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Reading: On the Spot and Take Away Libraries Libraries had a special significance in keeping free thought alive in Hungary during the Communist era. They were a link to the past, and also to the free world. Big libraries regularly ordered basic social science works, and they were accessible to all university students. That was an intrinsic characteristic of the mild totalitarianism of the régime in Hungary: expertise was more or less allowed to develop – it just wasn’t used (or very little of it was). In Russia, undesirable books had a special catalogue which was accessible only to reliable comrades. In Hungary, that would have been unthinkable. There were two telltale letters stamped on the catalogue cards of a few hundred openly anticommunist books which were in English or published by émigré Hungarian presses. Z.A. meant restricted, or literally, “closed material”. But they were not really that restricted. Professors could sign requests for students, and the books became available. On the other hand, the library of the Academy was the cradle of the dissident movement. It helped everyone with interlibrary loans. First it tried the Uppsala University Library, and if the book wasn’t there, it contacted an American library. As far as I was concerned, Uppsala had everything. National “Széchényi” Library (Országos Széchényi Könyvtár) I. Royal Castle, Wing F, www.oszk.hu, open Monday 1 p.m. to 9 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. This library is huge and pompous, without being elegant. But the main reading room has nice natural, overhead light. Small electric trains come and go between the glass roof and the false ceiling, making me feel like a railway man with defective hearing when I am here. Still, it’s a singularly appropriate place to spend a whole day sinking into your work. It is located in the

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2011.04.20. 15:50:10

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András Török's Budapest: A Critical Guide  

The Celebrated Insider's Guide, upgraded many times, probably the deepest and funnieast and truest portrait of any major European city. With...

András Török's Budapest: A Critical Guide  

The Celebrated Insider's Guide, upgraded many times, probably the deepest and funnieast and truest portrait of any major European city. With...

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