Tha Atlantisz Story
40 YEARS OF THE QUARTERLY MEDVETÁNC AND THE ATLANTISZ BOOK PROGRAMME
MEDVETÁNC – The first uncensored yet legal social science journal in Hungary after 1956
Throughout the 1980s, the party and state leadership of Hungary, which was still a one-party socialist republic at the time, kept a list of prohibited, tolerated, and supported subjects and authors. It also appointed and replaced the leaders of periodicals and publishing houses. Formally no censorship law was in place, yet the institutions and the practical procedures of censorship still worked efficiently. The treatment handed out to the authors and publishers of texts offering social criticism was decided on a case-by-case basis, and depended on the gravity of the subject matter and who the author was. Sanctions ranged from warnings to silencing, from banning books to banning authors, and included consequences that severely limited individual freedoms to travel, earn a living, or fulfil a career.
In late 1980 and early 1981, a handful of recent liberal arts graduates and junior teaching staff at Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) founded the quarterly Medvetánc with the desire to decriminalise free thought and scholarly publication. The manœuvering space they needed for their venture emerged partly from the lack of a formal censorship act in Hungary, and partly from the novel nature of Medvetánc: unlike other periodicals, which had been founded in a top-down manner by the political leadership and run by officially appointed editors, it was a private initiative by a group of friends and played no role in how members of the editorial staff earned their living.
The founding editors considered it inconceivable to continue their research in Hungary in social sciences and philosophy without the freedom to publish. Medvetánc manœuvered to make use of the opportunities arising in Hungary in the wake of the recent emergence of Poland’s Solidarność, pushing the envelope by adopting the broadest possible interpretation, within its own domain, of the existing legal constraints. In an effort to safeguard the transparency and legal compliance of the quarterly’s operation, the imprimatur initially stated that the institution publishing the quarterly was the Hungarian Young Communist League (KISZ) chapter at ELTE; later on, in order to shun the quarterly’s ties (pro forma as they were) with that organisation, the imprimatur was changed to name the two universities, ELTE and Karl Marx University of Economic Sciences, as the publishing institutions. However, neither of the two universities, nor any other authority had had any say in the actual content of the quarterly, of which they were only informed after the fact. Medvetánc and the Hungarian samizdat periodicals emerging in its wake deliberately sought to broaden the space for one another. We shared the approach of the Polish opposition at the time: the more of us behave – and the more we behave – as if free thought and action were the norm, the more they actually do become the norm. However, in contrast to the illegal press of the opposition that dealt with direct political topics, Medvetánc became a quarterly of scholarly analysis and discourse going beyond taboos.
The title of the quarterly was also a reference to twentieth century Hungarian poet Attila József’s well-known poem and eponymous book Medvetánc [“Bear Dance”], which, in our interpretation, indicated a turning point in the intellectual orientation of the poet and thinker, a shift towards a more complex understanding of social struggle and an abandonment of his earlier leftist radicalism. The choice of the title was also an intentionally playful invitation to entertain a reinterpretation of the roles: who is the dancing bear on chain, and who is the one calling the tunes? This in itself had far-reaching consequences, not to mention, of course, the geopolitical symbolism of the bear. Not only was it a title with multiple meanings, it was also meant to counteract the official appropriation of this influential twentieth century poet by the political regime at the time. We were hoping that this combination would send a clear message to our readers while at the same time make it wholly uncomfortable for the regime to openly crush the quarterly.
Medvetánc published papers by authors with a quest to find new directions in historical sciences, philosophy, aesthetics, literary criticism, sociology, the history of ideas, and environmental studies. It was also the only forum where the writings of several lecturers of the legendary “flying university” of the democratic opposition could be read legally. Almost all the social scientists who were to become leading figures in the field during the next several decades had published in Medvetánc; in fact, one of our authors later became president of the Republic of Hungary. When compiling the issues of the quarterly – each of which was hundreds of pages long – the goal of the editors was to make their editorial decisions merely on the basis of the quality and originality of the papers and the gravity of the subjects they dealt with, consciously disregarding the current political status of the authors and often blatantly ignoring the official ban affecting many of them. The editorial office was committed to strict selection criteria in terms of quality, language editing, and style. Reviving a great but broken tradition, Medvetánc wished to carry on the outstanding legacy of Hungary’s scholarly journals of the first half of the twentieth century, such as, for example, the analytical spirit of Huszadik Század [“Twentieth Century”] or Szép Szó, the title of which is best translated as “The power of the kind word”.
Occasionally, issues came out with “supplements”, entire books published without a proper license, that transgressed previous restraints:
László Tengelyi: Autonómia és világrend (Kant az etika fundamentumáról) [“Autonomy and World Order (Kant on the Fundamentals of Ethics)”] ; Ákos Szilágyi–András Bálint Kovács: Tarkovszkij, az orosz film Sztalkere [“Tarkovsky, the Stalker of Russian Cinema”] ; Fordulat és reform [“Turning Point and Reform”] ; Jelentések a határokon túli magyar kisebbségek helyzetéről [“Reports on the Situation of Ethnic Hungarians Beyond the National Borders”] ; Pál Demény: A párt foglya voltam [“I Was a Captive of the Party”] ; and Miklós Szabó: Politikai kultúra Magyarországon 1896–1986 [“Political Culture In Hungary 1896–1986”] . The latter was the last volume of the Medvetánc series and the first book published by Atlantisz. Of all these book supplements, Turning Point and Reform attracted the most attention. It urged radical economic, sociological, and cultural reform, and called for the freedom of the press, practically laying the foundations for – and becoming one of the most emblematic texts of – the change of the political regime. This book was the single most comprehensive publication of the Hungarian intelligentsia calling for a new political era, and it certainly had a major political impact on the course of the events. It was the first and last time that the most outstanding economics, social science, legal theory, and cultural science experts of the decades ushered in by the year 1989 ever published together in the same volume.
The quarterly’s circulation ranged from three thousand to, occasionally, twelve thousand copies. We did not, however, trust the official state-owned postal service with the quarterly’s distribution. This was motivated partly by our intention to protect our readers, and partly by our fears that the copies would not reach the addressees. The quarterly was sold at universities, in private homes, out of office drawers at various authorities, in the barracks of the military, and in rectories. The editorial office was set up in the former cloakroom of the Faculty of Law at ELTE. Trying to fend off external attempts to interfere with our work, we held many of our editorial meetings at unexpected times and venues to avoid eavesdropping. The individual issues of the quarterly were not necessarily produced in the printing houses that featured in the imprint. Our editors did not participate in any so-called “informal” political briefings, and we routinely pretended not to get certain hints even though they were certainly meant as warnings. As a result, the political powers could only act after the fact, when the individual issue was already out. And act they did.
Despite repeated attempts from the top tiers of the country’s political leadership to ban or at least interfere with our work, and a few actual short-lived bans, the quarterly was continuously published throughout an entire decade, and became one of the most prominent fora for debates on economic and social reform throughout the eighties. This would not have been possible without the supportive stance of the rectors and professors of ELTE and Karl Marx University of Economic Sciences, the solidarity of makers-up and printers, or the broad press coverage we had received since the beginnings both at home and abroad. Just to give an example, when word got out that the authorities had banned the issue coming out with Turning Point and Reform as its supplement, certain widely read journals reported on the volume as if it had already reached its readership. This created the impression that the preliminary ban had already been late, while in actual fact the first and – for several days, only – complete copy of the issue had still been in the hands of the editors of Hungary’s leading economic and political weekly Heti Világgazdaság [HVG, “Weekly World Economy”]. Within a few days, all our readers received their copies. At the end of the eighties, increasing press freedom in Hungary meant that each new issue of our quarterly was warmly welcomed by sympathetic reviewers both in the printed press and on radio.
In addition to our friends in the Polish, German, and Czechoslovak opposition, the western press also commended the work done by Medvetánc. When the French minister of culture later organised an event in Paris to honour the journals and the publishers of the former East-European opposition for their instrumental role in achieving the freedom of the press, the managing editor of Medvetánc was also among those invited.
Decades later, the studies printed in Medvetánc are still frequently cited in the literature of their respective fields.
By 1988, the situation changed so much in Hungary that Közgazdasági és Jogi Könyvkiadó, a prominent state-owned publishing house specialising in economics and law, published a single-volume compilation of previous issues of Medvetánc, a journal formerly on the regime’s prohibition list, under the title Medvetánc – Magyar gazdaság és szociológia a 80-as években [“Medvetánc – Hungarian Economy and Sociology in the 80s”]. In its foreword, this volume offered a summary of the quarterly’s ambitions. And by 1989–1990, the National Association of Hungarian Journalists (MÚOSZ) invited Medvetánc editors to join the association, breaking its own decade-long tradition of rejecting their applications for membership.
The founding editors of Medvetánc:
Secretary of the Editorial Office (in consecutive periods):
Further members and co-chairs joining the Editorial Committee at Medvetánc temporarily or permanently:
Editors joining Medvetánc later on:
Books published by Medvetánc 1981–1989
Medvetánc: The press coverage
Medvetánc: The authors
Fordulat és reform [“Turning Point and Reform”]: The authors
THE ATLANTISZ BOOK PROGRAMME
The ATLANTISZ BOOK PROGRAMME is the joint work of two organisations, both established in 1990.
Originally established by university teaching staff as a non-profit organisation, ATLANTISZ PUBLISHING HOUSE is today an independent limited liability company that, nevertheless, continues to operate on the same principle.
ATLANTISZ FOUNDATION is a public benefit organisation in the field of the social sciences established by Eötvös Loránd University and the one-time managing editors of the quarterly Medvetánc. The foundation supports scientific and research activities and other cultural initiatives related to or published in books offered by Atlantisz Publishing House. The Foundation supports the publication of the titles under the Atlantisz Book Programme as well as the realisation of other elements of that programme.
The mission of the ATLANTISZ BOOK PROGRAMME is to make available classic and modern classic humanities literature in Hungary by:
– translating and publishing key works in the fields of philosophy, history, religious studies, cultural history, art theory, and psychology that form part of basic cultural literacy in any civilised western country but that have been out of print in Hungary for decades;
– setting up scientific research teams or cooperation schemes involving other research institutes and workshops as may be necessary for certain large-scale book projects, and publishing outstanding Hungarian works in the field of the humanities;
– making available, in four world languages as well as in Hungarian, the most recent literature in the arts and sciences at Atlantisz Book Island (Atlantisz Könyvsziget) in Király Street (formerly in Váci Street), created as Central Europe’s first book information centre and bookshop dedicated to international humanities;
– supporting and, to the best of its abilities, developing new forms of international cultural cooperation in the field of publishing scholarly literature;
– creating the László Tengelyi Prize for Literary Translators and awarding it, in cooperation with its partners the cities of Budapest and Frankfurt, to the most outstanding literary translations in the field of the humanities each year.
The goal of the Atlantisz Book Programme is to make modern and classic social sciences knowledge and the key texts of the field widely available to readers, including students, often at below-cost prices, and to invite friends of culture to join in and support this endeavour. The programme is committed to maintain the highest professional standards in terms of editorial work, printing quality, and design aesthetics.
The Atlantisz Book Programme was among those proposing a partner city cooperation between Frankfurt and Budapest, and has been an initiator of joint cultural programmes for three decades. The book programme enjoys the joint patronage of the two cities.
The Atlantisz Book Programme: Achievements and response
The founders and operators of the programme are university professors. It has proudly boasted patrons such as Professors Jacques Le Goff, Ferenc Fejtő, Jürgen Habermas, and Odo Marquard, President of Italy Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, President of the Republic of Hungary Árpád Göncz, and the cities of Frankfurt and Budapest.
Hundreds of volumes have been published in the Atlantisz Book Programme in over a million copies. Almost each of these titles is on recommended reading lists for examinations in tertiary education in Hungary. Nearly all of Hungary’s prominent libraries are collectors of Atlantisz’ various series. The most demanding institutions (such as the Library of the Hungarian Parliament, the Museum of Fine Arts, various universities, libraries, churches, etc.) as well as private individuals have for long been acquiring foreign books through Atlantisz Book Island. Atlantisz has invited and hosted in Hungary many of its authors, each representing the best of the world in their respective fields, to give lectures of outstanding success.
Acknowledgements: At one of the sessions of the German Academy for Language and Literature (Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung), Atlantisz was mentioned as one of the best European science publishers. In terms of its professional achievements, official German surveys in the past identified Atlantisz as the best publishing house in the Central Eastern European region. In the past three decades, the work of Atlantisz Publishing House has been acknowledged by invitations from the President of Italy, the French minister of foreign affairs, the French minister of culture, the city of Frankfurt am Main, and the leaders of the Goethe-Institut, as well as by a visit of the German federal minister of culture. As soon as five leading European social science publishers established it, the club behind the series The Making of Europe (Európa születése) elected Atlantisz as its member. The Institut français de Budapest mediated a long-term cooperation agreement between the Goethe-Institut and the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Atlantisz. Since the very beginnings, we have partnered with the Institute for Human Sciences (Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen, IWM) of Vienna, and we also established cooperations with other Austrian, Dutch, Danish, Italian, and Swiss cultural institutions. In 2020, the Berlin Institute for Advanced Study (Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin) and Atlantisz signed a cooperation agreement. Back home, throughout the past three decades, our official partners were the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the Ministry for Culture and Education, the Hungarian Book Foundation, the National Cultural Fund of Hungary, the Hungarian Scientific Research Fund (OTKA), the Office of Higher Education Awards and Grants (FPI), and the Márai Programme. Both the cities of Frankfurt and Munich acknowledged the merits and achievements of the programme. For three decades, the Atlantisz Book Programme has routinely enjoyed the invitations of both the Frankfurt Book Fair and the city of Frankfurt itself. Atlantisz played an important role in initiating and organising Hungary’s selection as guest of honour of the 1999 Frankfurt Book Fair, the first East-European country to be honoured in this manner. Having been awarded the prize of Literaturhaus Frankfurt and DEKA-Bank for promoting German science and literature abroad, the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, and the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary are further reflections of Atlantisz’ achievements. Our partnerships and friendly cooperations with prominent European publishers go back to several decades. Our publishing house has been the co-host of international publishers’ conferences and cultural events such as the Budapest (1991) and Frankfurt (1995) authors’ rights conferences, the Budapest programme conference of the publishers behind the book series The Making of Europe, the East-West Centre of the Frankfurt Book Fair, and the Frankfurt Cultural Weeks organised in Budapest in 1994 and 2007.
For the past several years, a notable group of friends comprising many of the world’s well known scholars, writers, publishers, and leading cultural personalities has been supporting the Atlantisz Book Programme in its venture.
Ever since the very beginnings, the Atlantisz Book Programme has had consistently positive press coverage in the form of hundreds of news articles both at home and abroad and many radio and television shows on Hungarian and foreign channels.
As we speak, much part of Hungary’s tertiary education would simply be inconceivable without this non-profit programme. However, its impact and renown reach beyond the world of the universities – importantly, the books published by Atlantisz have been a staple on the shelves of the general literate public for three decades.
However, in terms of its economic opportunities, the mere existence of scientific publishing in Hungary is far less than self-explanatory. The Hungarian readership, which is highly demanding even in comparison with Western European readers, is simply unable to finance the publication of these books. Without dedicated friends of culture, our programme could not operate – and it is only thanks to their help and support that the programme has been able to accomplish its work since 1990.
THE ATLANTISZ STORY
The change of the regime created the legal preconditions for building a democratic political system and attaining freedom in the public sphere. Having accomplished its avowed mission, Medvetánc decided to step back and clear the way for a multitude of thematic journals, which could now be established freely, while transforming itself into a publishing house. Under the name Atlantisz Publishing House, it has since been publishing long unavailable basic texts in the field of the humanities, both classic and contemporary.
The name Atlantisz evoked the European continent of the intellect – a world oftentimes obscured by the everyday visible but preserved in our written culture – a world that represents the dignity and freedom of thought. As Professor Wolf Lepenies wrote a quarter of a century later, “The name Atlantisz is a programme that evokes the submerged island of the Platonic myth just as much as New Atlantis, the utopian land described by Sir Francis Bacon, Lord Chancellor of England, in his novel published posthumously in 1627, where generosity, enlightenment, and public spirit were the commonly held qualities of the inhabitants.”
At about the same time, in Brno, Czechoslovakia, another publishing house standing for similar values and carrying on the traditions of the former democratic opposition was established under the leadership of Václav Havel. It also assumed the name Atlantis. That the two publishing houses chose the same name was not entirely coincidental. Throughout 1988 and 1989, in the course of establishing the Palais Jalta Institut, the editors of a handful of publications representing the opposition in Czechoslovakia, Poland, East Germany, Romania and Hungary met in Frankfurt with their friends there to hash out possible plans for cooperation. (The founding members of Palais Jalta and the participants of its first few meetings included, among others, Ulrike Ackermann, Timothy Garton Ash, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, György Dalos, Mircea Dinescu, István Eörsi, Jiří Gruša, Barbara Klain, Ewa Kobylinska, Gerd Koenen, György Konrád, Tomas Kosta, Ryszard Krynicki, Adam Michnik, Tamás Miklós, Hans-Henning Paetzke, Dorothea Rein, Jacques Rupnik, György Petri, Milan Uhde, and Mihály Vajda; Kosta and Gruša were actually the organisers behind the Atlantis project in Brno and Frankfurt.) Ulricke Ackermann’s 1990 article in the journal Frankfurter Hefte/Neue Gesellschaft was the first publications to cover the relationship between these three projects. Her article is also the first press report on Atlantisz Publishing House of Budapest.
The year of the formal registration of Atlantisz Publishing House, as well as of its background organisation, Atlantisz Foundation. Both were established by some of the former editors of Medvetánc in cooperation with ELTE. The deeds of foundation stipulate that both the publishing house and the foundation are non-profit organisations. ELTE contributed to the original capital of Atlantisz Publishing House in kind by offering a 25-year right of use in respect of a small, run-down space with often walled-up windows on the ground floor of the building housing ELTE’s Faculty of Humanities at Váci Street (Piarista köz 1.). This was the site where the publishing house built its first bookshop, the first Atlantisz Book Island. The publishing house set up its first headquarters in the beautiful New Town Hall building in Váci Street designed by, among others, Gustave Eiffel.
The founding members of Atlantisz Publishing House:
Eötvös Loránd University
Dr. László Grób
Dr. Magdolna Kolta
Dr. Tamás Miklós
Dr. László Tengelyi
Pénzügyi Jogtanácsosi Iroda Egyesülés [“Financial Legal Consulting Bureau Association”]
The first supporters of the publishing programme were the cities of Budapest and Frankfurt, the Heinrich Böll Foundation, the Central and East-European Publishing Project, the Institut français de Budapest, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, the Friedrich Neumann Foundation, the Hungarian Credit Bank (Magyar Hitelbank, MHB), the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the Hungarian Foundation for Enterprise Promotion, the Hungarian Ministry for Culture and Public Education, the International Karl Polanyi Society, the Open Society Foundation (Budapest), OTP Bank, Printker Ltd., the Soros Foundation, and the Zuger Kulturstiftung Landis & Gyr.
The first volumes published by Atlantisz were: Miklós Szabó: Politikai kultúra Magyarországon 1896–1986 [“Political Culture in Hungary 1896–1986”]; Attila József: Szabad-ötletek jegyzéke két ülésben [“A Collection of Free Associations in Two Sessions”]; Ferenc Fejtő: Rekviem egy hajdanvolt birodalomért [“A Requiem for a Defunct Empire”]; Románia 1944–1990. Gazdaság- és politikatörténet [“Romania 1944–1990. Economic and Political History”]; Georg Simmel: Velence, Firenze, Róma [“Venice, Florence, Rome”]; and Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer: A felvilágosodás dialektikája [“The Dialectic of the Enlightenment”]. After living in emigration for several decades, historian Ferenc Fejtő returned to Hungary for the first time in 1990 to sign his book, published by Atlantisz, during that year’s national book week. His readers and friends stood in long queues outside the Atlantisz book tent at Vörösmarty Square.
President of the Republic of Hungary Árpád Göncz assured our recently launched book programme of his support and patronage.
Since 1990, Atlantisz Publishing House has been one of the invited guests of the Frankfurt Book Fair. For long years, our hosts were the Association of German Book Traders (Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels) and, later, the Frankfurt Town Hall. In addition to the exquisite honour, this invitation also meant invaluable financial assistance allowing us to properly present the authors and books that Hungary and Atlantisz had to offer.
Ever since the beginnings, Atlantisz Publishing House was promoting the signing of a partner city cooperation agreement between Frankfurt and Budapest, bringing the mayors of the two cities together. The two cities undertook a contractual obligation to act as the patrons of the Atlantisz Book Programme.
Since its foundation, Atlantisz developed a friendly cooperation with the Institute for Human Sciences (Institut für die Wissenschaften vom Menschen, IWM) in Vienna. Several translators of Atlantisz were beneficiaries of IWM’s stipend programme (Imre Kertész, Kornél Steiger, Csaba Báthori, Edit Király, Sándor Tatár, Katalin Teller, Tamás Lénárt, and István Bárány).
Negotiations started with Siegfried Unseld, head of Frankfurt publisher Suhrkamp Verlag, about a future intensive cooperation between the two publishing houses and about a joint book programme.
1990 was the year when Atlantisz first proposed the launching of Német Szellemtudományi Könyvtár, a series dedicated to German books in the field of the human sciences, under the support of Inter Nationes in Bonn. Atlantisz also proposed the setting up of a similar long-term French support programme. The idea found supporters in the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, especially in the persons of Yves Mabin and Laurence Frabolot, who is still held in high esteem in Budapest. The Institut français de Budapest soon inaugurated its Kosztolányi Programme, which supported the publication of French authors in Hungarian. Negotiations also started about British and US book programmes, although these did not lead to long-term cooperations. The welcome exception was the establishment in Oxford of the Central and East-European Publishing Project, a supporter of scientific publishing in Hungary ever since its conception.
In 1991, the Swiss foundation Zuger Kulturstiftung Landis & Gyr made it possible for Atlantisz to organise a Europe-wide networking roadshow involving visits to the most prominent European foundations in the field of culture and many of the leading publishing houses.
In 1992, the Association of German Book Traders, the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, Atlantisz, and the Hungarian Association of Book Publishers and Book Retailers (MKKE) joined forces and organised a conference in Budapest under the title A könyvek szövetségeseket keresnek – Bücher brauchen Verbündete [“Books Seeking Allies”]. The main focus of the conference was to promote the planned reform of authors’ and publishers’ rights in Hungary. The event was held at the Faculty of Humanities of ELTE and at Atlantisz Book Island, just about to be opened.
Atlantisz was invited to participate at the Leipzig Book Fair. A year later, based on Atlantisz’ recommendations, the Association of German Book Traders invited ten recently established Hungarian publishing houses to participate at the Frankfurt Book Fair as guests. The head of MKKE at the time actually wrote us a letter resenting our involvement in selecting the invitees while in Leipzig.
In Bonn, we began discussions with the President of the German Conference of Rectors in an effort to save the Hungarian part of an extensive grant the German government had offered to support publishing in East-Europe. At the time, the opportunity seemed to be slipping away because there was no eligible Hungarian project in sight. The German party showed willingness to provide support despite the lack of official receptivity in Hungary. Eventually, Peter Weidhaas, the manager of the Frankfurt Book Fair also joined the programme, meeting managers of about a dozen recently established Hungarian publishing houses at Atlantisz in Budapest and engaging in talks about the remaining alternatives. After these talks, a portion of the originally envisioned grant was repurposed to finance the Budapest Book Festival.
In Frankfurt, we met Ludwig von Friedburg, Director of the Institute for Social Research (Institut für Sozialforschung, IfS) of Frankfurt to discuss our cooperation, and Günther Busch, the legendary editor of the publishing house S. Fischer – formally Suhrkamp and later Athaeneum – in talks about the publishing concept behind the Atlantisz Book Programme.
When the publishing house and its book warehouse moved to Gerlóczy Street 4, the art deco building – a former transformer station owned by the Budapest Town Hall – became home and a creative space for both Atlantisz and MERLiN Theatre for two decades.
In 1993, six European social science publishers – Publishers C.H. Beck of Munich, Blackwell of Oxford, Crítica of Madrid, Laterza of Rome, Seuil of Paris, and Atlantisz of Budapest – created a common book series entitled The Making of Europe. (Later, a Slovakian and a Turkish publishing house also joined the programme.) The joint announcement was made in January in Rome, with President of Italy Oscar Luigi Scalfaro welcoming the leaders of the participating publishing houses not only as the host but also as the patron of the programme. The volumes published in the series aimed at exploring European identity through the presentation of the continent’s cultural history. Acting in consort, the publishing houses approached some of the best researchers in various fields and the completed books were published roughly at the same time in the individual participating countries. The chief editor of the series was historian Jacques Le Goff. This venture was unprecedented in the history of European publishing. (The works of Umberto Eco, Ulrich Im Hof, Leonardo Benvolo, Peter Brown, Michel Mollat, Massimo Montanari, Aron Gurevich, and Jacques le Goff have since been published in Hungarian and are among the most sought after publications in the offering of Atlantisz.)
In June, Atlantisz was one of the organising partners of the Frankfurt Cultural Week in Budapest. As part of the event, the mayors of Budapest and Frankfurt jointly inaugurated Atlantisz Book Island, a quadrilingual bookshop and international book information centre set up in the Váci Street building of the Faculty of Humanities of ELTE, focusing on the humanities and the best Hungarian writers of fiction. Before Internet bookstores, we were the first point of reference for Hungarian readers – and many of our visitors from abroad – looking for books published around the world. Atlantisz Book Island offered to procure any book from any country provided that the title was not in breach of human rights. Situated in the middle of the campus, our bookshop quickly became a hotspot for faculty and students alike and a venue first for afternoon student debate events and later regular book club meetings. We launched a programme to methodically present the best foreign publishing houses at Atlantisz Book Island: those publishers most famous for their social science programmes received dedicated shop window displays in the busiest part of Váci Street, Budapest’s most attractive pedestrian shopping street, in periodic rotation. The new book centre opened with a book exhibition presenting Frankfurt-based publishing houses Suhrkamp, S. Fischer, Campus, and Neue Kritik. During the opening ceremony, Andreas von Schoeler and Gábor Demszky announced and confirmed the two cities’ patronage of the Atlantisz Book Programme and Atlantisz Book Island. The inauguration received broad press coverage both nationally and abroad. During the opening ceremony, publishers S. Fischer, Campus, and Neue Kritik were represented by Walter Pehle, Adalbert Hepp, and Dorothea Rein, respectively. Suhrkamp’s exhibit was compiled by Friedhelm Herborth. Based on the statistics of the nineties, about two million people walked past the shop window annually.
It was also the year when the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs invited the manager of Atlantisz to Paris. We held negotiations with leading French publishing houses.
During the winter of 1993, Hungarian daily Magyar Hírlap [“Hungarian News”] reported on the establishment of Budapesti Könyvescéh [“Budapest Book Guild”]: “Budapest Book Guild – a social club of friends. Established just a few days ago, Budapest Book Guild aims at saving the best works in the fields of the humanities and fiction. Yet 'the Budapest Book Guild for the humanities' is not just another administrative body; instead, its intention is to become 'a sort of a social club of friends' that offers a venue for book workshops involved in the publication, distribution, and collection of the most valuable works in the fields of the social sciences, philosophy, and psychology to meet and talk. The founding members of the book guild are Atlantisz Publishing House, Book-Schütz, Budapesti Könyvszemle [“the Budapest Review of Books”, BUKSZ], Cserépfalvi Publishing House, the Metropolitan Ervin Szabó Library of Budapest, Ikon Publishing house, Írók Boltja–Szépirodalmi Könyvkiadó [“The Writer's Bookshop–Fiction Publishing House”], Kátai & Bolza Literary Agents, Pesti Szalon Publishing House, Pont Bookshop, T-Twins Publishing House, and Osiris Publishing House. The mission of the book guild is to maintain a high standard in publishing despite the currently prevailing dire economic conditions and legal uncertainty. The organisation is planning to regularly survey the situation of top-tier publishing in Hungary, come to agreements on the rules of the guild, organise action against the new wave of unqualified publishers and counterfeit book vendors plaguing the book industry, support the regular publication of works considered fundamental elements of basic literacy in the modern humanities, and stimulate cooperations between friends of Hungarian culture at home and abroad. As their information leaflet suggests, the Book Guild ‘is not a comprehensive, across-the-board association of fellow professionals, but instead a society carefully selecting its membership based on demanding criteria; it also welcomes and relies on the support of all other existing book industry associations that share its objectives’. Members of the book guild might as well post its trademark – a sixteenth century engraving of a bookworm – in their own bookstores and on their own publications as a seal of their commitment to abide by these voluntary rules of fair play. Interested partners are welcome to contact the Budapest Book Guild via Atlantisz Publishing House (address: 1054 Budapest, Gerlóczy u. 4.).” The guild only met a few times. However, the engraving of the bookworm still hangs on the wall of Atlantisz Book Island.
On 10 March 1994, the six European publishers creating the series The Making of Europe met in Budapest in the halls of Collegium Budapest. During their joint press conference at Atlantisz Book Island, they launched the opening volume of the series, the Hungarian edition of Leonardo Benevolo’s La città nella storia d'Europa (A város Európa történetében) on the role of cities in the history of Europe. Heightening the occasion, Chief Editor Professor Jacques Le Goff gave a lecture in the assembly hall of the New Town Hall building, while the mayor of Budapest offered a reception at the Town Hall in honour of the participating publishing houses.
On 23 April, several Hungarian dailies reported on the opening of the International Budapest Book Festival. Magyar Hírlap wrote: “As the inaugural act of the International Budapest Book Festival, just opening today, the mayors of Budapest and Frankfurt signed an agreement to undertake the patronage of the Atlantisz Book Programme. [...] The mayors of both Budapest and Frankfurt emphasized that the agreement they signed today fleshed out the cooperation arrangements between the two cities, thereby going beyond the usual formalities of other sister city cooperations. Atlantisz is a non-profit venture whose patrons, beyond the two cities, include world famous scholars.”
This year, philosopher György Márkus turned 60. On 06 April, his students and Atlantisz Publishing House celebrated him in the halls of Collegium Budapest. To honour the philosopher’s lifetime achievement, Atlantisz launched its book entitled Lehetséges-e egyáltalán? [“Is it At All Possible?”] with contributors such as Ferenc Altrichter, Péter Balassa, György Bence, Zoltán Endreffy, Ágnes Erdélyi, Márta Fehér, Géza Fodor, Éva Karádi, János Kis, András Lakatos, Mária Ludassy, Kristóf Nyíri, György Petri, Sándor Radnóti, and Árpád Tímár, who also doubled as the readers of the evening.
French minister of culture Jacques Toubon invited journals and publishing houses of the former East-European opposition to Paris, giving a ceremonial reception at the Louvre. Negotiations started about further forms of cultural cooperation. The manager of Atlantisz had the chance to engage in talks with the leaders of publishing houses such as Gallimard, Seuil, PUF, and Minuit.
In 1995, Frankfurt Book Fair manager Peter Weidhaas, writer György Dalos, and the manager of Atlantisz Publishing House jointly proposed Hungary as the guest of honour of the 1997 Frankfurt Book Fair. We believed that this would not only offer Hungary an exceptional opportunity for presenting its culture to the whole world, but it could also serve as a catalyst for more collective reflection on the unsettled self-image of Hungarians back home. After highly successful negotiations, Frankfurt offered Hungary exceptionally favourable financial and other terms, and we urged the Hungarian government to avail itself of the opportunity. In fact, the leader of Atlantisz published an article in Hungarian daily Népszabadság [“Liberty of the People”] addressing the general public on the issue. The government accepted the proposal but failed to create the necessary conditions, and, following a bid botched in the worst manner of a clumsy clerk, the management of the Frankfurt Book Fair decided to postpone the “Hungarian Schwerpunkt” (“highlight”) from 1997 to 1999.
This was the year when György Soros’ foundation discontinued its generous support towards scientific publication in Hungary. Understanding the limited purchasing power of the Hungarian readership and the looming collapse of scientific publication, Atlantisz approached the minister of culture and proposed that a government scheme be set up to support the publication of textbooks and scientific literature for the use of the tertiary education system. We outlined strict conditions, clear technical and financial criteria, and a transparent grant scheme.
In February 1996, a series of negotiations initiated by the Goethe-Institut took place in Bonn, Munich, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, and Darmstadt with a focus on cooperation in publishing between Atlantisz, the Goethe-Institut, the German Fund for Literature, Frankfurt mayor Petra Roth, and leaders of German private foundations and government institutions in the field of culture.
On 06 July, Magyar Hírlap ran an article by the manager of Atlantisz Publishing House, which exposed the crisis in social sciences publishing and urged the implementation of the support scheme Atlantisz had earlier proposed. The plan became reality before the end of the year. With somewhat more forgiving criteria than originally planned, but with a more generous overall support budget, the government announced a grand scheme for the publication of textbooks and scientific literature for the use of the tertiary education system. Throughout a number of years, this grant scheme made it possible to maintain scientific book publication in Hungary at a high standard. (However, funding under this programme quickly dwindled, and by 2007 it dried up completely. After 2010, the institution managing the scheme was formally dissolved.)
In 1996, Atlantisz launched its Proust series. Since then, all those volumes of In Search of Lost Time formerly unavailable in Hungarian have been translated by Júlia Jancsó.
In May 1997, hundreds attended the lecture that Professor Jan Assmann and German publisher Wolfgang Beck gave in Budapest upon the invitation of Atlantisz. The grand hall of the Faculty of Humanities of ELTE overflowed with attendants. Later, Jan Assman’s book on cultural memory Das kulturelle Gedächtnis (A kulturális emlékezet) became the opening book of the series published jointly by Atlantisz and Publishers C.H. Beck.
In October, during the Frankfurt Book Fair, Atlantisz lead a book drive among East-European publishing houses for the benefit of prison libraries in Germany to help inmates originating from our region access literature in their respective mother tongues.
On 18 November, Európa Publishing and Atlantisz Publishing House presented their books at the Romanian Cultural Institute of Budapest.
The board of curators appointed in the spring by the minister of culture (György Dalos, Sándor Radnóti, and Tamás Miklós) submitted its detailed plans for the “Hungarian Schwerpunkt”, Hungary’s participation at the 1999 Frankfurt Book Fair as the guest of honour, which had been elaborated already the previous summer. The curators also engaged in negotiations with the organising partners in Frankfurt as well as with Hungarian authors, composers, musicians, artists, museum, publishing industry, and other professionals, priests serving inmates in the penitentiary system, chefs, and winemakers. The plans included a display of the treasures of the Esterházy collection, a Kurtág premiere, and a rich and diverse offering of musical and literary programmes, some of the most exciting pieces and dilemmas of classic and modern Hungarian culture taking centre stage. Hungary’s cultural presentation would have been entitled Spätlese aus Ungarn. (The German term “Spätlese” refers to a late harvest as well as to botrytised wines such as the Hungarian aszú, but it also conveys the concept of “choice” or “select”.) Hungary’s participation at the Frankfurt Book Fair in the fall of 1998 had been organised by the board of curators as an opening act to the grand programme planned for the following year. (Deviating from the practices of previous organisers, the curators involved the representatives of the various arts and invited applications in a transparent procedure.) However, the official Hungarian counterpart failed to provide the necessary conditions in terms of funding, organisation, and financial control, which led to the stepping down of the curators at the end of the year. (The following year’s event preserved little of the original plans, which the new organisers were barely familiar with.)
This year, the mayors of Budapest and Frankfurt met at the Atlantisz stand during the October Frankfurt Book Fair, engaging in negotiations about further cooperation between the two cities.
1998 brought Gorgias, the first volume in Atlantisz’ series publishing the complete works of Plato in a brand new translation and complete with commentary. This project is still ongoing; up until 2020, nineteen volumes have been published. The working group managing the project consists of staff members of the Institute of Philosophy and the Greek Department at ELTE and researchers from other universities. (Contributors to the edition of the complete works of Plato)
On 10 September, László Török’s bilingual book The Hunting Centaur – A vadászó kentaur was launched in the halls of the Budapest Museum of Fine Arts on the occasion of the opening of the exhibition displaying the eponymous white limestone relief representing the late antique art of Egypt. The opening speech was given by art historian Ernő Marosi. This was the first volume in the Kentaur series published jointly by the museum and our publishing house.
This year saw the publication of the first complete Hungarian edition of ʾAlf Laylah wa-Laylah or One Thousand and One Nights (Az Ezeregyéjszaka meséi), the most ambitious project Atlantisz Publishing House has taken on thus far. Csilla Prileszky spent fifteen years working on translating the most complete, so-called Calcutta II edition, leaving behind a manuscript of over ten thousand pages. Unfortunately, she passed away before the first complete Hungarian translation of One Thousand and One Nights was finally published. Raising the funds to finance the project took Atlantisz nine years. (After the unfulfilled promises of an Oriental prince, the project was eventually financed by Hungarian oil and gas company MOL, with some contribution from the Hungarian government, and mostly through the contributions of readers subscribing to the books.) Checking the translation meticulously, sentence-by-sentence and verse-by-verse, against the original Arabic edition (Róbert Simon) and editing the text took several years. When finally published, the work was welcomed by over fifty book reviews and praised by a host of television and radio programmes. Based on the votes of the Hungarian readership, the edition was awarded the prize for the best literary translation of the year.
1999 saw the launching of the joint book series of Publishers C.H. Beck of Munich and Atlantisz.
In September, television network ARTE organised a conference in Weimar with the participation of Atlantisz.
In 1999, Hungary finally became the guest of honour at the Frankfurt Book Fair. On this occasion, Germany’s Minister of State for Culture Michael Naumann visited the stand of Atlantisz Publishing House, the original initiator of the “Hungarian Schwerpunkt”, and the parties engaged in negotiations about further cooperation.
At the end of the year, the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in Budapest hosted the book launching event of Atlantisz’ Éhség és bőség – A táplálkozás európai kultúrtörténete. The book is the Hungarian edition of Massimo Montanari’s La fame e l'abbondanza – Storia dell'alimentazi-one in Europa on the culture of food in Europe. The volume was introduced by Kálmán Kalla, the chef de cuisine of Budapest’s historic restaurant Gundel, Professor János Kelemen, and Tamás Miklós, in the presence of the author.
In March 2000, on occasion of the Leipzig Book Fair, the head of Atlantisz was invited to give a presentation at the conference focusing on the role of the leaders of the Goethe-Institut on Germany’s cultural policy abroad.
In 2000, representatives of Atlantisz participated in the events celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the foundation of Suhrkamp Verlag in Frankfurt, where Siegfried Unseld introduced Atlantisz as “the Hungarian Suhrkamp”.
In November 2000, Atlantisz presented its series dedicated to German books in the field of the human sciences, Német Szellemtudományi Könyvtár, in the Budapest Goethe-Institut. The series, which makes classical German philosophy as well as contemporary German classics accessible to the Hungarian readership, was presented by János Kelemen, Dénes Zoltai, and Tamás Miklós.
On 31 May 2001, new volumes in Atlantisz’ edition of the complete works of Plato were presented at a book launch organised by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and Atlantisz Publishing House. During the event, which took place in the Lesser Hall of the Academy in the presence of Platonic scholars and the son of the late Dénes Kövendi, the excellent translator of Plato’s works, talks were also held about future plans related to the project.
On 7 February 2002, participants of a conference held at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences reviewed the state of affairs in the scientific book publication industry in Hungary. They concluded that domestic sources of funding had dried up, and called upon the government to create the conditions needed for safeguarding the continued existence of scientific book publication in Hungary. In his conference talk, the head of Atlantisz offered an overview of the history of scientific book publication in Hungary and commented on its special situation.
On 16 April 2002, the Goethe-Institut and Atlantisz Publishing House signed a long-term cooperation agreement in Munich with the aim of publishing a series of German books in the field of the human sciences under the title Német Szellemtudományi Könyvtár (in German: Deutsche Geisteswissenschaftliche Bibliothek). Those working on the preparation of the agreement on the German side were many: Cultural Counsellor of the German Embassy in Budapest Klaus M. Reiff, the leaders and staff members of the Budapest Goethe-Institut – Wolfgang Meissner, Brigitte Kayser-Derenthal, Stefan Dreyer, and Frank Werner –, and the staff at Inter Nationes, and, later on, at the Bonn and Munich Goethe-Instituts: Angelika Uerling-Folle from the early days and later Wolfgang Kort and Peter Sötje.
In 2003, the Hungarian Association of Book Publishers and Book Retailers (MKKE) made an attempt to exclude all non-affiliated publishers from that year’s national book week events in Budapest. Upon the initiative of Atlantisz Publishing House, several Hungarian publishing houses and notable personalities in the fields of literature and scholarship jointly protested against such exclusion, and the municipality of Budapest, the capital city, with the unanimous support of all parties, offered the necessary premises for setting up Atlantisz’ tent for the book week for free. (Read the declaration of protest here.) Atlantisz decided to share its tent with other publishing houses excluded by MKKE. Certain leaders at MKKE published articles written in an irritated tone attacking Atlantisz and the protesters and trying to maintain their exclusion. Eventually, since the most notable writers and philosophers once again stood up for Atlantisz, MKKE was forced to change the rules of the book week. Since then, publishing houses can once again participate in the national book week without regard to their membership status.
On 28 March, Géza Sallay and László Szörényi presented János Kelemen’s A filozófus Dante – Művészet- és nyelvelméleti expedíciók [“Dante the Philosopher – Expeditions in the Theories of Art and Language”], published by Atlantisz, in the Istituto Italiano di Cultura.
In April, one of Attila József’s legal successors filed suit demanding that the poet’s book A Collection of Free Associations in Two Sessions be banned and all copies destroyed. The first complete, uncorrupted, and philologically accurate edition of the book was published by Atlantisz in 1990, which was followed by several reprints. Prior to the court case, the rights holder – a relative of the poet – had demanded royalties and a percentage of the sales revenue, which our publishing house had offered to pay as a matter of fact. However, during the court hearings the plaintiff challenged the classification of the text as a creative literary work, labelled Attila József’s book as “immoral” and “antisocial”, and spoke of Atlantisz Publishing House as “a publisher well known for its pornographic publications”, and demanded that the book be banned. Prominent Hungarian literary figures including Ferenc Fejtő, Attila József’s close friend, expressed their indignation over the attempt to ban the book. After three years of litigation, the court adopted a legally binding ruling against the demand. The court documents filed in the defence of the work are actually quite an interesting read in the wider context of the literature surrounding Attila József. In fact, the story of this failed attempt to ban József’s Free Associations was later written and published.
Kornél Steiger, a leading member of the Atlantisz team working on the publisher’s series dedicated to the complete works of Plato was awarded the Palládium Prize for his translations of, and studies on, Plato.
Between 22 and 25 April, we presented the volumes of Német Szellemtudományi Könyvtár, our series dedicated to German books in the field of the human sciences at the International Book Festival of Budapest in an exhibit created in cooperation with the Frankfurt Book Fair.
On 18 November, the Budapest Goethe-Institut organised a round table with the participation of philosophers under the title Mesteriskola. A német filozófia klasszikusainak vonzereje Magyarországon [“School of Masters. The Appeal of the Classics of German Philosophy in Hungary”] focusing on translations of Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche, and Taubes published by Atlantisz. The guests were Béla Bacsó, János Kis, Dénes Zoltai, and Tamás Miklós.
In October, the head of Atlantisz Publishing House was awarded the joint prize of Literaturhaus Frankfurt and DekaBank.
We lost theatre and photography historian Magdolna Kolta, one of the founders of Atlantisz Publishing House, a senior member of the editorial office of Medvetánc.
Although by the end of 2005 the Budapest Court of Appeal had adopted its ruling in the case concerning Attila József’s book, we only received the ruling in January 2006. The legal successor of the poet, intending to have Attila József’s book banned, had lodged an appeal against the decision of the first instance, which the Court of Appeal rejected. Atlantisz was ordered to pay the royalty it had already offered previously, retaining its freedom to publish Attila József‘s work. We expressed our thanks to all those who stood up in defence of the author, the work, and the publisher, thereby preventing the prohibition of this important book: Béla Bacsó, András Bálint, Antal Bókay, Ferenc Fejtő, Ágnes Heller, Ildikó Komor Hennel, György Poszler, Sándor Radnóti, Csaba Sár, Bálint Somlyó, Béla Stoll, Ferenc Takács, and Beatrice Töttösy.
On 3 June, in the Budapest Goethe-Institut, we engaged in talks with Berlin publisher Klaus Wagenbach, the author of Kafka’s Prague, which Atlantisz published in Hungarian on the occasion of that year’s book week (Kafka Prágája). The previous day Wagenbach, one of the most authoritative experts on Kafka, signed copies of his book in Atlantisz’ book tent alongside Ferenc Fejtő, author of the books Rekviem egy hajdanvolt birodalomért [“A Requiem for a Defunct Empire”] and II. József [“Joseph II”], also published by Atlantisz.
Between 26 and 28 November, the cities of Frankfurt and Budapest and Atlantisz Publishing House initiated and organised cultural days under the title Frankfurt in Budapest. The participants of the cultural events included Frankfurt mayor Petra Roth, Head of Cultural Affairs of the City of Frankfurt Professor Felix Semmelroth, historian Professor Raphael Gross, Professor András Kovács, writers Zsuzsa Bánk, Eva Demski, Péter Esterházy, and László Márton, saxophonist Christof Lauer and Dresch Quartet, and Nadine Meyer, Professor Walter Pehle, Adalbert Hepp, and Tamás Miklós representing publishers Suhrkamp, S. Fischer, Campus, and Atlantisz. On 27 October, the three publishers gave talks at Café Eckermann. Atlantisz Book Island presented Schwarze Reihe’s books on the era of German National Socialism; this series published by Walter Pehle is considered the most in-depth and most authoritative work on the topic. Mayor Petra Roth visited Atlantisz Book Island and reconfirmed the patronage of the city of Frankfurt over the Atlantisz Book Programme. The publishers were later hosted by Villány winemaker József Bock, a long time supporter of Atlantisz.
On 3 December, commemorating the 70th anniversary of Attila József, Atlantisz Publishing House came out with a new edition of A Collection of Free Associations in Two Sessions; this was the book that the poet’s legal successor had earlier intended to have banned.
We won the court case filed by the Piarist Order against our publishing house. When it had taken over the building of the University, the plaintiff had challenged the 25-year right of use Atlantisz Book Island had been contractually granted back in 1990 and had attempted to evict the bookshop. The court upheld Atlantisz’ rights. However, during construction works commenced by the Order, our entrance was blocked, and Atlantisz Book Island soon remained without heating and running water, and when the ceiling was broken through, the shop’s stock of books was destroyed. The damage, calculated at then-current prices, amounted to about two million forints.
In another court case, which our publishing house also won – this time against the government – the court resolved the situation of the bookshop by ruling that the government pay Atlantisz a compensation fee, in return for which Atlantisz Book Island moved out of the Váci Street premises we had renovated ourselves. From the following year on, the bookshop temporarily operated at the Town Hall office of the publishing house until Atlantisz Book Island was reopened at its new location. Many of our faithful readers are still reminiscent about the romantic charm of the spartan conditions of those days.
In September, we bought the new Király Street premises of Atlantisz Book Island. The purchase price and the cost of remodelling far exceeded the amount of the compensation granted by the court.
We lost writer and historian Ferenc Fejtő, one of the patrons and friends of the Atlantisz Book Programme, a former member of the editorial committee at Medvetánc.
Ghislain Lafont, author of Histoire théologique de l'Église catholique : itinéraire et formes de la théologie, a book on the theological history of the catholic church, visited us on the occasion of the publication of the Hungarian edition of his work (A katolikus egyház teológiatörténete). The author, the translator, the publisher and our Benedictine hosts sat around a round table at Pannonhalma Archabbey.
On the occasion of the national book week in June, we launched the final volume of Proust’s novel sequence À la recherche du temps perdu (In Search of Lost Time, Az eltűnt idő nyomában), completing “the Hungarian Proust”. In December, Júlia Jancsó’s translation was voted best literary translation of the year by the readers of weekly magazine Magyar Narancs [“Hungarian Orange”]. Later, in 2015, Jancsó’s translation was also awarded a prestigious translators’ prize.
By the end of September, the new and somewhat larger premises of Atlantisz Book Island were finally completed. After the hardships of remodelling, our quadrilingual bookshop could finally open again, this time on the Király Street front of Anker Palace, one of Budapest’s landmark buildings on Deák Square. The press as well as our Hungarian and foreign visitors spoke of it as possibly the most beautiful traditional bookshop in the whole of Central Europe. Readers entering the bookshop are still welcomed by images of Proust, Wittgenstein, Kafka, and the famous bookworm hanging above Atlantisz’ trademark bookshelves.
In May, the Institut français de Budapest and Atlantisz Publishing House signed a long-term agreement in a ceremonial setting at the French Embassy in Budapest. The Institut français de Budapest has been a supporter of Atlantisz’ French book programme ever since the publishing house was established. The agreement was an acknowledgement of twenty years of working together and an act to ensure the continuation of that work. Cultural Counsellor of the French Embassy in Budapest and director of the Institut français de Budapest François Laquièze played an outstanding role in the preparation of the agreement.
In 2010, Atlantisz’ books and Atlantisz Book Island received even broader press coverage than during previous years.
Jann Assmann met his Hungarian readers and signed copies of his books in the new shop. He gave a talk at the university before an audience of over seven hundred.
We started our cooperation with Iván Fischer’s Budapest Festival Orchestra.
On occasion of the national book fair of 2011, we launched a new Hungarian edition of Dialektik der Aufklärung (The Dialectic of the Enlightenment) by Adorno and Horkheimer (A felvilágosodás dialektikája), which was the opening volume in the joint series of Frankfurt publisher S. Fischer Verlag and Atlantisz Publishing House.
In January, as newly elected members of the National Assembly of Hungary – following the example of previous Members of Parliament – were reading Atlantisz’ books on parliamentary law such as Bevezetés a parlamenti jogba [“An Introduction to parliamentary Law”] and Kormányzás a dualizmus korában [“Governance in the Age of Dualism”] by Zoltán Szente, and as students of social sciences, philosophy, aesthetics, classical studies, and theology departments across Hungary’s universities continued to use – as they had for over two decades – Atlantisz’ publications as their textbooks, an official smear campaign was launched targeting Hungary’s philosophers, including undignified and utterly unfounded attacks against Atlantisz Publishing House. “Bands of philosophers” were accused of wasting research funds on projects considered useless for the national economy. Some of these useless research topics included, for example, the work and achievements of Winckelmann, Kant, and Heidegger, research into the ideologies of totalitarian societies, or Atlantisz’ large-scheme publication of the complete works of Plato with commentary. The latter was accused of being “superfluous” as Hungarian translations of Plato had already been available. The intense smear campaign against the incriminated workshops of “luxury philosophy” was backed by one and a half years of continuous police investigations. During this investigation, the Hungarian police impounded copies of the complete works of Plato. Atlantisz Publishing House issued a statement in protest, and many researchers spoke out publicly on the absurdity of the campaign. Thousands of philosophers from all over the world as well as notable scholarly institutions protested against the persecution. Eventually, every single attack was proven completely unfounded, and the investigations closed in the absence of crime.
During the June national book fair, unknown individuals threatened staff members selling copies of Plato in Atlantisz’ book tent, and demanded that the books be removed.
In June, the leaders of S. Fischer Stiftung visited Atlantisz and studied the publisher’s book programme.
Throughout the year, Atlantisz Book Island’s new premises became one of the national capital’s popular cultural institutions. When launching Moses Mendelssohn’s selected philosophical and theological studies, the bookshop overflowed with the audience attending Professor Géza Komoróczy’s lecture; readers listening to the talk congregated standing on the road and along the pavement outside the bookshop in Király Street. Probably, no book launching in Budapest has ever attracted such a huge audience. Mendelssohn’s book was translated by the late László Kisbali.
In September, S. Fischer Verlag celebrated the 125th anniversary of its foundation at that year’s Göteborg Book Fair in Sweden. Atlantisz’ leader was among the participants of the round table event celebrating the occasion and commemorating the years the publishing house spent in emigration.
In November, Atlantisz joined protesters demonstrating to save Attila József’s statue outside Parliament. Prominent figures of Hungary’s literary and cultural life as well as citizens from all walks of life recited Attila József’s texts for several days.
In December, we organised our first bookshop concert, which have since become a tradition. The performance of cellist Ditta Rohmann was welcomed warmly by Atlantisz Book Island crowd.
Even though our publishing house worked throughout the year without running water or heating and the building was damaged by fire, our ventures eventually worked out fairly well.
During the spring session of the German Academy for Language and Literature, Atlantisz’ leader was invited to give a talk. The contributing members of the German Academy lauded Atlantisz as one of the best scientific book publishers of Europe. Professor Heinrich Detering, the President of the Academy, proposed plans for further cooperation.
Some of Europe’s most outstanding cultural personalities – writers, publishers, heads of cultural institutions, and scholars – established the Circle of the Friends of Atlantisz.
Passagen Verlag of Vienna was featured at an exhibit at the Book Island. The participants of the opening round table included Peter Engelmann and Mihály Vajda. Among other exhibitors and guests performing at our by-then traditional bookshop concerts, we also had the honour of welcoming Wolfgang Beck, the publisher of C.H. Beck Verlag in Munich.
This was the year when the police closed the investigations designed to expose the “crimes” of Hungary’s philosophers. No charge held up and no philosopher was found guilty of any breach law.
Responding to a letter from his Frankfurt counterpart, the mayor of Budapest confirmed the agreement setting out the two cities’ joint patronage over the Atlantisz Book Programme and reassured Atlantisz of his continued support.
Once again, cellist Ditta Rohmann’s fantastic bookshop concert was one of the most outstanding events organised at Atlantisz Book Island.
We lost Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro, patron of The Making of Europe, a book series published as part of the Atlantisz Book Programme by a consort of five European publishers.
Atlantisz moved into its new office at 1 Akadémia Street. The history of the building has quite a message. Formerly functioning as a hotel named after Archduke Stephen, Palatine of Hungary, it was later used as the recruiting office of the Hungarian Revolutionary Army and the general staff headquarters of General Józef Bem during the revolution and war of independence of 1848. It was in this building that poet Sándor Petőfi, among many others, volunteered to serve in the army. Later on, some of the most notable figures of Hungarian literature spent their time in the building. It is probable that the room where Atlantisz currently stocks its books used to be the windowless card playing room of novelist, journalist, and politician Kálmán Mikszáth. It was also the building where Gundel opened his first restaurant in Budapest. His dinner guests included composer Franz Liszt, novelist Mór Jókai, and painter Károly Lotz.
Atlantisz was invited to participate in the events celebrating the 250th anniversary of the foundation of Publishers C.H. Beck of Munich. Plans were hashed out to continue our joint book programme.
On the occasion of a publishing industry event organised in Berlin to honour the legendary founder of Wagenbach Verlag, we engaged in talks with publisher Klaus Wagenbach and Susanne Schüssler, the “Prinzipalin” of Wagenbach Verlag, about the friendly cooperation between our publishing houses.
Having put several difficult years behind it, Atlantisz – which mostly offers its books at below-cost prices to make them available to students and low-income readers – finally managed to stabilise its financial situation thanks to the support of the foundations of European publishing houses and cultural institutions.
Atlantisz Book Island offered a venue for excellent concerts, including the by-then traditional concerts of cellist Ditta Rohmann, an evening with soprano Renáta Darázs, and performances by young guitarists and violinists. We also hosted the performing artists of Schauspiel Frankfurt.
We mostly completed the construction of the new Atlantisz book warehouse.
We had the pleasure to host one of our long time authors and a great friend of our publishing house, Jürgen Habermas, whose talk was attended by hundreds.
In their articles related to the Frankfurt Book Fair, notable German intellectuals – such as Professor Wolf Lepenies and Lothar Müller – lauded Atlantisz’ achievements “a European miracle”.
We published Uri Asaf’s colossal translation of the Zohar, which was lauded by critics as the best literary translation of the year. This important volume was the continuation of our work in presenting the intellectual trends that have had a formative influence on European culture. Throughout its first 25 years, Atlantisz’ series A kútnál [“At the Fountain”] saw the publication of classics of Greek philosophy, Philo of Alexandria as a representative of Hellenistic Jewish literature, texts by the Greek patriarchs, a history of Catholic theology, texts representing modern Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish thought in the philosophy of history and theology, Buber’s Hasidic tales, and a complete translation of One Thousand and One Nights. Our religious studies publications received broad press coverage in 2014; these, in addition to the Zohar, included Hungarian editions of Georges Minois’ history of the concept of hell entitled Histoire des enfers on the history of hell (A pokol története), René Girard’s Je vois Satan tomber comme l'éclair [“I See Satan Fall Like Lightning”] (Láttam a sátánt mint villámlást lehullani az égből), and Jan Assmann’s Religio Duplex – Ägyptische Mysterien und europäische Aufklärung on how the Enlightenment reinvented Egyptian religion (Religio duplex – Az egyiptomi misztériumok és az európai felvilágosodás).
We were happy to participate in the events celebrating the 50th anniversary of our old friend, Berlin publishing house Wagenbach. Wagenbach’s manager Susanne Schüssler introduced Atlantisz’ programme to her junior staff members.
Throughout the year, Atlantisz Book Island saw a significant increase in the number of readers showing interest in our books.
We continued our tradition of Atlantisz concerts with cello and gamba performances of our musician friends.
We lost historian Professor Jacques Le Goff, one of the patrons of the Atlantisz Book Programme.
We also lost philosophy professor László Tengelyi, one of the founders and authors of Atlantisz Publishing House, a one-time editor of Medvetánc.
Trio delle Muse and Simplicissimus gave concerts at Atlantisz Book Island.
A concert night at the Sir Georg Solti Hall of the Franz Liszt Academy of Music was held under the slogan “A szavak tettek”, “Words are Deeds”, celebrating the 25th anniversary of Atlantisz Publishing House and the 35th anniversary of its predecessor, the quarterly Medvetánc. Friends, readers, and staff members of the publishing house met to listen to excellent premiers in the presence of over 300 guests. The participants included delegates of the cities of Frankfurt and Budapest, the Institut français de Budapest and the Institute for Human Sciences (IWM) in Vienna, as well as the managements of the publishing houses S. Fischer and C.H. Beck and of the Frankfurt Book Fair. The event saw the premiere of two compositions dedicated to Atlantisz: György Kurtág’s piece setting Heraclitus’ fragments to music (Hé-rakleitosz-töredékek; interpreted by soprano Renáta Darázs) and Ádám Kondor’s Bizarre Objects XIII. The latter was performed by Qaartsiluni Ensemble, as was the third piece of the evening, Klaus Ospald’s Piano Quartet, a Hungarian premiere. The evening was also exceptional in that after a good many years Hungarian audiences had again been able to see and hear András Schiff on stage at the Academy of Music through the screening of his film celebrating Atlantisz and the friends of the publishing house. Recorded in Berlin, the footage included his introductory remarks followed by his performance of Franz Schubert’s Ungarische Melodie. Invoking Atlantisz’ ambitious Hungarian edition of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, Ditta Rohmann and Emese Mali performed the second movement of César Franck’s Sonata in A major for Cello and Piano. During the event, our Prize for Literary Translators – named after the outstanding philosopher László Tengelyi, who was our friend, fellow founder as well as author – was awarded for the first time. The first winners of the award were Csilla Prileszky (posthumously), Uri Asaf, and Júlia Jancsó for their excellent translations of One Thousand and One Nights, the Zohar, and Proust’s novel sequence, respectively. The complete programme of the evening was recorded on DVD.
In November, Jan Assmann visited our publishing house again, giving a talk and meeting his readers and translator at Atlantisz Book Island.
During his first official trip to Budapest, Frankfurt mayor Peter Feldmann visited Atlantisz Book Island. He was accompanied by a large delegation. He lauded the book programme and all those involved in creating it, and handed over the plaque of the city of Frankfurt am Main to Atlantisz, which enjoys the joint patronage of the cities of Frankfurt and Budapest. After discussions held at Atlantisz, he visited Budapest mayor István Tarlós at Town Hall, and the two mayors confirmed their joint patronage over Atlantisz. On the last day of his visit, talks continued between Frankfurt and Atlantisz during lunch.
We lost three excellent old friends. Imre Kertész was not only the translator of Wittgenstein’s Culture and Value (Vermischte Bemerkungen; Észrevételek), he also stood up for us immediately whenever it was necessary. We celebrated his Nobel prize at Atlantisz’ stand at the Frankfurt Book Fair. His wife Magda, who had been instrumental in maintaining our contacts in Chicago, also deceased shortly after him.
Péter Esterházy, an outstanding intellectual of Hungarian and European culture, also passed away. We could always count on his attention and solidarity as a great friend.
We were also struck by the death of famous Hungarian philosopher György Márkus. Living in Australia, he was considered by many Hungarian thinkers as their master. Back in 1994, on the occasion of his 60th birthday, our volume Lehetséges-e egyáltalán? [“Is it At All Possible?”] had honoured his lifetime achievement. We were working on the Hungarian edition of one of his most comprehensive works, Culture, Science, Society: The Constitution of Cultural Modernity when he passed away. Eventually, the book was published in 2017 (Kultúra, tudomány, társadalom. A kultúra modern eszméje).
The 2016 László Tengelyi Prize for Literary Translators went to Mária Ludassy. For several decades, Hungarian readers had accessed eighteenth century French philosophy and social debates as well as the buoyant intellectual culture of the day mostly through her books, university lectures, and translations. During the award ceremony, the patrons of the prize were represented by the Department of Culture of the Budapest Town Hall on the Hungarian side and City Councillor Claus Möbius on behalf of the city of Frankfurt. He and the head of the publishing house gave a joint laudatory speech in honour of Professor Ludassy. The award ceremony was held at Atlantisz Book Island in the presence of Cultural Counsellor of the German Embassy in Budapest Maria Altmann, Cultural Attaché and Deputy Director of Institut français de Budapest Claire Garand, and many friends and followers of the award winner professor and of the publishing house.
This year Atlantisz embarked on a large-scale typographical adventure to create its own typeface based on the reconstruction and digitization of the most beautiful so-called “Florence letters” of the great late eighteenth century Hungarian typographer, Miklós Tótfalusi Kis. We invited Róbert Kravjánszki, the former secretary of the editorial office of Medvetánc, who had in the meantime become an expert typographer, to reconstruct the typeset. As the first step, we obtained one of the available copies of the first publication of the first academy of sciences established in Florence by Galileo’s students, which had been printed using the letters of Miklós Kis.
Atlantisz Publishing House and Atlantisz Book Island hosted Harvard professor Robert Darnton, publishers Eva Cossee and Christoph Buchwald of Cossee Publishers of Amsterdam, rector of the Berlin Institute for Advanced Study Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger, and Heinz Hertach, founder of Zuger Kulturstiftung and an old friend of our book programme.
The head of our publishing house received the Bundesverdienstkreuz, the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany from the President of Germany for, among other achievements, the creation of the Atlantisz series of German books in the field of the human sciences, Német Szellemtudományi Könyvtár. This library is the largest series of German science books outside the German speaking world.
The Atlantisz Book Programme received special mention during the closing event of the memorial conference organised by the Berlin Institute for Advanced Study in honour of Clemens Heller.
We started the meticulous work of reconstructing the “Florence letters” of Miklós Tótfalusi Kis. At an event held at the Alantisz Book Island, we presented the original volume from Florence as well as the work we had commenced on the planned new typeset. After the presentation, Róbert Kravjánszki also gave a talk.
The 2017 László Tengelyi Prize for Literary Translators was awarded to István Bárány, Judit Horváth and Kornél Steiger, teaching staff at the Faculty of Humanities of ELTE, in appreciation of their outstanding translations of classical authors. The laudatory speeches were given by Gábor Bolonyai, Tamás Ullmann, and the leader of the publishing house.
Atlantisz hosted Jan Philipp Reemtsma, the author of Vertrauen und Gewalt. Versuch über eine besondere Konstellation der Moderne, an essay on trust and violence in modern societies, which had just been published in Hungarian (Bizalom és erőszak a modern társadalomban). Professor Reemtsma gave a lecture at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) in the organisation of the publishing house. The lecture received a great deal of attention: the Academy’s lecture hall overflowed with audience members. Professor Reemtsma joined us on our visit to the Academy’s Lukács Archives, which, despite the international protest the measure generated in the profession, was unexpectedly evicted that very day, in our very presence.
As invitees at the Frankfurt Paulskirche, we had the chance to congratulate one of our most widely read authors and good friend Jan Assmann and his wife Aleida Assmann on the occasion of the award ceremony of the Friedenspreis des Deutschen Buchhandels, the international peace prize of the association of German book publishers. This is one of the most prestigious literary accolades in Europe.
Thanks to support received from the Goethe-Institut, we were able to complete the first stage of our typographical programme, reconstructing and digitizing the so-called “Florence letters” of Miklós Tótfalusi Kis. Based on that work, we created Atlantisz Antiqua, the Latin font of our new typeset, which is a modernised version of the original typeset that nonetheless preserves as much of the merits of the original as is possible. Before the end of the year, the European Union Intellectual Property Office registered our typefaces Atlantisz Antiqua Roman and Atlantisz Antiqua Italic, which now enjoy international legal protection.
At the 2018 Leipzig Book Fair, the head of Atlantisz Publishing House was one of the speakers at a conference hosted by television network ARTE and the International Publishers Association.
Atlantisz Book Island was visited by notable classical scholar Professor Thomas A. Szlezák, the author of Platon lesen (Reading Plato) and Homer: oder Die Geburt der abendländischen Dichtung [“Homer and the Birth of Western Literature”], both published in Hungarian by Atlantisz (Hogyan olvassunk Platónt?; Homérosz – A nyugati irodalom születése).
Flutist Gergely Matuz performed his composition inspired by excerpts from One Thousand and One Nights.
The 2018 László Tengelyi Prize for Literary Translators was awarded to László Sujtó in honour of his noteworthy lifetime achievement in rendering French historians and philosophers into Hungarian. The celebratory event was opened at Atlantisz Book Island by Ditta Rohmann’s by-then traditional bookshop cello concert. Our guests included Dirk Höfer and Martin Burckhardt, authors of Atlantisz’ volume Minden és semmi – a digitális világpusztítás feltárulása [“Everything and Nothing – The Revelation of the World’s Digital Doom”], who engaged in a conversation with their translator Tamás Lénárt.
The leader of Atlantisz Publishing House received the International Publishers Association’s nomination for Prix Voltaire.
Rudolf Augstein Stiftung organised a conference in Hamburg, inviting its earlier partners, including Atlantisz. Augstein Stiftung supported the publication of several of our titles.
The Berlin Academy of Arts and the Berlin Institute for Advanced Study organised a conference in honour of Imre Kertész with the participation of a representative of Atlantisz. We discussed the possibility of publishing a series of books in a partnership between the Berlin Institute for Advanced Study and Atlantisz.
We grieved the loss of poet and literary translator Dezső Tandori, an old friend of Atlantisz. To honour his memory, we organised an exhibit at Atlantisz Book Island displaying art he had created for us. The opening and closing act of the event was a string concert given by the students of cellist Ditta Rohmann. Balázs Galkó read excerpts from Dezső Tandori’s literary work.
We presented the Atlantisz Book Programme during a conference jointly organised by the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the Working Group of Libraries and Documentation Centres for Eastern, Central-Eastern and South-Eastern European Studies (Arbeitsgemeinschaft der Bibliotheken und Dokumentationsstellen der Ost-, Ostmittel- und Südosteuropaforschung – ABDOS), and the Southeast Europe Association (Südosteuropa-Gesellschaft – SOG) at the Academy in Budapest on the role and responsibility of libraries in preserving and promoting the European cultural heritage (A könyvtárak szerepe és felelőssége Európa kulturális örökségének megőrzésében és közvetítésében).
Having been invited by the management of Suhrkamp Verlag, we visited the publisher’s new building in Berlin, its book archive, and engaged in conversations with their staff.
This year, Hungarian intellectual life was hit hard once again: Atlantisz lost such beloved friends and long-time supporters as philosopher Ágnes Heller, iconic Hungarian television personality György Baló, novelist and essayist György Konrád, architect László Rajk, or publisher Zsuzsa Votisky.
After three decades of fruitful cooperation between their respective cities, recently elected Budapest mayor Gergely Karácsony and Frankfurt-am-Main mayor Peter Feldmann reaffirmed their commitment as patrons of the Atlantisz Book Programme.
In the months of March and April, our bookshop Atlantisz Book Island was unable to open because of the coronavirus pandemic. Our friends and customers ordered online and we quickly delivered their books. We also took advantage of this period to renew our website.
In June, one of the most notable community of scholars, the Berlin Institute for Advanced Study and Atlantisz signed a cooperation agreement.
We completed our new website and launched its test version.