultural Centre
Dr Gabriel (Gábor) Rónay: When Hungary Reached Out to Save
Persecuted French Royalists
A little known Hungarian cleric gave succour to 18th century French refugee families in a hitherto unknown eastern ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’ action.
The real-life story of a rescued French family gives substance to Baroness Emmushka Orczy’s fictional adventure yarn set during the reign of French Revolutionary Terror. But this elusive Hungarian rescuer of French aristocrats was not a derring-do Englishman, but a benevolent Hungarian bishop acting on his own.
Dr Rónay chanced on the exploits of Mgr József Fengler, a Bishop of Győr, when his French sister-in-law asked for help to find out what had happened to her ancestors, the Count and Countess de Chabot and their two small children in 1793. What is known for certain is that they managed to escape from their burning ancestral home as the Revolutionary Guard was slaughtering the royalist population of the Vendee. According to family rumour, the de Chabots sought refuge in distant Hungary but the family chronicles for the years 1793-1803
But why Hungary? The de Chabots had no known Hungarian connections. Besides, England was the choice of most aristocrats fleeing the Terror. The facts of the “Hungarian Connection” are stranger than fiction.
Dr Gabriel Rónay is an author, historian and journalist, who worked for 25 years on The Times. He has published over two dozen works on historical topics, both medieval and contemporary. His books have been published in Britain, USA, Scandinavia and Japan. He left Hungary after the crushing of the 1956 Revolution, in which he was deeply involved.
6 March 2014, 7pm at the Hungarian Cultural Centre
Professor András Vedres: New Challenges and Innovation
Professor András Vedres will look at the innovative potential of various countries in general and Hungary in particular. He firmly believes that there is no prosperity without invention, no inventions without inventors, and at last but not least, there is no innovation without inventions.
András Vedres was born in Budapest in 1940. He graduated in Medical Chemistry at Eötvös Loránd University in 1963. He has a secondary degree in intellectual property law, and a degree from the College of Physical Education as a sailing boat instructor. He worked at research laboratories of pharmaceutical companies (EGIS, Richter Rt.) between 1963-1991 and, as a multiple inventor, he has also participated in the development of Hungarian medicines.
In 1989 he has initiated the formation of the Association of Hungarian Inventors, and holds the position that of Secretary General from its inception. Among other things, he was one of the organizers of the First World Meeting of Inventors in 1998. He won the title ’The Inventor of the Year’ in 2000 (for his invention ’Eco-yacht’) and in 2003 (Bicycle with air motor). The International Federation of Inventors' Associations (IFIA) elected him President in 2006 and was duly re-elected in 2010. During his career he has won numerous prizes. He has been granted state awards by the governments of Poland, Belgium, Russia and Croatia.
In 2007 he received the Jedlik Ányos Prize, and in 2011 the President of Hungary awarded him the Officer Cross of the Hungarian Order of Merit for assisting the realization of the EU Patent system. He is a full member of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. Professor Vedres is also the Grand Master of the International Order of Merit of the Inventors.
10 June, Professor Geza Jeszenszky on "National Minorities in Central Europe in British Eyes in the 20th Century"
13 March, Dr Imre Galambos on an early Chinese Republican manuscript on Hungary
14 February, a Poetry Reading by George Gomori and Clive Wilmer.
17 January, Mátyás Sárközi: Párban magányban (Together Yet Alone)
This evening the author introduced his most recent work entitled Párban magányban (Together Yet Alone), a novel based on the strange marriage of the eminent 20th century Hungarian poet Mihály Babits.
Since the political changes of 1989 the London-based writer Mátyás Sárközi has published eighteen books in Hungary: essays, short-stories, diaries, monographs, urban sociography, literary history and two novels. Age does not seem to stop him producing new works almost every year. This year he turned 75 and in a celebratory radio-interview he explained why he doesn't slow down: "As a young man I was a middle distance runner in an athletic club, competing mostly in 1500 metre races. So I know that when the bell rings one enters the finish therefore one has to speed up to remain in the lead".
GEORGE MIKES 100 The author of How to Be an Alien was born in 1912 and died in 1987. To celebrate his centenary the Hungarian Cultural Centre asked Mátyás Sárközi to talk about his one time friend on Thursday 4 October at 7 pm.
17 March 2012, Zoltán Bécsi: ‘The British-French rivalry as a reason to the failure of the Danubian Confederation (1918-1921)’
1918 was the year of the end of the Habsburg Monarchy in its 1867-dualist form of Austria-Hungary. In 1920 the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs initiated a project to reunite the successor states of the double monarchy into an economic union or ‘Danubian Confederation’ centred in Budapest. French-Hungarian negotiations were started early 1920 to achieve this new union. As we know, this project backfired by autumn 1920 following the signature of the Treaty of Trianon by Hungary. The Paris-Budapest negotiations triggered Prague to create the Little Entente (with Romania and Yugoslavia) to hinder this French attempt and it replaced the project of Central European unity polarising the region.
Zoltán Bécsi has a PhD from the Graduate Institute of International Studies of Geneva and a M.Stud. in Historical Research from the University of Oxford. He is a visiting professor of the Geneva School of Diplomacy and International Relations and an external fellow of the Hungarian Institute of International Affairs. Zoltán Bécsi is also a former visiting professor of the Faculty of Law of the Univerity of Pécs, Hungary.
12 January 2012 there will be a lecture by Sir Bryan Cartledge
to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the British-Hungarian Fellowship
18 November, 7pm at HCC
"Dracula's Shadow - The Real Story Behind the Romanian Revolution" is the chilling Cold War account of what actually started the bloody revolution in Romania on December 15, 1989, when church supporters of the dissident Protestant Minister László Tőkés in Timisoara rallied around his church to protect him from the military and Romanian Secret Police, the Securitate. For the first time ever all the participants involved in the secret mission that sparked the Romanian Revolution have agreed to talk in an award-winning documentary by Arpad Szoczi.
19 October, 7pm at the Royal Asiatic Society (RAS) address: 14 Stephenson Way, London NW1 2HD; tel. 020 7388 4539)
Professor Doris Behrens-Abouseif of the School of Oriental and African Studies will talk about " Hungarian Orientalists in 19th C Egypt". The lecture will focus on two Hungarian artists, Károly Lajos Libay and Iván Forray, who made some spectacular paintings of contemporary Cairo. Libay was a rather special artist with a pronounced realistic approach that focuses on people as well as landscape. He produced an album on Egypt to much critical acclaim.
Forray spent a significant part of his life traveling across Europe and he reached even as far as Egypt. His book entitled "Utazási Album Soborsini gróf Forray Iván eredeti rajzai és jegyzetei szerint. Olaszország. - Malta. - Egyiptom." was published in 1859.
"Me and my Shadows". Poet and academic George (György) Gömöri's account of being watched by the secret service of three countries (Hungary, Poland, Romania), interspersed with his poems and translations.
The Empire Stops Here - by Philip Parker
The Roman Empire was the largest and most enduring of the ancient world. From its zenith under Augustus and Trajan in the first century AD to its decline and fall amidst the barbarian invasions of the fifth century, the Empire guarded and maintained a frontier that stretched for over 10,000 kilometres, from Carlisle to Vienna, from Budapest to Antioch, and from Aswan to the Atlantic. Far from being at the periphery of the Roman world, the frontier played a crucial role in making and breaking emperors, creating vibrant and astonishingly diverse societies along its course which pulsed with energy while the centre became enfeebled and sluggish. Rome’s Danubian provinces of Pannonia and Moesia lay at the heart of its defence, acquired in the first decades AD, becoming some of the most heavily militarized areas in the whole empire and experiencing waves of barbarian invasions from the 2nd century onwards. In his book The Empire Stops Here, Philip Parker traces the course of those frontiers, visiting all its astonishing sites from Hadrian’s Wall in the north of Britain to the great Danubian cities of Vindobona (Vienna), Carnuntum, Aquincum (Budapest) and Viminacium, telling the fascinating stories of the men and women who lived and fought along it.
Philip Parker was born in Liverpool in 1965. As a publisher he ran the Times books list, including works on Ancient Civilizations and The Times History of the World. He has travelled widely in Europe, North and South America, North Africa, Asia and Australia. He lives in London with his partner and daughter.
15 October - Freedom of Expression - Toward a Comparative Analysis of the Hungarian Case Since 1990, by Mihaly Szilagyi-Gal
The fall of the state-socialist dictatorship in 1989 has provoked a fundamental transformation of the meaning of the public sphere in Hungary. These changes range from the legal and political guaranties of the freedom of expression established in the nineties for the first time since the late forties to, the some recent suggestions toward the new limitation of freedom of expression as a possible means against the dynamically increasing extreme right. The dilemma Hungarian democracy faces is to respect the freedom of those who make their intention explicit to undermine this still fragile democracy. With its extended media presence both print and online the entire scene of the extreme right embraces an even larger public area than the fourteen percent of the votes their political representation, the party Jobbik (Righter) has won on the last European elections and has managed to delegate three representatives to the European Parliament. The wide media scene of the extreme right does not only disseminate racism, homophobia and anti-Semitism, but it essentially contributes to the mobilization of the most dedicated fans to physically threaten well-identified social groups for their ethnic or sexual identity all over the country. The main thesis of the lecture is that what guaranties the successful expansion of these extremist groups is their capability to create a new media rather than their appearance in the classical political system. Further it is their especially wide cultural area of action and style ranging from traditional xenophobic cultural communication to mass-culture that makes them especially visible players of the media map of the country. The lecture briefly reconstructs the presence of right-wing radicalism in the media as well as the short legal and political history of the phenomena. Although the presentation is focused on Hungary, a comparative European perspective is also addressed.
Mihály Szilágyi-Gál is a lecturer at the Institute of Arts and Media, ELTE University of Sciences Budapest. He studied philosophy and political science in Budapest, Debrecen, and Tübingen and received his doctorate degree in philosophy in 2007 from the University of Debrecen. His area of research is focused on topics in politics and media as well as in modern political philosophy. He has also published many articles in the Hungarian press about politics and media.
29 September - Touching a nation's heart: Sir E. Denison Ross and his study of Alexander Csoma de Koros by Imre Galambos at the Royal Asiatic Society (14 Stephenson Way, London NW1 2HD, tel. 020 7388 4539), 7pm.
The papers of Sir Edward Denison Ross (1871-1940) at the Archives of SOAS include a series of letters from Hungary thanking him for his contribution in bringing the world’s attention to Alexander Csoma de Kőrös (1784-1842). Some of these letters were produced collectively by learned societies and signed by dozens of male or female members, but many were written by ordinary people expressing their admiration for Csoma, the traveller who had walked on foot from Transylvania to India in search of the roots of Hungarian language and culture. This lively response was a result of a lecture Ross delivered on 5 January 1910 at the Asiatic Society of Bengal in Calcutta, which became a sensation in Hungary in a matter of weeks. In this paper I would like to look at the phenomenon of how Ross’s purely academic research, to use Albert von Le Coq’s words, “touched a nation’s heart” and earned him a celebrity status in Csoma’s homeland.
Imre Galambos studied Chinese language and literature in China, Hungary and the US. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of California at Berkeley with a dissertation on the orthography of early Chinese writing. Since then, he has been working for the International Dunhuang Project at the British Library, studying medieval Chinese manuscripts and palaeography. Beside the field of manuscript studies, he has also been studying the history of the exploration of the Silk Road.
26 March 2009 - Budapest and London - Rivers and Bridges
Sandor (Alex) Vaci has been a lover of London for half a century and has walked the streets of Budapest taking snapshots of doorways for his recent exhibition. The idea for this talk arose from a plan to take two friends for a walk along the south side of the river Thames looking at the bridges and anything else that took their fancy, and evolved into a parallel history of bridges. But one cannot talk about bridges without the rivers and cannot talk about rivers without the buildings along their banks. They form a kind of river-entity. Vaci also dwelled on the works of William Tierney Clark for he, who designed both the Hammersmith Bridge in London and the Széchenyi Chain Bridge in Budapest, is the historic connection between the two cities.
Sandor Vaci is a trained architect (member of the Royal Institute of British Architects) with numerous British-Hungarian interests. He was the curator of the Hungarian Architecture Today: Modernist and Organic at the RIBA and Glasgow in 2004 as part of the Magyar Magic programme. Last year he had an exhibition about Budapest Doorways (photos of which have been collected over several years of walking the historic city centre) at the Gödör Klub in Budapest.
26 February 2009 - Seeing Through the Glorious Fin-de-Siecle: An Overview of Hungary before WWI
In his stimulating talk Sébastien Pant talked about the political, economic and social situation in Hungary at the turn of the 19th century and assessed just how much of a 'golden age' Hungary was experiencing at this time. He examined the way in which Hungary's political system functioned by looking at Hungary's relationship with Austria, the major political parties and their policies, electoral practices, or the feeling of suppressed Hungarian national sentiment for example. He also focussed on the major economic advances made during this period; and both the new and older social questions that affected Hungary.
Sébastien Pant is a PhD student at the University of Southampton. His thesis is focused on the particularly interesting case of multi-ethnic Hungary at the end of the nineteenth century and examines the impact of the "nationality question" on Hungarian politics during that period.
10 June 2008 - Dr Susan Whitfield: Aurel Stein: Savant of the Silk Road
Aurel Stein was an extraordinary man respected and loved by many during his lifetime, but now largely forgotten except by specialist scholars. Although many others travelled and excavated at Silk Road sites in the first decades of the 20th century, in terms of numbers of expeditions, items collected, reports generated, photographs taken, maps drawn, publications and scholarship Stein outdid all others. This was depiste having a full time job and a large circle of friends, colleagues and dependants whom he never neglected.
In her illustrated talk, Susan Whitfield introduced Stein, his life, dogs, friends and work. She also talked briefly about what is being done today to make Stein's legacy accessible to scholars and others worldwide.
Dr Susan Whitfield is Director of the International Dunhuang Project at the British Library, working with scholars worldwide on bringing the Stein and other collections together on the internet. She is an historian of China and the Silk Road and has travelled and written widely on both. Her books include 'Life Along the Silk Road' and 'Aurel Stein and the Silk Road' (Stein Aurél, a selyemút felfedezöje).
Dr Ben Lucas: In Praise of a Psychopath - the poetry of Attila Jozsef through the eyes of a Psychiatrist, on 13 May 2008
This excellent talk generated a lively discussion about the relationship between his psychological development and his work. Dr Lucas used the poems Mama, Kesei Sirato, Tiszta Szivvel, Szamvetes, Ime Hat Megeltem Hazamat, Gyermekke Tettel, Then (English title)
Married to a Hungarian wife, Dr Lucas has had a gradual and pleasingly late exposure to Hungarian literature. He was first bowled over by Jozsef Attila when he saw a Hungarian film which featured a reading of Tiszta Szivvel and was struck by the similarity between the sentiment expressed in this near perfect poem and the self-narrative of some of his patients, especially those with personality difficulties. Dr Lucas has been a consultant psychiatrist in the NHS in London for ten years, working mainly with people with severe mental illnesses, but also with those with more enduring forms of psychiatric problems such as personality disorder. This similarity intrigued him to find out more about Jozsef's poetry and how his poems may have been influenced by his life.
Jessica Duchen's book launch of her latest book, entitled Hungarian Dances, on 4 March 2008
Jessica Dutchen has written her best book yet, the story of Karina, a violinist, mother, wife and lover, and the chasms in her life and background - an immigrants' child married to Julian from the manor, her parents Denes and Erszebet fleeing oppression and their own country, her grandmother Mimi a brilliant violinist from the despised Roma - that only love and music can even hope to cross.
Some books will open your eyes to another world - this one is even more generous. The story takes us from the inequities of pre-war Budapest, the glitter of war-time New York, and the brutalities of post-war communist Hungary to a London train crash and the cynical dynamics of 21st century public transport policy.
Reading it the first time, I just wanted to keep turning the pages because I was so involved with the characters and the story. Re-reading the last few chapters to write this, I found myself sucked in once again, but more able to appreciate how the story works as well as it does because it too leaps these chasms, and takes us with it.
Magda Czigány, author of the book Kényszerű tanulmányúton (translatable into English as On Involuntary Field Trip), came to England after the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 as a refugee student, wishing to continue her studies as soon as possible. She was one of over 300 Hungarian students who eventually successfully finished their studies at British universities, at least to first degree level. Her book is a useful sociological study for anyone committed to explore the entire field of the motivation, aims and dreams, as well as practical and emotional difficulties of the roughly 200 000 Hungarians who left their country in the wake of the Soviet suppression of the uprising. But it is also a successful amalgamation of her personal narrative and the anecdotal and statistical evidence describing both the welcome extended to, and the challenges met by, the students who arrived in England with little or no English, little or no preparation for life in a foreign country, often burdened by loneliness, worry about friends and relatives at home, and about their own and their country’s future. Probably the two main conclusions to be drawn from this survey are that British academe, and the society it reflected, showed themselves at their best: charitable, with a tremendous organistional ability which demands little the State, and capable to feel deeply for the misfortune of a foreign nation in the midst of Britain’s own profound political and moral crisis over Suez, and that regardless of all the goodwill and material help, the newly arrived students had to overcome gigantic difficulties before they left higher education with fully earned degrees and, in some cases, exceptional distinction.