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The Hungarians is the most comprehensive, clear-sighted, and absorbing history ever of a legendarily proud and passionate but lonely people. Much of Europe once knew them as child-devouring cannibals and bloodthirsty Huns. But it wasn t long before the Hungarians became steadfast defenders of the Christian West and fought heroic freedom struggles against the Tatars (1241), the Turks (16-18th centuries), and, among others, the Russians (1848-49 and 1956). Paul Lendvai tells the fascinating story of how the Hungarians, despite a string of catastrophes and their linguistic and cultural isolation, have survived as a nation-state for more than 1,000 years. Lendvai, who fled Hungary in 1957, traces Hungarian politics, culture, economics, and emotions from the Magyars dramatic entry into the Carpathian Basin in 896 to the brink of the post-Cold War era. Hungarians are ever pondering what being Hungarian means and where they came from. Yet, argues Lendvai, Hungarian national identity is not only about ancestry or language but also an emotional sense of belonging. Hungary's famous poet-patriot, Sándor Petofi, was of Slovak descent, and Franz Liszt felt deeply Hungarian though he spoke only a few words of Hungarian. Through colorful anecdotes of heroes and traitors, victors and victims, geniuses and imposters, based in part on original archival research, Lendvai conveys the multifaceted interplay, on the grand stage of Hungarian history, of progressivism and economic modernization versus intolerance and narrow-minded nationalism. He movingly describes the trauma inflicted by the transfer of the historic Hungarian heartland of Transylvania to Romania under the terms of the Treaty of Trianon in 1920--a trauma that the passing of years has by no means lessened. The horrors of Nazi and Soviet Communist domination were no less appalling, as Lendvai s restrained account makes clear, but are now part of history.
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'[A] glorious, immensely readable book.' ----Economist
'The writing of national histories is . . . justified by the erudition and intellectual brilliance of the [author]. To this one must add, as a special attraction, the charm, wit and healthy cynicism of The Hungarians.' ----Istvan Deak, Times Literary Supplement
'A pleasure to read. . . . Mr. Lendvai has done a remarkable job. His book is easily the best history of Hungary in English. . . . What s remarkable is how many extraordinary individuals, admirable and otherwise, we come across in this small nation's history.' ----Stephen Goode, Washington Times
Paul Lendvai fled to Vienna in 1957, months after the Soviet repression of the rising in his native Hungary. For twenty-two years he worked for the Financial Times, then became head of Radio Austria International. His previous books include 'Blacklisted: A Journalist's Life in Central Europe'.
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