Tuesday, 19 April 2011

From the same cafe 2

I come here to deal with emails. The day sunny and promised to remain so. It's a rather sweet little shop, chatty and good natured with its customers who drop in to buy lightbulbs and printing cartridges, chiefly older people so far. A different girl behind the counter today, very blonde and a little chubby, laughing in the next room with an old woman.

I forget how wonderful Budapest streets are, or rather, I do not forget but they strike me afresh each time, particularly after a year's break. Those stern faced facades, breaking a little, as far as they dare, towards pleasure, and in many cases into shameless voluptuousness ring bells very far down with me. I can practically smell them.

Yesterday we were walkinmg with L and G to a restaurant and L stopped and pointed to a particular corner of the Liszt Academy and said, 'There is where that childhood photograph of you was taken. I recognized the stones.' The restaurant was in the street I lived in as a child, almost opposite our block. Further down the street is the Fészek Club (The Nest)which was the writers' union club. We ate there a few times in 1989, with the marvellous novelist, Iván Mándy, who, like most of the major writers of the post-war period was to die in the next two or three years. A handsome old gallant. And nearby there is the spot where the New York photographer Sylvia Plachy took the photo of her old employer, André Kertész, standing by the streetsign that bears his name, though he was not the Kertész after whom it was named. (In the same way there is a Szirtes utca in the city, that is nothing to do with us.)

To add to the redolence, the restaurant, M, is one frequented by the poet György Petri, and named after the woman he loved in the poem named for her (she being the wife of another friend of ours, though we met them both much later, after they were divorced.) It is partly the incestuous nature of the city that is so dense with atmosphere. And here in the restaurant are photographs of Petri by the table where he used to sit, and various beermats with writing on them, some possibly by Petri, some by other writers. Brendan Kennelly has a cafe in Dublin that honours him in the same way. So writers become shrines.

But the Liszt exhibition is closed today and we will have to wait till tomorrow.

The radio has a long set of conversations about the new constitution that looks likely to yank Hungary out of the fully democratic sphere. More thoughts on that another time. And more on photography once we get back.

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