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1 p.m. Café KINO, a sandwich with Ádám Nádasdy Ádám, the arch-egghead of Budapest, often comes here, since it is not far from his home in Újlipótváros. He is a scholar, a poet, a wit, an iconoclastic university lecturer in English linguistics, an innovative university administrator, and the translator of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet and other Shakespeare plays, and openly gay grandfather of three grandchildren. He is often seen here giving advice to some younger poet, scholar or foreign visitor. He is best enjoyed during one of his lectures, on stage or at his home. To see his home is really a privilege, and almost impossible except if you are invited to one of his parties (which used to happen once every season). His natural habitat is a mixture of high-class art, thousands of books, and low-tech, naff home electronics. Ask about his gloom, about how he tried to reform his university and about the government changes. You can talk to him in English, German, Italian or French. He is much less eloquent in Russian, Polish and Persian. He’s not tall and has a round face with short white hair and a beard. He’s generally a bit stockier than he’d like to be. He is currently translating Dante’s Divina Commedia, with as many footnotes as possible. He still thinks it was a mistake to change from WordPerfect (DOS-version) to MS Word. (V. Szent István körút 7 – 9.) 3 p.m. Café Centrál, with Dr. András Polgár, the egghead philanthropist. András is an economist with a scholarly vein who wanted to reform “existing socialism”, but he was born too late for that. He wandered into privatization and the real estate business, where he proved to be phenomenally successful, consequently, filthy rich. At the age of 50 he decided to give something back to society. He contacted the author of this book, (who was three years his senior in grammar school) for advice, then set up a foundation for Roma education programmes and an ongoing subsidy package for theatre innovation. András is a big, balding, self-ironic personality, a very educated, sophisticated guy, with a keen eye for detail. Not only a generous philanthropist, he is also a reformer of the sector. He demands every cent to be spent properly. He hates summer and the beaches and the usual attractions for rich people. Ask him about good governance, his sons, what theatre performance to attend, but not about the solution of the Roma problem. Then he can get very gloomy. (V. Károlyi Mihály utca 16.) See pages 177 and 372. 5 p.m. The Courtyard of “the nest”, with Miklós Vajda Vajda is the “last literary gentleman”. He was the literary editor, and later the editor of The Hungarian Quarterly, a high-quality journal published in English, which is indispensable for serious eggheads

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anywhere in the world who are interested in Hungary. He is the translator of possibly 100 plays from English. He looks and behaves like a gentleman, has read everything (old and new), and has lived a remarkably colourful life. Born into a wealthy upper-middle class family, he had his cake and ate it too in terms of mothers. His father’s first wife was the greatest actress on the Hungarian stage, and lavished adoration on him. He published his first book at the age of 78, entitled “Mother, in an American Frame” – a concise and beautiful memoir-chronicle of the second part of the 20th century. He has singularly unbiased opinions about life and literature today. Of course, ask him about gloom, and about Hungarian literature in English. Try to get out of him the name of one (just one) Hungarian novel in English that is a must-read for visiting eggheads. The “Nest” (Fészek) is an artists’ club established in 1903 which has always retained some form of self-government, but has become increasingly naff in the eyes of the younger generation, perhaps because the leadership is padded with “favoured” artists. (VII. Kertész utca 36.) See page 372. 7 p.m. Spinoza House, with the Budapest Round Table Buda­ pest-connoisseur-eggheads are an interesting sub-species. You can spot a higher than average concentration of them on the first Tuesdays of the month at the Spinoza House, a Dutch/Jewish/ Hungarian café/theatre/club/cabaret which opened in 2003. The Round Table was established in May 2002 and originally met in the Café Centrál, but wanted to find a more intimate place, a real café, in accordance with the classic café definition: “when you are not at home, but you still don’t have to be outdoors, in the fresh air”. The origin of this quip is a nice “apple of Eris” at the table, and quite a few versions could emerge in five minutes. The real centres of conversation are Mihály Ráday (landmark specialist and former television crusader), Noémi Saly (café historian and eccentric French philologist), Péter Buza (local historian/author/journalist/gentleman, which is a rare concoction in post-1990 Budapest) and myself. There are also others, as the roster changes monthly. An hour earlier, at 6 p.m., a few of them gather as the editorial board of the illustrated monthly Budapest. (VII. Dob utca 15.) See page 201. 9 p.m. Winston’s, with Ferenc Takács for a beer or two Takács is perhaps the most curious fruit of the intellectual orchard that was Budapest over the last 20 years. Gargantuan, rebellious, scholarly, and without ambition (though he married for the second time in the 1990s), he is a storyteller champion and the Joyce and Eliot lecturer at Budapest University. His English

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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