The Budapest Review of Books (1991-2002)

BRB was the English edition of Budapesti Könyvszemle - BUKSZ, a critical quarterly of the social sciences, which was founded in 1989. The journal combined rigorous, lively, and sometimes biting criticism with an open spirit of enquiry about new approaches in the humanities in Hungary and in the wider world. The primary aim of the English version was to make the debates within the Budapest intellectual milieu accessible outside it. Naturally, it was in our interest to make our critical voice heard by transcending linguistic barriers. But it was also vital for "Western" intellectuals to understand how their Central European counterparts viewed the current period of spectacular and frequently explosive changes in their region. With the publication of the English edition the editors of the Budapest Review of Books hoped to make a contribution towards breaking down old barriers and establishing new meeting points.

Some issues of BRB can be found at Scripta and at CEEOL (cf. ">> Hungary >> Books").

The contents of BRB in : 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000/1-2, 2000/3-4, 2001, 2002.

The Budapest Review of Books was launched in 1991 as the English-language version of the Budapesti Könyvszemle (BUKSZ), a highly successful publication of the post-censorship boom. Issues of BRB were 44-56 pages long and appeared on a quarterly basis in a journal format until 2002. Its prestigious international advisory board included János M. Bak from the Central European Univesity, Peter Burke from Cambridge, Natalie Zemon Davies and Albert Hirschman from Princeton, György Konrád from Budapest, Jacques le Goff from Paris, Wolf Lepenies, Berlin and Adam Michnik, Warsaw. Similarly to its bulkier Hungarian counterpart (circulation: 1500) the BRB was a general review of publications in the humanities, which treated the book review as an occasion for broader discussion addressing a truly international audience. The journal was anything but a translation of the Hungarian version. Although some of the outstanding contributions of the Hungarian version were devastating reviews on books by often noted authors including endless lists of errors, the English version focused on what deserved attention or praise. Articles from other publications and commissioned essays were frequently included.

In its main section, the BRB offered in-depth review essays on individual books as well as grouping several publications on the same topic or by the same author. In the section "Issues" it presented major surveys of a field and even carries, though not in every issue, so-called leading articles of a more general and topical kind. The "Notices" column carried short reviews, which were more descriptive and less polemical in character. There was a strong emphasis on presenting the unprecedented boom in academic publishing. The "Listings" column featured bibliographies of various kinds, ranging from thematic listings to annotated ones. Review articles, too, included selected bibliographies of the authors or the topics covered. We printed advertisements of new publications, with special emphasis on foreign-language ones. The aim was threefold: to satisfy the interest of the general reader; to serve as a research tool for students of individual disciplines; and finally, to become an important source for the acquisition librarian by providing essential information on books in Hungary and in the wider region.

Praise for the journal came from such diverse quarters as the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung ("A truly European magazine of spirit and wit") and the Times Literary Supplement (M.F. Burnyeat in a "Letter from Budapest" discussed one of its articles in detail). Scholarly gatherings, conferences in and outside Hungary were among the venues at which complimentary copies of the journal were distributed, so that the journal could obtain widespread recognition and appreciation in academic circles.