The dramatic story of Budapest, a city on the fault line between East and West in the heart of Europe.
Wallis Simpson, Theodore Roosevelt, Benito Mussolini, Evelyn Waugh, the great tenor Luciano Pavarotti, and the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin, were all agreed: the best thing about Budapest is its position. With the Danube, Budapest forms one of the most beautiful cityscapes that exist along a river.
The older side, Buda, looks over at the picture-postcard panorama of modern Pest, developed in the late nineteenth century as the twin capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. But the city is full of reminders of a more distant past, from the second century AD when the Romans located thermal springs in Buda. For around two hundred years from the 1520s most of Hungary was occupied by the Ottoman Turks - just one of the periods when geography and politics placed the country directly on the faultline between East and West.
Throughout history the centre of gravity in Budapest and among Hungarians has shifted between East and West - culturally, politically, emotionally. The shifts have sometimes been violent. Victor Sebestyen describes revolutions, bloody battles, the Uprising of 1956 and wars of conquest: some won, some lost. Others were more peaceful, although the repercussions were no less significant: for example, the fall of Soviet-style Communism. The story of Budapest is dramatic, and full of extraordinary, colourful personalities. This is history on the grand scale.
This book is a delight. Elegant writing, urbane knowledge, scholarly depth, and a beautifully-sketched cast of warlords, writers and empresses, communists and kings. Not just a superb portrait of Budapest but a history of 2,000 years of Central Europe. - Simon Sebag Montefiore
The most accessible and authoritative history of the city in a generation. - TLS
Victor Sebestyen's Budapest is a compelling portrait of one of the most important cities in Europe. Full of sharp insights, elegant writing and vivid characters, it is a magisterial work spanning 2,000 years from the Romans to the present day. - Andrew Roberts
[Budapest is] magnificent, a really fine history. I was completely swept up in it. It's full of fascinating insights from an author with this city in his blood. Colourful detail and anecdote make it an exciting and often very entertaining read. Victor Sebestyen brings the key heroes and villains in Budapest's history to life. It's vivid, engaging and page-turning. - Victoria Hislop
The task Victor Sebestyen sets himself is to explain both the 'boundless blindness' (in the words of Crown Prince Rudolf) and the 'extraordinary courage' (in Sebestyen's own) that have led Hungary to make the choices she has. The result is highly readable ... [Sebestyen] is excellent on the interwar regent Miklos Horthy. In fact he is excellent on 20th-century Hungary generally. It is a complex subject, but Sebestyen has written about it before, and his hand is very sure. - NEW STATESMAN
Victor Sebestyen is the acclaimed author of TWELVE DAYS (W&N, 2006), REVOLUTION 1989 (W&N, 2009) and 1946 (Macmillan, 2014). He was born in Budapest. He was a child when his family left Hungary as refugees. As a journalist, he has worked for numerous British newspapers, including the EVENING STANDARD, DAILY MAIL and THE TIMES. He reported widely from Eastern Europe when Communism collapsed and the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. He covered the wars in former Yugoslavia and the breakup of the Soviet Union. At the EVENING STANDARD he was foreign editor, media editor and chief leader writer. He is an associate editor of NEWSWEEK.