Your bookshops #6 Írók Boltja

Tina runs Bookshare Faversham, a brilliant book club where every participant reads and talks about a different book. Here, proving holidays are the perfect time to go bookshopping, she has written about her recent trip to The Writer's Bookshop in Budapest.

1061 Budapest, Andrássy út 45th, 1061 Hungary
Tel: +36 1 322 1645
Published: 5th October, 2015

Írók Boltja is hardly a bookshop around the corner for me. It is on one of the busiest streets in the heart of Budapest, Andrássy út, which stretches from the Hungarian Parliament to Heroes Square in the City Park cutting right through the Jewish Quarter of the city. One sunny autumnal day at the end of September I was holidaying in Budapest, walking the length of the tree-lined Andrássy út, sightseeing, when I was delighted to stumble across an independent bookshop to delve into.

Írók Boltja – translated as ‘The Writer’s Bookshop’ – is known for selling Hungarian literature and is the city’s favoured spot for writers and poets. Entering a bookshop is always exciting, but entering a bookshop full of books in an unknown language is quite a different experience. Many books are recognisable, ignoring the titles but gazing at the familiar images on their covers, which makes it a real jolt to one’s brain to open the cover and see pages and pages of words you just cannot read!

Despite these initial language hurdles I was determined to explore the shop because I could tell it was my kind of place due to the following clues: the shop has floor to ceiling wooden book shelves complete with library ladders, it is full of old time charm, it felt romantically European, full of history, authentically literary, learned and intellectual, they provided tables and chairs to sit and read/study, and it was absolutely ram packed with books.

My adventurous spirit was particularly well rewarded when I found an English section within the shop. There were four book cases of novels in English. The selection was carefully curated and interesting: Bukowski, Heller, Hemingway, McEwan. But there was one book case of the four I was particularly drawn to, the case of novels/memoirs by Hungarian authors translated to English.

When I go on holiday, I love to buy books set in the places I’m visiting so I immediately started to scour the shelves for novels/memoirs set in Budapest and I chose two memoirs: Dossier K by Imre Kertész and My Happy Days in Hell by György Faludy. 

I had never heard of either of these authors (even though one of them, Kertész, won the Nobel Prize for Literature!) but I am fascinated by 20th century history, ordinary people’s experiences during the powerful events of the last century and the conflicts and questions still being re-visited today as a result of these events. Budapest is at the very heart of these conflicts. In 1944 the city was occupied by the Nazi regime, 50 per cent of the city’s c200,000 Jews were killed at this late stage in World War Two and the Soviets defeated the Germans and begun to occupy the city and Hungary as a whole. The communist soviet regime then proceeded to rule Hungary and Budapest until the fall of the regime in 1989. The last soviet troops left Hungary in 1991. 

I find the impacts of this eventful and terribly damaging history on modern society in Hungary absolutely fascinating, and as such there couldn’t be two better books or a better bookshop for me to have stumbled across in the beautiful city of Budapest.

Well done to Tina for not letting language be a barrier and for persevering until she found the English translations, and thank you for introducing us to Írók Boltja. If you'd like to know more about the book club she runs, have a click here

Also, long-time readers may be interested to know this is actually Tina's second appearance on The bookshop around the corner – she was my un-named tour guide here.

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