Spotlight on: Paul Lendvai


Paul Lendvai is a rather controversial figure in modern Hungarian history. Born in Budapest in 1929, Lendvai became a naturalized Austrian citizen in 1959. He has worked as a journalist covering Eastern European issues, particularly anti-Semitism and political problems in Hungary. In 2010, a pro-government Hungarian newspaper accused him of collaborating with the communists whose rule he fled; Lendvai is highly critical of the current government. Draw your own conclusions.

The main reason for knowing about Paul Lendvai is the incredible literary wealth he has created over his career. His books—in German, Hungarian, and translated into English—paint an excellent historical, political, and cultural picture of Hungary. If you want to study this nation, you can’t avoid reading at least one work by Lendvai. The two I can personally recommend are:

  • The Hungarians: A Thousand Years of Victory in Defeat. Very densely packed, comprehensive history that goes back to just before the Honfoglalás (Land Acquisition). Difficult to read cover to cover, but well organized for picking a time period at random to study. If you want to read about earlier time periods, then try Gábor Hosszú‘s work on Hungarian orthography.
  • Hungary: Between Democracy and Authoritarianism. Read Eva Balogh’s more authoritative review of this book here. Hungarian history is very long and complex, so it’s wonderful to see a book focused on a narrow time period. This one assumes some knowledge of key players in recent politics, but not so much that I wouldn’t recommend it for a complete novice to the topic.

Others from his lengthy list of publications:

Happy reading!


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