It took place 70 years ago and was arguably the greatest battle of the Second World War. So maintains Rodric Braithwaite in this book about the battle of Moscow, which began in September 1941 and continued until spring the following year, when the Red Army finally managed to push back the German invaders who had nearly captured the Soviet capital.
“Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today.” With these opening words Tony Judt launches into his highly acclaimed polemical essay about the ills of the modern world and what can be done to remedy matters. The sentences which immediately follow set the tone and the theme for the entire book.
Travel writing abounds. Authors look for what’s interesting, unusual, informative and, these days, exotic. Not so the award-winning Polish writer Andrzej Stasiuk. He prefers the absolutely normal, unpretentious, sleepy everyday experience found in locations best described as being at the back of beyond.
For the second time within 12 months the Royal Academy of Arts in central London is presenting a major exhibition with a Hungarian theme. Previously art treasures held in Budapest were in focus, now it’s the turn of Hungarian photography, and again an impressive and beautifully produced catalogue with nearly 200 striking images has been issued to accompany the display.
In a corner of Apor Vilmos tér in District XII there stands a monument that takes the form simply of a wall featuring hundreds of names. These are the names of Hungary’s so-called Righteous Gentiles, non-Jews who helped and protected Jews during the Hungarian Holocaust. Paradoxically, the most well-known Righteous Gentile associated with Hungary was not Hungarian but Swedish.
Great seaports have great histories. Names like Genoa, Marseilles, Rotterdam and Liverpool conjure up a multitude of images reflecting hard work as well as frivolity, wealth alongside destitution, a creativity of spirit sometimes matched by a meanness exploding into violence. Such cities have their admirers as well as their detractors, though nowadays fewer people are likely to have strong opinions one way or the other – travellers are more likely to encounter airports than seaports.
Former Budapest Times journalist and editor Michael Logan is the co-winner of the inaugural Terry Pratchett Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now prize. Logan’s novel Apocalypse Cow was up against 500 other entries and he shares the prize with David Logan (no relation) for his work Half Sick of Shadows.The two split the GBP 20,000 cash prize and will get their books published by Transworld.
In what is now called Széchenyi tér, at the Pest end of Budapest’s Chain Bridge, there is a large seated statue of the 19th-century Hungarian politician Ferenc Deák (1803-1876). Despite its size, the monument is not particularly prominent amidst the trees and the swirling traffic, but take a close look at the side of the pedestal facing the Danube and you see an intriguing sculpture depicting two children clasping hands. They also each have a shield, one showing the Austrian coat-of-arms, the other that of Hungary.
This is a collection of writings most of which have been previously published, though not always in English. As such, although they are presented chronologically in terms of their themes, beginning with Karl Marx’s era and ending with today’s global economy, there is a certain disjuncture between chapters. That does mean, however, that they can be read separately, in random order, or even skipped.