John Lukacs, distinguished historian and native of Budapest, offers in Budapest 1900 a rich and eloquent portrait of one of the great European cities at the height of its powers.
Budapest, like Paris and Vienna, experienced a remarkable exfoliation at the end of the nineteenth century. In terms of population growth, material expansion, and cultural exuberance, it was among the foremost metropolitan centers of the world, the cradle of such talents as Bartók, Kodály, Krúdy, Ady, Molnár, Koestler, Szilard, and von Neumann, among others.
John Lukacs provides a cultural and historical portrait of the city—its sights, sounds, and inhabitants; the artistic and material culture; its class dynamics; the essential role played by its Jewish population—and a historical perspective that describes the ascendance of the city and its decline into the maelstrom of the twentieth century.
Intimate and engaging, Budapest 1900 captures the glory of a city at the turn of the century, poised at the moment of its greatest achievements, yet already facing the demands of a new age.
During the period 1896-1906, Budapest, in contrast to its twin capital Vienna, was an optimistic, self-confident, less neurotic, relatively new city, characterized by both virile provinciality and urbane Magyar sensitivity. Lukacs, who has written histories of 20th century Europe and the U.S., here presents a portrait of Budapest's physical and material conditions, its people and politics, their achievements, troubles, art and culture, both around the year 1900 and later, with the rise of nationalism and of anti-Semitism. Budapest's class-conscious society had a tremendous respect for intellectual achievement and an impressive outpouring of talent, but because the Hungarian language is little known beyond its borders, few of its major literary figures achieved prominence elsewhere. Still, an astonishing number of Budapestians have become famous abroad, especially in America, among them Bela Bartok, George Lukacs and Arthur Koestler. This is a reliable account of a beautiful city at the zenith of its prosperity, with a brief final chapter describing the subsequent 80 years. Illustrations not seen by PW. Jan.