Panel covers literature from the whole of Eastern Central Europe, but most of our team is based in Budapest, Hungary. We love living in Budapest because of the city’s strong creative influence and because of the indomitable spirit of its artistic community. Keeping that in mind, we have decided to introduce the best Budapest has to offer, its essence, to you, magazine readers and literature lovers: a new online page, Faces of Budapest, about the people that make this city so exceptional. Every two weeks we will publish one story with the help of The Proust Questionnaire. The editor of this section is Eszter Fruzsina Nagy, a self-taught artist and photographer from Budapest, whose works have been influenced by music, performance art and poetry. As a part of her English degree, Eszter took a course in journalism, which sparked her interest in writing and learning about the stories of individuals. Eszter has contributed to Panel as an artist since its first issue.

 

Harcsa Veronika

Maomi Neven du Mont

Tomass

Judit Pecak

Réka Érdi-Harmos

Harcsa Veronika

Veronika Harcsa is a singer and songwriter from Hungary, Budapest who for the past six years has split her time between Budapest and other European cities. Since she’s spending more time abroad, she’s grown to appreciate things, which she used to take for granted, such as the green Buda hills and the stimulating Central European cultural blend of Budapest.

What is your most marked characteristic? 

Always searching.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

A lazy afternoon with my love.

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

An oak tree. I'd love to try steadiness.

What is your most treasured possession?

My relationships. I can't really think of objects being most treasured.

What do you most value in your friends? 

Their system of values.

Which talent would you most like to have?


I would like to have a better memory.

What is your current state of mind?  

Contented and grateful.

Maomi Neven du Mont

Maomi Neven du Mont is a painter who loves kids, has six children and sees life as one huge experience, which she hopes will make her wiser than when she started thinking ‘my life should be as good as a movie’. Growing up as a kid in Hollywood she had seen a lot of films made in Europe. When she first visited Western Europe in 1951, Europe seemed to her ‘so ancient’. Coming from modernized Munich to Budapest with her sons’ band ‘A Subtle Plague’ on tour in 1993 gave her constant backflashes of Paris in the 50s. She fell in love with the city with beautiful faded buildings and some 50s block houses. Through their children, she and her husband have now many friends in Budapest, the city that she says, really feels like home.

What is your most marked characteristic?

That I talk too much, but what is probably the most marked is that I have more energy than ninety percent of normal human beings and I have a big capacity for communication, for grooving, travelling, and connecting to other people.

Where would you most like to live? 

There's no one place where I'd like to live. I would like to move around all the time. I'm not somebody who wants to stay in one place, but I'd like to have my place in Tangier, Pondicherry, Positano, Chiang Mai… I'm a traveler.

When and where were you the happiest?

I am happiest whenever and wherever I am or was with people who were just simple and groovy. I could be in Peshawar, which is one of the most dangerous places in the world and be happy because I have the capacity to walk into a market where no normal woman would walk in and find that they're happy that I sit with them, that I drink tea with them. That's why I like travelling - I always find people that make me happy. But when it comes to just daily happiness, I find it most inside myself and nature.

Which living person you most admire?

I would say who I most admire are the people who have their intellect and their heart together.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Success. I just don't believe in what people call success. In our society today, you can be considered a looser when sitting on the park bench and lost everything, you know, and I don’t believe in these terms. I tell my grandchildren you should always try to do what makes you happiest.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I think my greatest achievement was that I gave birth to five and adopted a sixth kid and none of them are mean gangsters or anything like that.

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

I would be a gay Sicilian filmmaker, living in the castle like in the (Italian) film The Leopard.

Who are your heroes in real life?

Nurses, for instance, who are underpaid and give so much love to humanity.

Who are your favorite writers?

Milan Kundera, Cormac McCarthy, Michael Ondaatje, Tom Reiss, D.H. Lawrence, Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Tom Wolfe, Orhan Pamuk, Joseph Conrad, Hemingway, Philip Roth… Just in the last years, I was reading The Orientalist and I didn’t want it to stop. I love the autobiographies of unbelievable people, women for instance. I like a lot of things, I am very vast in what I like.

What is your greatest fear?

Boredom.

What is your motto?


I think my motto in life is to keep on tripping, living, looking, searching, dancing, being happy, loving, listening to music, you know, all the positive things that make me happy and to rise above what makes me unhappy and find a solution to it.

Tomass

Tom Stoke is a painter who fell in love with a space in Budapest city center, originally a basement next to one he was staying in for a week about three years ago when passing through the city. The place was then absolutely ruined, full of stuff, flooded and burnt. At the time Tom opened a gallery in Amsterdam, but also fell in love with the space and decided to build a studio in Budapest where people can come and paint and draw; the Painter’s Palace. Now he manages the place and has plans to expand it to be more like a network of spaces.

What’s your idea of perfect happiness?

General appreciation for life itself. Being appreciative for life’s little moments and being grateful for time. Consciousness. That’s the kind of core of being happy and the rest is just joy, laughter, fun.

Which talent would you most like to have?

I would love to have the skills to be good enough to let me run on the big cranes up in the sky, to be skillful enough that my fear wouldn’t exist of falling.

What is your most treasured possession?

I’ve broken down this idea of ownership. It’s more like a skill, like drawing or something that I’ve worked on so it’s something that I do, own, but I could definitely lose it. So drawing. That is a skill.

Who is your hero of fiction?

Narcissus and Goldmund or Siddhartha, characters from Hermann Hesse. I don’t how fictional the characters are, the characters of Hermann Hesse are more semi-autobiographical, they’re all part of the same body.

What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Personal wealth and the gain of it are definitely overrated and overdone.

On what occasion do you lie?

This one; never.

When and where were you the happiness?

There’s no defining time of happiness, I’d rather keep it consistent.

What do you value in your friends?

Love and diversity.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

The Painters Palace. That’s been a defining point in my life so far.

Judit Pecak

Judit runs Massolit, an English language bookstore and cafe in the center of Budapest which, in a way, is heart and soul of the city. Massolit hosts exhibitions, concerts, literary readings (including Budapest Friday Night Stories and the launch of the first issue of Panel). Sometimes it seems that Judit knows everyone in Budapest, especially those who belong to artistic community. No wonder though: many people of culture come to Massolit to work at their laptops, to have a chat with a friend or to enjoy solitude in a little garden at the back.

Judit Pecak says that running Massolit is what, among other things, keeps her in the city, as the place has a special microclimate and is important for Budapest people.

What is your current state of mind?

I'm trying to keep a kind of balance. On the one hand, politics has a huge influence on our everyday lives, and mine is no exception. On the other hand, I'm trying not to get too emotionally involved as I don't want to let it influence my personal life.

Where would you like to live?

Everywhere. I was living in so many countries that I don't mind living anywhere to be honest. I used to live in Poland and Russia, for instance. Also, I have an idea to open another bookstore in Vienna because it's close to Budapest.

When and where were you the happiest?

When I was living in Krakow for two and a half years I had two weeks there which I can describe as the best time in my life. I felt so much happiness then and just the joy of being in the present.

What is your favorite occupation?

As a job I really like what I'm doing now. I often ask myself if I still like what I'm doing and I think I will do it as long as the answer for my question is “yes”. But generally, I really like to travel, to be surrounded by nature, to hike and being outside in the green.

Which talent would you most like to have?

I've always wanted to draw but I cannot. It's king of a family thing. Everybody in our family would like to have that talent but we don't. Everything we make with our hands looks bad  (laughs).

On what occasion do you lie?

I'm actually a really good liar. This is one of my flaws but nowadays I am very conscious about that as it's never a good way to deal with things. The only thing I let myself lie about  is my age. When somebody asks me about it, I give the answer depending on how I feel at the moment and I really enjoy that.

Which living person do you most admire?

My grandmother who is 90 years old. I was always with her in the summer since I was 5. She was living in the countryside. She grew her own vegetables, baked her own bread, she had animals and we, kids, were completely free to do whatever we wanted to. I remember it as a very free and happy time. I think that experience influenced me in a good way.

Who are your favorite writers?


I like Chekhov and Bulgakov, for instance. If to speak about Hungarian literature I'd name Magda Szabó, Milán Füst, János Pilinszky and some translations by Sándor Weöres. I also read in Polish and would recommend a Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk.

Réka Érdi-Harmos

Réka is a photographer who lives and works in Budapest. She and her husband Tamás Érdi, a well-known, award winning pianist who is visually impaired, travel a lot but are always happy to return to Budapest, the city they belong to.

What is the quality you most like in a person?

When someone is true to himself/ herself and when she/ he is a good person. Honesty is very important.

If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

I think I would like my current self and life back.

What is your most marked characteristic?

I'm a pretty open person and always happy to have a chat with people on the street and everything. At the same time, I would consider myself an introvert.

What is your greatest fear?

In the past I used to worry about the smallest things and perhaps I'm still like that a little bit. I'm  afraid of losing people I love. I worry about the future of our planet. I used to be afraid of the dark but since I know Tamás I see this issue differently and somehow I'm not afraid of it any more.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I am not sure whether perfect happiness is something one can reach or aim for. Generally, I feel content and very happy with my life. I think I've found a special kind of happiness when I met Tamás. I've been loving every minute we get to spend together but I also think it's important not to take it for granted. Happiness is like a flower that needs constant care and watering.

Which talent would you most like to have?

I would like to be able to always improve at what I'm doing and do the best work I can as a photographer.

What is your motto?
There's a quotation from a haiku written by Ákos Fodor titled Love. It goes as the following: "Not the curtain, not the wind, but the moment the curtain lifts, then falls". I think those are the moments in life worth capturing.