The Hungarians: A Thousand Years of Victory in Defeat by Paul Lendvai
This is a comprehensive history of a legendarily proud and passionate but lonely people. Much of Europe once knew them as 'child-devouring cannibals' and 'bloodthirsty Huns', but it was not long before the Hungarians became steadfast defenders of Christendom and fought heroic freedom struggles against the Tartars, the Turks and, among others, the Russians. Paul Lendvai tells how, despite a string of catastrophes and their linguistic and cultural isolation, the Hungarians have survived as a nation-state for more than 1,000 years. He traces Hungarian politics, culture, economics and emotions, from the Magyars' dramatic entry into the Carpathian Basin in 896 to the brink of the post-Cold War era. Lendvai brings to life the short-lived revolutionary triumphs of 1848-9 and 1918-19; the traumatic Treaty of Trianon (1920) which deprived Hungary of Transylvania and other historic Magyar lands; and the successive Nazi and Communist tyrannies. These are among the episodes that have formed the consciousness of the Hungarian people. Through anecdotes of heroes and traitors, victors and victims, geniuses and impostors, Lendvai conveys the multifaceted interplay of progressivism and economic modernisation, versus intolerance and narrow-minded nationalism, on the grand stage of Hungarian history. This work is a blend of narrative, irony and humour; of occasional anger without taboos or prejudices. It also offers an authoritative key to understanding how and why this corner of Europe has produced such a galaxy of great scientists, artists and entrepreneurs.