Budapest: Portrait of a City Between East and West
AN ECONOMIST BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR • A vivid and enthralling account of the historical and cultural events that defined Budapest, a unique city in the heart of Europe, on the fault line between East and West—from the critically acclaimed author of Lenin
“A compelling portrait of one of the most important cities in Europe. Full of sharp insights, elegant writing and vivid characters.” —Andrew Roberts, author of The Chief
Victor Sebestyen has written a sweeping, colorful and immersive history of the capital of Hungary, from the fifth century to the present day: a metropolis whose location in Europe has marked it as a crucial city—at times rich and prosperous, at times enduring unbearable hardship. It has stood at the center of the world-changing historical developments for hundreds of years: the Muslim invasion, The Reformation, both World Wars, fascism, the Holocaust and Communism.
Sebestyen mixes colorful details and anecdotes about the people, streets and neighborhoods of his hometown with its rich cultural legacy of literature, music, and architecture. He shows how its people have shifted culturally, politically and emotionally between East and West, through many revolutions, bloody battles, uprisings, and wars of conquest won and lost. He vividly brings to life the many rulers: the ruthless early Magyar, Hun, and Mongol chieftains, celebrated medieval kings and princes, Ottoman Turks, and the Hapsburgs, including the beloved Empress Elisabeth (“Sisi”). We also learn about colorful figures in politics, the arts and the sciences, among them Theodor Herzl, father of modern political Zionism; film pioneer Alexander Korda who held court with the director of Casablanca, Michael Curtiz, young reporter Billy Wilder, and photographer Robert Capa in the glamorous New York Café still going today; Edward Teller, inventor of the H bomb; and Countess Elisabeth Báthory, a cousin of the King of Poland, who became a serial killer, among many others.
Sebestyen’s compelling history of Budapest is a lively page-turner as well as being uniquely revelatory and authoritative account of one of the most important cities of Europe.
Praise for Budapest: Portrait of a City Between East and West
A MOST ANTICIPATED BOOK OF FALL 2023 from Kirkus Reviews
“A fascinating chronicle of Hungary’s storied capital. . . . Filled with fun footnotes and wry asides. . . . After reading [Budapest] you’ll want . . . to see for yourself the city that Sebestyen so lovingly brings to life.”
—The Washington Independent Review of Books
“A sweeping and insightful chronicle. . . . Sebestyen vividly describes the invasions, revolutions, wars, and catastrophes . . . that shaped Budapest as he profiles its notable rulers and citizens. . . . A comprehensive account of one of Europe’s great cities.”
“[Sebestyen’s] love for the city emerges clearly in this engaging chronological account...A beautifully wrought, admiring portrait of a beloved, beleaguered city and its people.”
—Kirkus Reviews, starred review
“This book is a delight. Elegant writing, urbane knowledge, scholarly depth, and a beautifully sketched cast of warlords, writers and empresses, communists and kings. Not just a superb portrait of Budapest but a history of 2,000 years of Central Europe.” —Simon Sebag Montefiore, author of The World
“A compelling portrait of one of the most important cities in Europe. Full of sharp insights, elegant writing and vivid characters, it is a magisterial work spanning 2,000 years from the Romans to the present day.” —Andrew Roberts, author of The Chief
“Magnificent. . . . full of fascinating insights from an author with this city in his blood. Colourful detail and anecdote make it an exciting and often very entertaining read. . . It's vivid, engaging and page-turning.” —Victoria Hislop, author of Maria’s Island
“The most accessible and authoritative history of the city in a generation.” —Times Literary Supplement (UK)
“Incisive . . . Sebestyen writes of his home city with deep knowledge and unabashed affection. . . . Read Sebestyen on Budapest and all you'll want is to read it again.” —Financial Times (UK)
“Forever caught between East and West, the capital of Hungary encapsulates the drama of central Europe in its wonders and horrors. . . . [Sebestyen] excels in describing Budapest's Habsburg heyday, the historical role of its Jewish population and the hubris and humiliations that have helped shape the city.” —The Economist (UK)
"Full of fascinating facts. . . . The narrative swings back and forth between the broad sweep of Hungary's past and the almost tangible sense of the city. . . . For anyone seeking background on Hungary's recent history, this is an excellent place to start." —New Statesman (UK)
"Highly readable. . . . a complex subject, but Sebestyen has written about it before, and his hand is very sure." —The Spectator (UK)
"Not only a rich portrait of a city but also a masterful survey of central European history." —BBC History Magazine (UK)