Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Where to Write a Novel in....Budapest, Hungary

As part of a wider programme to expand the remit of this blog beyond its Kartvelophile roots, and towards a larger (if Georgia-centric) exploration of Ways and Places to be a Decadent Bohemian Novelist (on a freelance ghostwriter's salary or graduate student's stipend), I bring you the international edition of "Where to Write a Novel In...":

Budapest is a horrible city. However, in its bleak and filthy melancholia, Budapest (unlike, for example, London), is a fantastic city in which to write a novel. Beautifully decayed, gleefully seedy, and the perfect place to contemplate ending a tragic love affair while sitting in tepid hair-infested sweat-water at  the Gellert Baths and ruminating on the existential filthiness of mankind, Budapest is filled with the sort of places in which you can scribble away entire novellas of infidelity, moonshine, and man's tendency toward sin at a moment's notice, preferably while eating cake.

I visited Budapest from Vienna in late 2008, perhaps unsurprisingly while stiff-upper-lipping my way through the last days of a tragically doomed Romance (as one does), and reacted all too defensively to the city's raucous despair. However, the art-house Urania Cinema (and Cafe), where my Belarusian friend A. ("I am from Minsk, and even I find this city depressing!") and I ended up after a failed attempt to find a jazz club (predictably, it had been turned into a strip joint), managed to help me transubstantiate my misery into high art (and cake). The cinema programme is highbrow enough for me to forgive the fact that it's no longer a theatre, and the cafe looks like what would have happened if William Morris had taken LSD and stumbled onto the Orient Express.

We watched the excellent Miss Pettigrew Lives for A Day and I hatched an idea for a novel...

Urania is located at Rakoczi Utca, 21, near the Astoria Metro Stop

3 comments:

Slow Learner said...

I'm afraid I must disagree - Budapest is a lovely city.
There's a little too much concrete, and the Catholic kitsch is a bit over done in some places; however, any city with something akin to the Szechenyi Baths deserves rather more slack than you're giving it.
There's also quite a fine museum (whose name escapes me, unfortunately), and an excellent little winery that does tastings up in the castle, and that's just what leaps to mind. Certainly after 4 days I felt I had short-changed Budapest a little, and I want to go back.

Jennifer said...

Slow Learner, I'm curious, but when did you go to Budapest? I grew up there, and back in the 90s it was a really wonderful place with lots of culture and life. People were nice and the city was beautiful. But each time I go back there to visit family, it just depresses me. Parts in the main centre have turned into "artificial" tourist spots, and the rest have just been neglected. I was there in March and it really depressed me to see how downhill the city has gone.

Fleur Flaneur said...

I'm amused that my "horrible city" mark was taken so literally - I meant it in a slightly tongue-in-cheek way (as opposed to my feelings towards London). Budapest, I find, is bleak and depressing, but in a very *poetic* and interesting way that makes me actively want to go back there: it's active melancholy rather than mere ugliness. It's "gleefully horrible," I suppose...