That Hungary does not like foreigners unless they are from desired countries (formerly known as prestigious), is an open fact. No one can kiss ass better than a Hungarian (and there are some contenders on the planet, my mother’s country of birth being one), and no one can show you their displeasure and dislike of a situation like one either. And when it comes to what most Hungarians consider “the foreign invasion,” Hungarians are not even subtle when it comes to expressing their views. Hungarians are fine on their own, thank you very much, and they don’t need foreign help. This manifests itself in all kinds of areas but was most recently made very clear once again.
Alexandra (which is close to the name of that other, distinctly non-Hungarian library) prides itself on being a great bookstore chain. They even have signings, in fact there was one going on when I walked in, at least judging by the sign and the man sitting behind the table. One person (whom he probably knew) talking to him does not a successful signing make, but I’ll be fair and add that I might have arrived way past the end, and the signing wasn’t my goal. My goal was a foreign book, one in English, specifically a book – any book – by my current favorite author Paulo Coelho.
I’d gone through countless foreign books sections already, all of which made me laugh. The town we lived in when we were in Germany had a more thorough selection of English books. Here, you could literally count them (the books, not the authors), and Alexandria (on which I admitted my hopes rested) was my last hope. The branch I picked was by Nyugati, the Western Railway Station, which not only is central in terms of location but implies the notion of heading West. For the record, all trains departing there actually head East. The town we lived in when in Germany was a quarter of the size of Budapest, also in terms of population.
The sales person directed me to the back corner when I asked. There, wedged between a card rack (positioned so it was practically blocking access) and a chair (again, blocking access) was the Foreign Books section. Three bookcases standing side by side, of which exactly 1 1/2 contained books in foreign languages. Of these one bookcase (minus about three shelves) contained fiction (and some fact), whereas half of the second bookcase contained books in German on Hungarian food, wine, and Roma music (though, of course, not using that particular word), the rest were Hungarian books translated into English. Which is a good thing, lots of people coming here for various reasons don’t speak Hungarian, so it’s nice for them to read something about their host country. But if Hungarians are really serious about being a global player in the world and invading each and every country that pays better than their home, they need to work on the subtler elements as well. It’s a small gesture, but one that clearly states where Hungary sees anything foreign. Of course, they did have Fifty Nuances of Dreck (you know, that vampire fan fiction that turned into naughty hanky-panky, allowing those who read it to proclaim, “ooh look at me. I’m reading. I’m an interlectual. And yes, this really deserves an emoji at the end. 🙄