IN THE DISCIPLINE

I’m somewhat ashamed to report that it’s taken me four months to locate the foreign language library here. The process of “settling in” has, let’s say, not quite been an Edith Whartonish whirl of appointments with the local dress-maker – it might better be measured by the friendly acknowledgements won from our local taco-slinger or semi-professional chess player turned barman. In fact, I’ve comprehensively failed at resolving most practical matters, including finding a dentist, a doctor, or a supplier of the kind of vegetarian spacefood I occasionally disgust my boyfriend by consuming.

I got through the first four months with the pile of paperbacks I lugged over here as excess baggage. I’ve exhausted the more diverting of these as bedtime reading , or, indeed, sweated ponderously over the more oblique ones whilst writing an academic proposal – I was almost the woman who had to pay a baggage supplement for carriage of her Christine Brooke-Rose omnibus. I cased Budapest’s second-hand bookshops for a while, but found selection more interesting for the paratextual tales the novels had to tell than anything else: who, exactly, carted The E.S.P. Worm by Robert Margoff and Piers Anthony (a “brain-bending science fiction surprise”) around Europe, decided (wisely) that it wasn’t a keeper and offloaded it at a bookshop behind the Opera in Budapest?

Anyway, the library on Molnár utca comes highly recommended. Its smallish English language section seems orientated towards the fine English Studies programme at ELTE nearby. I came away with a haul comprising Joan Didion’s The White Album (a favourite, favourite prose stylist); a couple of lit crit surveys by that contemporary fiction lot to rouse my ire; a novel by Iris Murdoch that, for all the references to it sprinkled liberally throughout my undergraduate dissertation, you might assume I had already read and Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty, which I raced through at lightning speed this weekend. It has had me pondering my own decidedly less luminous intermingling with the Hull commuter belt’s Yorkshire Post cognoscenti as a teenager at a grant-maintained private school, which was more a seven-year blur of chronic embarrassment at provincial Italian restaurants and rugby club discos than cocaine and sodomy in South Ken.