Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Same place, different time

Walk around yesterday morning. The place still breaks my heart, it is so beautfiul in its less-than-pretty / more-than-pretty way. We walk past three synagogues, one in the same externally restored but internally abandoned condition, boarded up, the stones bright. Every street corner is exciting. Even the old torn posters and graffiti - mostly inoffensive - carry an energy. I get used to seeing Hungarian faces again, from the refined to the brutal, from the beautiful and young to the worn. We have an omelette for lunch at a cafe called Mozaik. Small and friendly with a lot of books on Budapest. Then we get on a tram and visit my adoptive father-in-Hungary, the marvellous Miklós Vajda, editor, translator, playwright and the author of a wonderful memoir of his mother. Miklós is part aristocrat, and solid gentleman. He is in his eighties now and has restricted movement. His face is a country in itself, much the best aspect of the country: intelligent and courteous and somehow gallant. I first met him in 1984. He is the man who started me translating. We talk books and politics and children and grandchildren. We spend an hour and a half or so before returning to the flat, which is enormous and bare and full of light. I could get lost in it.

Then in the evening to my adoptive brother-in-Hungary, Laci, whose 64th birthday it is. When we first met in 1984 I was thirty-five and he was thirty-seven, just about this time of year. Laci and his wife Gabi are probably the closes people to us anywhere, and it is their friendship that, more than anythinhg, has brought us here now. We eat at a nerarby restaurant, together with their grown children Dani and Linda, Linda's husband András and baby Emma. The restaurant, and Linda's flat, is in a good street. Just udner the flat a bookshop displaying Laci's latest translation, of Endquist, and next door to it, a bar that has become a meeting place for the liberals of the district, including there, we see, Feri Takács, great Joyce expert and occasional actor. Then iot1s in for cake and drinks and talk.

We catch a late trolley bus home. On the way there a young man tried to pick C's bag. Someone else saw it and warned her by tapping her. The man quickly moved down the caírriage. The underpass nearby is missing lights. Today to see the Lisyt exhibition.

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