There are several reasons for this point of view. One is the writing which, in my view, is overly explanatory. By that I mean, appears written for those who know nothing of Hungary and therefore needs to explain everything as if the reader is completely ignorant. For example, the Ngyuti railway station is referred to both by its Hungarian name and its translated name, the Western railway station. It is either one or the other. Likewise the the use of accents on Hungarian words is inconsistent. For example, the main character’s grandfather is written as “Miklos” where as the poet of the same name is correctly referred to as “Miklós Radnóti”. Silly, I know and the author indicated that this was due to the cost of publishing. I accept that cost is a factor but it is symptomatic of poor editing throughout the novel. For example, YouTube is written as “You Tube” and the Russian composer is referred to as “Rimsky Korsakov”, without the hyphen. Again, the author said these were simple errors and should as such be over-looked.
Another example of this “over explanation” was the author’s need to explain exactly what a “honey trap” was. Well, any reader of spy thrillers should know what this refers to, and if they don’t, it should be inferred from the text. Instead the author feels the need to spell out, through one character’s conversation, that it is, “When one side uses a sexually attractive woman to ensnare a target, either for purposes of blackmail or to extract information”. I don’t recall Graham Greene or John Le Carré having to be quite so obvious in their explanations.
It may sound like I am more critical of the editor of this novel, rather than the author. Perhaps, but it is the author who takes the brickbats or bouquets, so he is ultimately responsible.
I was also intrigued by the inclusion of a select bibliography at the end of the novel, as I was with the inclusion of a section entitled, “Staying Anonymous on The Internet”. Does this suggest a desire to inform as much as to entertain? It struck me as odd and unlike most novels I have read.
But a deeper criticism is the underlying assumption of the novel: that is, that a small, dedicated group of nazis somehow manipulated economic, social and financial events for their nefarious purposes. For example, the Euro, or common European currency, is portrayed in this novel as a tool in the nazis’ attempt to control European affairs to their advantage. How different is this from the view of the far right who blame the woes of Hungary on a small, cabal of “cosmopolitans”, i.e. Jewish, financiers? The view that a small group of individuals, be they nazis or Jews, somehow control and manipulate modern day commerce and politics is, in my view, absurd. In a curious manner, the author almost gives credence to world-view of the far-right by positing that the opposite is true: we are being manipulated by a small group of fascists, rather than the view of current day European fascists that we are being manipulated by a small group of “cosmopolitans”.
As I say, the issues raised in this novel are very important and need to be confronted. But as a work of fiction, The Budapest Protocol is, in my view, fundamentally flawed and should be judged accordingly.
The Budapest Protocol, by Adam LeBor.
Title THE BUDAPEST PROTOCOL
Author Adam Le Bor
Publication Date May 2009
Format Trade paperback
Extent 235 pp
Rights English language X Canada