Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Interlude: London and London

Yesterday the final judging of the Stephen Spender Prize at Stewart House, the University of London, home in the evening, today London again for the launch at the Hungarian Cultural Centre of the paperback version of Adam LeBor's thriller, The Budapest Protocol.

My job was to introduce Adam then talk with him about the book in front of a pretty well packed audience (a vaguely familiar face at the back, Nick Cohen I think, rises to complain that he can't hear so we raise our voices and speak closer to mic but presumably he still can't hear as he goes after ten minutes or so). Other than that it goes well with readings and conversation about the main themes of the book that starts out from the discovery of the Red House Report, a genuine document discovered by the French services after the war, of a meeting between leading Nazi industrialists at the end of the war that has been clearly lost, in which they plan for the establishment of a Fourth Reich through domination of the financial markets by transferring assets out then buying up industries in other countries.

This scheme is being brought to completion in the book, that also deals with the far right persecution of the Roma, the deployment of the Euro, the closing down of the press, and the use of modern computer technology by both plotters and the resistance. There are murders, conspiracies and affairs - things you expect in a thriller, and a great deal about Budapest which is convincingly depicted. (It is, after all, where Adam lives.) There are quite recognisable elements of the Hungarian political scene and I had to work hard not to identify particular characters with their possible originals. One figure suggests the late Jorg Haider, the Pannonia Guard are clearly based on the fascist Magyar Gárda, and the German companies at the core of the plot are modelled on the example of I G Farben. But Adam cautions against much closer identification with specific people, and stresses that the plot is a fantastical extension of certain tendencies rather than an analysis of what exists.

Anyhow, it all accelerates to a grand showdown at the end, everything firmly researched, as you'd expect from a top foreign correspondent.

As a passing curiosity Adam and I are wearing the same leather jacket over a light coloured shirt. Adam points this out in the Caffè Nero where we discuss the evening before it starts. Having finished I head back across Covent Garden where life still goes on, catch the earlier train I was hoping to catch, so arrive home a whole hour earlier.

Tomorrow to UEA and back to discussion of the festival.

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