6 Books to Read Before Your Budapest Trip | Budapest Local 6 Books to Read Before Your Budapest Trip | Budapest Local

6 Books to Read Before Your Budapest Trip

books set in budapest

Budapest has long been a great inspiration to many writers – and it’s easy to see why. Walking around Budapest, you cannot help but admire the city’s intimate atmosphere, with charming, even poetic cafés that look like they were just made for authors to sit, be inspired and write. Whether you’ve already been to Budapest and miss the complexities of this beautiful city, or you are just starting to plan a trip and want to be inspired – we dug out a few novels that should help you to paint a picture of this unique and magical city called Budapest.

Enemies of the People

This exceptional book by Kati Marton exposes the truth about life and surveillance under the Soviet eye. She elaborates on the many issues her parents faced, including secret police observation and betrayal by both family and friends during the Communist era. This book also tells the story of Marton’s journey as she puts together the puzzle about her family’s and her own past.

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The Invisible Bridge

Paris, 1937. A poor Hungarian-Jewish student, András Lévi arrives from Budapest with a single suitcase and a mysterious letter he has promised to deliver to a young widower, Clara, with whom he immediately falls in love. From a remote Hungarian village to the grand opera houses of Budapest and Paris, from the despair of a Carpathian winter to an unimaginable life in forced labor camps, Julie Orringer’s book is about marriage tested by disaster and about family threatened with annihilation, bound by love and history.

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Budapest Noir

Budapest Noir is a novel by Vilmos Kondor about a crime investigator looking into the death of a Jewish girl in Budapest in 1936. The story focuses on depicting what life was like for the Jewish community in Budapest during that time and does a great job at providing a social commentary on the political positioning of Hungary between the two World Wars.

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The Ninth Circle

In Alex Bell’s book The Ninth Circle, a man wakes up in a flat in Budapest with blood dripping from his head, unaware of who he is or how he got there. He makes friends with a scholar – but begins to receive cryptic clues about his past, the murder of a woman, and, most chillingly, advice to stay away from his only friend. The story follows his efforts to put the pieces of the puzzle of his life – and his past – back together.

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Life is a Dream

Life is a Dream consists of ten short stories, written by Gyula Krúdy, giving a glimpse into life in early 20th century Hungary. This witty collection takes a deeper look into the human condition, focusing on topics such as love, food, sex and death. The stories are described as romantic, erotic, comedic and wistful.

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Fatelessness by Nobel Prize winner Imre Kertész is a semi-autobiographical story about a 14-year-old Jewish boy living in Budapest who was sent to Auschwitz during the Holocaust. He manages to survive and returns to Budapest after the war. Once back home, he has to adjust to life in a city that had completely changed, and come to terms with the full extent of what had happened while he was away.

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About the author: Andrew Davison is an entrepreneur and blogger in Budapest. He runs a startup called Teacher Finder, matching people with language teachers in their city.

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  • Penny S. says:

    Thanks for this list. I’ve only read “Fatelessness” (published as Fateless, in the U.S.) and the Invisible Bridge so I look forward to finding the others. (I’m so glad “Prague” isn’t included in your list, as it seems to be on every other list of books to read before Budapest and it is so tedious and self-indulgent!) I would also suggest “The Door” (1987) by Magda Szabo, a wonderful work of fiction that gives a sense of how memory and loss is inherent in the lives of Hungarians (anything by Szabo is worth reading); “Behind God’s Back” (1911) by Zsigmond Móricz, a story about early 20th-century village life that paints a picture of Hungarian history and life in the past; and “The Radestsky March” (1932) By Joseph Roth, for readers interested in learning about the long, slow disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire through a work of historical fiction (although new publications of this book should include a detailed map of the Empire on the front flap and a map of post-WWI Europe on the back flap, IMO). I read many, many Hungarian authors before coming to Budapest and watched a lot of Hungarian films, in hopes it would help me understand the culture, and I believe it did!

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