Page 178

350

Reading: on the spot and take away

huge part of the Castle overlooking Buda. The easiest way in is by the special lift from Dózsa György tér. Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and Letters (MTA Könyvtár) V. Arany János utca 1., www.mtak.hu, open Monday to Friday 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Until its renovation in the mid-1980s this library was housed in the adjacent historically protected building (to the left of the main entrance on the ground floor). The building was built between 1862 and 1865 and the reading room had not changed since the 1860s, with oil paintings of benefactors, famous scholars and writers on the walls. There were only 38 seats, of which four were reserved for the academicians who hardly ever came. It only slowly dawned on me that this library, where I once religiously spent every day, was the hub of the dissident movement. These days the quietest seats in the new library are near the smoking area. The lower the number, the better the seat. It’s a modern library with hundreds of seats and tailor-made furniture that is mildly posh. Now you don’t have to wait two days for some of the books you want, the floor doesn’t creak, and there are computers. Yet… you know what I mean. Parliament Library (Országgyűlési Könyvtár) V. Kossuth tér 1 – 3., www.ogyk.hu, open Monday to Thursday 9 a.m. to 7:45 p.m., Friday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. As a student I sometimes went to this library inside the celeb­ rated Parliament building. I discovered that the beautiful leather-bound volumes around the gigantic reading room were the Unites States congressional papers. But when I wanted to use them, they turned out to be entirely un-catalogued. I was given a ladder to look at them, and I eventually found what I needed. The library is still beautiful, but still makes one sleepy. There is still no catalogue for the United States congressional papers, but there are some new computerized services. The other major change is in the actual building, which is being used for its original purpose again. A visit to this library will save the tourist a trek around the rest of the building. Budapest Public Library (Központi Szabó Ervin Könyvtár) VIII. Szabó Ervin tér 1., www.fszek.hu, open Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Before the great reconstruction of 1998 to 2002, there was a lovely sign in the cloakroom which was a citation from the great 19th century poet, János Arany:

PARK_Budapest_belivek_v065.indd 350-351

Reading: on the spot and take away

351

“Oh, what a burdensome life / Dressing and undressing every morning and evening.” (“Ah, kínos élet: reggel, estve / Öltözni és vetkezni kell!”) The new library is incredibly superior, except for this missing sign. The entrance is on Reviczky utca, just off of Kálvin tér. See Walk Three, page 188–189. University Library (Egyetemi Könyvtár) V. Ferenciek tere 6., www.konyvtar.elte.hu, open Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Established in 1561, this library was transferred to the Buda Castle in 1777. It has been at this location in Pest since this building was completed in 1876. It was seriously damaged when the metro was built under it in the 1970s, and has just been renovated. The main reading room on the first floor was traditionally the place where medical students spent their lives. It has an awesome, cathedral-like quality. Sitting here, students feel like they will never be able to remember everything on exam day. Among the valuable treasures housed here are 171 codices, including 11 of the famous Corvinas from the legendary library of 15th century King Matthias Corvinus. They also have a Greek gospel from the 11th century. Central Foreign Language Library (Idegennyelvű Könyvtár) V. Molnár utca 11., www.oik.hu, open Monday to Friday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. (on Wednesdays only from noon). This building was a YMCA before the war, but the only reminder is a word under the front door mat: SALVE. After “the changes” (the previous ones) it became a Russian language library, but from the early 1960s it began to collect literature in a dozen or so other languages. It is still, however, popularly called “the gorky”. The reading room on the first floor has been redecorated three or four times since the 1980s, but except for the name change and the removal of Gorky’s bust, hardly anything else is different. The new music collection, however, is a fine improvement.

Twelve Books not to Miss My friends from Western Europe remark with surprise on the number of books in the homes of Budapesters. Because of a high level of state subsidies, books were cheap compared to many other forms of entertainment in the 1970s and early 1980s. In 1989 the monopoly held by several state publishers disappeared and some 400 small publishers sprang up. Anyone can publish a book in Hungary. Books are sold everywhere from the streets and the pedestrian underpasses to the supermarkets, which is also quite

2011.04.20. 15:50:10

Profile for Andras Török

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...

Profile for andraas
Advertisement