Adam Lebor’s Hungarian thriller—The Budapest Protocol

A change of pace for today. Adam Lebor, a journalist and author of six non-fiction books (as well as a reader of this blog), sent me a copy of his first novel, The Budapest Protocol (Reportage Press, 2009). It’s a page-turning thriller with a dark plot. Inspired by the Red House Report, a U.S. intelligence document from 1944 that outlined the plans of German industrialists for post-war operations, it delves deep into a conspiracy to establish a fourth Reich across the European Union. This time there is no need for military dominance; with local gendarmerie only too willing to keep troublemakers in check, major German capitalists can buy up media companies, control elections, and perform a little pharmaceutical magic to annihilate the Gypsy population.

Although this is a work of fiction and the main plot may seem a bit strained, the author is knowledgeable about the Hungarian scene. He introduces the reader to a shadowy world and takes him to places in Budapest not in any tour guide. He is not shy about exposing the country’s underbelly of corruption, where money and favors are exchanged for silence about deeds past and present. Throughout the book we encounter acts of provocation, violence, even murder.

Much of the material for this chilling tale comes straight from current Hungarian politics. Anyone with a sense of foreboding about the future of Hungary won’t sleep well after reading The Budapest Protocol. But some restless sleep is a small price to pay for a gripping, haunting read.

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Paul Hellyer

This book certainly has a fascinating premise: i.e. the rise of the Far Right in present-day Europe is a result of the Nazi’s actually “winning” WWII. However as a novel, I have my doubts about it. Yes, there is a strong sense of “place” in the novel, (modern-day Budapest), but that is often at the expense of character and plot. Both elements lack believability. The book is also let down by some very shoddy editing:, not least of which is the irritating lack of accents on nearly all Hungarian words, and the seemingly over-arching need to explain everything, just so we really, really understand. For example, author feels the need to explain what a “honey trap” means as if he writing a Wikipedia entry. To explain that the Nyguati railway station is the Western one is, well, redundant at best. And to write “You Tube” as two words is just plain silly.
As I say, a great idea, but he really could have done with a much better editor.

Adam LeBor

The Budapest Protocol is written for international non-specialist readers of crime fiction/thrillers. Unless they have been to Budapest they will have no idea that Nyugati is the western railway station. How could they?
You have a point about accents. In line with many publishers dealing with Hungarian themes we decided to forego the accents as some of the accents (eg the two oblique strokes) add considerably to the cost of typesetting. When I wrote my biography of Slobodan Milosevic we did not have any Serbian accents. This is not ideal, but that is how publishing is at the moment.
You tube as two words is one of the minor errors that inevitably creep into every manuscript. I think/hope the book raises larger, and more important issues than this nit-picking, but perhaps I am wrong. Thanks anyway for buying it.

Erik the Reader

Also Adam Lebor’s book titled City of Oranges sounds interesting, tells the stories of the Israeli town Jaffa from different viewpoints.
Especially is interesting nowadays when in the front news we see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the drama and genocide suffered by Palestinian civils as we could see truthfully depicted in the 2008 documentary of BBC titled The Birth of Israel. Regarding The Budapest Protocol it would be interesting to see with what eyes the author sees Hungary as we are accustomed that foreigners often present a twisted, biased view which have little in common with Hungarian realities or facts.
Regarding the future of Hungary I am confident that it will lay in good hands, in the hand of Fidesz. Hungarians will be happy to get rid of the country destroyer leeches of MSZP who according to their own leader Gyurcsány did nothing in 4 years.
After 8 years in government and after the lost of their core base of supporters it is clear that MSZP and SZDSZ do not represent the interest of Hungarian voters
or Hungary itself but those of foreign circles.


Hey Erik… the thing is, leeches have medicinal properties. So maybe think of some better animal metaphors. Maggots for example, can be used to help cauterise open wounds. So we have to be careful. Most creatures in nature have a purpose of sorts, in the wider scheme of things. That’s the miracle of evolution.
Personally, I’d be very happy if Fidesz ushered in a New Golden Age of Hungary, with Viktor playing King Mattyas as a tireless campaigner for social justice and the rights of all. I’d also be quite surprised.
The reference to foreign circles makes you sound like you’ve swallowed something you read somewhere on the web. There is some truth in that the mess that Hungary is in right now (if we accept that it is a mess) is also resulting from the effect of financial interactions with the rest of the world, that perhaps the help that the EU has provided has gone astray. On the other hand, please bear in mind that without this money, Hungary would look a lot more like Moldavia than it currently does.
Perhaps that’s not such a bad thing. I don’t know.

Paul Hellyer
Adam, thank you for responding to my comments. I am glad I bought your novel too. I saw it recommended on George Szirtes’ blog so had no hesitation in ordering it. Our local library could do with a copy as the more contributions to understanding Hungary and its history and politics, the better. So I will be recommending to them. I am sorry if my comments came across as nit-picking. It was just I felt these sometimes got in the way, for me at least, of the larger issues addressed in the novel. And my point about parts of the novel being over-explanatory remain, but I take your point about the intended audience. Also, I wasn’t aware that there was a cost issue with using accents – a real shame when writing about the non-English speaking world. Adam, people will be reading and enjoying your novel all over the world. An infinitesimal number of those readers may read my comments, but I doubt it! Your novel is on the bookshelves and will remain so for a good many years: my comments will fade into the blogsphere in a matter of hours. It must take an enormous of time, energy and… Read more »
Adam LeBor

Thanks Paul, for your good wishes.