Gönczi/Winkelmayer: Üdvözlet a Ferencvárosból II (2008)

I don’t think I ever read a book the second time, right after I finished it. I did that to “Üdvözlet a Ferencvárosból II” (Greetings from Ferencváros, vol 2.), but I have a perfectly reasonable explanation. The book’s subtitle, “Ferencvárosi kepeslapok az elmult 70 evbol” translates as “postcards from the Ferencváros in the last 70 years.” The bulk of the book contains 98 postcards reproduced in full size and in full color, for the 43 where the original was not black and white.

At my first “reading” I just paged through the book and looked at each card. At the second I read not just the captions, but also the editors notes, which are organized accompanying the chapters of the book. The structure of the book follows an imaginary traveler, who is arriving to Ferencváros, which is the 9nth district of Budapest. The first set of cards are based on pictures shot from the air; the second covers the area around the bridge on the Danube called Szabadsag; the third around the Petofi bridge; the fourth around Kalvin square; the fifth where two major roads (Ferenc korut and Ulloi ut) meet and the last one has pictures of a housing project from the 1950s. I am aware that these names don’t mean anything to those who are not familiar with Budapest, but wanted to record for myself and for the occasional Hungarian reader of this review.

The editors, Ambrus Gönczi and Zoltán Winkelmayer, did a terrific job in their forward and notes. Via writing a paragraph or two on each card they managed to cover the history of the district and at the same time the history of the postcard industry. This book, being volume two, is restricted to the last 70 years. Volume one, which I didn’t have a chance to read yet, covers the same topic from the beginnings till the end of World War II. I am happy that after just looking at the pictures I decided to read the text as well. They pointed out details I didn’t notice on my own and by comparing pictures of the same area they educated me about its development. I recommend that if you encounter this book (and can) read it too, as you will understand and remember more.

My only regret is that there were no pictures of my two favorite murals, both of which are gone now. Many areas of Budapest were bombed in World War II and many houses were irreparable damaged. They were torn down, but building new ones took some time, sometimes decades. Thus there were huge walls of the neighboring houses exposed, 4-5 story high. This happened on Kalvin square where two of these huge walls had murals painted, both with advertising companies, but both quite nice on their own way. One was depicting a huge tree where the fruits were products of a soap company, while the other was for a company making some skin cream and was showing the naked back of a woman in jeans. This latter was painted by MikLos Erdely, a well-known (and usually painting in a much less figurative style) avant-garde painter. In the 1990’s both of the empty lots were filled with houses, thus the murals disappeared. The book contains pictures of the area, you can even see the walls, but before the murals appeared on them.

I am sure this omission is not the editor’s fault, they just didn’t find any cards with the murals. This was just a minor personal regret, in every other way I enjoyed the book.

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