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
A) Last week (24 May) I was invited to be a participant of a roundtable on the use of popular culture in the classroom, particularly using science fiction in the teaching of literature. The issue has been raised by many educators more qualified to do so than me, as the situation is that Hungarian teenagers have to read a great number of dated texts that border on the unbearable both in terms of narrative techniques and unattractive storylines. This roundtable addressed the issue from an SF angle, plus I was constantly referring to comics and statistics on comics, and, of course, SF comics.
B) This week I’ll participate in a roundtable on the history of comics in Hungary. This is an event linked to the Comics as Narrative/Kép-regény-történet exhibition I was co-curating. It will take place at the National Széchényi Library on 31 May, starting at 5 pm. oszk.hu/konyvtarlat/konyvtarlat-vii-9-jatek-es-kepregeny
The National Library also made a short interiew with me (in Hungarian): link.
I have always dreamed about curating an exhibition of comics, and I am really happy to have been given the opportunity to organize the contemporary section of the comics exhibition at the National Széchényi Library, Budapest.
The exhibition is called “Comics as Narrative – The 9th Art and Its Icons in Hungary” — or “Kép-regény-történet – A kilencedik művészet ikonjai Magyarországon.” It will be a big one (with Hungarian standards), focusing on comics under Socialism and contemporary works. It will open on 14 May and it can be visited until 26 July.
The poster with the eye is actually based on a panel by Miklós Felvidéki, an amazingly gifted Hungarian cartoonist, who received the Alfabéta prize for the best short comic in 2018 (behance.net/nonamefox).
I am honored to be invited to talk at the next meeting of the Popular Culture Research Group at the School of English and American Studies at ELTE, Budapest (EASPop for short).
The talk will be in Hungarian, and it addresses my favourite topic, comics and the body. And behold the amazing poster that the group members have made for me based on a Winsor McCay page that I adore!
I am going to give a public lecture tomorrow (4 Dec 2017) about the body and comics. It is partly based on my dissertation, but most of it is about my ongoing new project on the ways in which the body is involved in reading and interpreting comics. The lecture is aimed at the general public, and it will be in Hungarian. It is part three of a four-part lecture series at the Open Academy of Humanities, Budapest, given by members of the research group I am a founding member of (cf. Narratives of Culture and Identity Research Group.) Each talk is given by a different group member, and we focus on the body in space in as diverse media as computer games, distopic fiction, comics, narratology.
Here is the description of my talk in Hungarian:
III. 2017. december 4., hétfő 18.00 Képregényolvasás és testi referencia
Előad: Szép Eszter.
A képregényt nemcsak nézzük és olvassuk: az értelmezésbe az egész emberi test bevonódik. Az előadás olyan képregényeket vizsgál (főleg Katie Green, Miriam Katin és Joe Sacco műveit), amelyekben az alkotók reflektálnak a képregényolvasás taktilis és testi részére, és ráébresztik az olvasót, hogy mennyire nagy mértékben hagyatkozik testi tapasztalataira.
Helyszín, Pesti Bölcsész Akadémia, ELTE BTK, Múzeum krt. 4-6. Ifjúsági épület, III. em.