I’m going to briefly talk about the International Comics Festival of Budapest at PesText, a festival celebrating literature in translation.
I have been organizing this festival for at least 5 years (though I’m not sure), and I have been main organizer in the past 2 years. This year, in order to celebrate the 15th festival, I made the event a 5-day affair. Though I will only have a couple of minutes to talk about this lovechild (honestly: each organizer is in love with comics), it has been so much fun assembling these slides and going over the pictures (90% made by Enikő Bianka Dancs), that I have decided to share it.
I got interviewed by one of the coolest Hungarian websites devoted to SF, Próza Nostra, on the occasion that I was the main organizer of the 15th International Comics Festival of Budapest. Contrary to the past 14 years, when the festival meant basically a single Sunday packed with programmes, this year I made the festival last for 5 days. On the first four evenings there were cultural programs (two exhibitions and two roundtables), and the fifth day was a big fair + workshops + talks / interviews.
I am really happy that Próza Nostra interviewed me because it is a rare acknowledgement of my work as organizer, and because the questions were really clever and instead of asking me to recommend programs I was asked to reflect on tendencies in the Hungarian comics scene + broader bookish culture. Thank you!
3/1 I have survived the busiest couple of months of my life. I have been the main organizer of the 5-day (!) 15th International Comics Festival, Budapest. I have also become the chair of the Ninth Art Foundation, a foundation working on promoting comics culture in Hungary. Here is our festival poster, drawn by Miklós Felvidéki, and below are some details:
3/2 As part of the Comics Festival, I curated an exhibition based on the works of three amazing artists who won comics prices last year, Miklós Felvidéki, Olivér Csepella and József Sváb. I gave it the broad title of “A World Hidden in Panels” and I hope that many people who visit Restro Puskin will like the pictures on the walls. The exhibition was opened by András Beck on 10 May 2019.
3/3 On the third day of the comics festival, I had the honor of opening Márk László’s comics exhibition, Very Bad Dreams. I just love Márk’s works.
Around two months ago Adam approached me with the idea of establishing a comics library. He had a vision of a bookshelf of comics donated by nice people. I immeditely loved the idea. We worked on it for two months. Discussed stuff. Made a Facebook page. The next thing we realized was that there are so many comics donated that there is no more place on our bookshelf and we need a new one. And within two days, someone donated a new bookshelf. This is how Hungary’s first comics library opened on 13 Dec.
Here are three things I particularly like about this project and that make me proud:
It is a community initiative. For me, this means two things: everything is done on a voluntary basis, and this initiative has the potential to create a community around comics. If you have followed the news about Hungary recently, you could not have missed the political dissatisfaction that is shared by most Hungarians, even by those who do not protest. The biggest challenge in living in Hungary now, the way I see it, is that communities have been eroded. People do not work together, do not discuss stuff. Everyone is an island, alone (as in Houellebecq’s novel), isolated by what he or she presumes about others, but has never discussed. Moreover, in Hungary people are often suspicious about causes: politics has way to often preyed on causes and gutted them. I have high hopes that this library can be a place for some people to be part of a community and that we can transform the cause of making this library happen into maintaining this library.
The library is located at Nem adom fel café, which translates as I don’t give up café. This is a special place, a community in itself: it is the first café of Budapest run by people with disabilities. They have been extremely welcoming from the first minute. Just like us, they would not have expected that we would open with nearly 400 copies of comics, really good ones, all donated. When it turned out that we need a second bookshelf, they immediately offered extra space for us to place it. I see a parallel between the perception of comics in Hungary and the perception of people. As comics are not visible (few bookshops sell them), people have only stereotypes about them: they are presumed to be non-serious and childish. But comics is more diverse than that. It is rich and interesting and multivocal. Just like people — and this is what Nem adom fel café shows to the world so perfectly. Get rid of your stereotypes, get to know the people and comics around you!
The third thing I like is personal: the experience of working with Adam. He has more experience of community initiatives than I do. I learn a lot about trust. And about the risk involved in trusting a community with making something happen: they might not take part, or some comics might mysteriously disappear. But so far everyone has been positive: we had a lot of shares and positive comments on social media, 3 major news sites shared news about us. And, the best of all, the people who came to the opening really understood what this thing is about: they stayed for hours, they were browsing the collection, and strangers started discussing comics. It was an amazing experience.
We are planning to have some programs, but I think just to announce some dates of silent reading together is as much fun as a more organized program.
Here is our Facebook page, link. You can also find a lot of photos of the opening ceremony, or, rather, opening comics reading.
The Hungarian Literature Copyright Protection Association and Rights management is organizing a two-day conference on the works and heritage of Jenő Rejtő. The event has two roundtables featuring comics artists, and I will be moderating both. What is more, the location of the conference is at a pub, which is the most fitting place to talk about Rejtő’s novels.
Rejtő was a journalist and writer who died in 1943 in a forced labor camp. His novels are witty, funny, really crazy. The status of his works in the Hungarian literary canon is debated by many, especially by those who prefer the strict separation of high literature and lowbrow whatever. I personally do not agree with that, and I admire the syntax and humor of Rejtő’s sentences and his crazy weird plots. I also believe that he could be nicer to women, but I think that is true to most works from his era. 🙂
Rejtő’s novels have been really influential in the history of Hungarian comics. His novels were adapted into the medium of comics by Tibor Cs. Horváth during state socialism. The most successful artist to draw Rejtő-comics was Pál Korcsmáros. Recently, the heirs of Korcsmáros republish digitally reworked versions of the original comics. The artists making these, Zsolt Garisa and Zoltán Varga, will be the guests of the first roundtable, as well as Márton Hegedűs, who proposed to make a comic on Rejtő’s life, though hasn’t received funding yet. (Are there any future patrons among the readers of this post who would support this project?). The final participant of the discussion is Zoltán Ádám Szabó, whose writings on comics I adore. Btw, Rejtő’s novels are adapted into comics even today, the most recent (and hilarous) publication is The Kidnapped Messenger by Ferenc Kiss and Zsolt Garisa.
The second roundtable on Thursday will be on an animation film in the making, the guests will be director Ferenc Varsányi, art director Dávid Cserkuti, and Péter Gelencsér film cirtic.
I had the honor to open the Kids’n’Comics (Kölykök és képregények) exhibition at the Deák 17 Youth Art Gallery on 7 Sept 2018. The exhibition has been curated by Bianka Zsigó, and it features the works of contemporary Hungarian comics artists. Here are some pictures from the opening ceremony — you can still visit this rich and entertaining exhibition till 27 Oct 2018.
Baranyai András l Bernát Barbara l Cserkuti Dávid l Csordás Dániel l Felvidéki Miklós l Fritz Zoltán l Fritz-Majer Nóra l Ghyczy Csongor l Halter András l Kárpáti Tibor l Koska Zoltán l Kovács Viktória l Lanczinger Mátyás l Lakatos István l Oravecz Gergely l Pásztor Alexa l Sárdi Katalin l Stark Attila l Takács Anikó
The bilingual catalog on the history of Hungarian comics that I edited in June has been published! And it is beautiful! Thanks to Judit Vincze for the amazing design!
The catalog is based on the material of our Comics as Narrative exhibition in the National Széchényi Library (14 May – 28 July 2018), and it provides a richly illustrted survey on Hungarian comics on 84 pages. The book is divided into two major sections, one on the history, and another one on the current tendencies of Hungarian comics. The short supporting texts were written by the curators of the exhibition, Ágnes Anikó Patonai, Rita Szűts-Novák, and myself.
On the structure of the volume:
Our introduction reaches back to word and image relations in the baroque emblem, and we also show the beginnings of Hungarian comics in 19th century magazine culture.
Literary adaptation comics were a defining tendency in the history of our comics, and several subchapters are devoted to this characteristic tendency that started in the 1950s. I really like the subchapter when different versions are placed next to each other: adaptations of the same novels by different artists are in dialogue, and so are draft and printed versions of the same page. We also devote a section to one of the most celebrated original author behind these adaptations, Jenő Rejtő, and to the afterlife of adaptation comics in the 1980s and onwards.
Literature is an important inspiration for contemporary Hungarian comics, and so is the quality of self-expression, which is most often associated with poetry (at least in Hungary). The subsections focus on two significant topics in the contemporary scene, alternative realities as in dreams, nightmares and fantasy, and metacomics.
And, as I have said, everything is available in English, not only in Hungarian. 🙂
Thanks for the artists and colleagues who made this amazing catalog possible!