Each country has its well-known and loved literary characters whose essence is deeply connected to the identity of a nation or region. This exhibition is about those characters, introducing the fictional world, authors and cultural surrounding of smaller European states. Estonia, Finland, Greece, Hungary and Luxembourg are represented with their literary characters. Learn about the project


Ernő Nemecsek

Man Child

Ernő Nemecsek is a skinny, blond boy in the Paul Street gang. Two rival gangs of boys fight for their playground in Budapest at the end of the 19th century: the ones in red shirts and the boys from Paul Street. The ground is a timber yard with huge piles of wood surrounded by blocks of flats at the corner of Paul Street.

Our hero is the only private in the Paul Street gang. His mates falsely accuse him of being a traitor and put him to shame when they enter his name into the report in small letters: ernő nemecsek, traitor. He is timid, but not a coward. When the flag of the ground is stolen he decides to get it back. During the adventures in the botanical gardens he gets into water three times and goes down with pneumonia. On the day of the battle he lies at home, has a high temperature. Yet he feels he has to go as the ground is not a simple playground for him, but HOMELAND. It is him, the smallest and the weakest of the boys who decides the “battle”.

Nemecsek is the symbol of self-sacrifice and heroic courage of ordinary people taking responsibility for homeland. His mates do not understand him, push him aside, put him to shame and realize his human greatness only after his death.


Ferenc Molnár

Ferenc Molnár


Ferenc Molnár, writer, playwright, journalist is a most significant dramatists and novelists of Hungarian bourgeois literature. He was born as Ferenc Neumann into an upper middle class Jewish family. At the age of 18 he took the literary name, Molnár. Cafés and theatres were his real home. He lived a Bohemian life, got married to well-known actresses. His play Devil was performed in 1907 when his world famous novel based on his childhood memories, The Paul Street Boys was published. Typical figures of the atmosphere of big cities and bourgeois life are presented in his writings. He became the most popular playwright of his age both in Hungary and abroad. Liliom (Lily) was first on in Budapest followed by the opening in Vienna in 1912. The play was filmed by Fritz Lang in 1934, and it was the basis of the Broadway musical Carousel in 1945. Following the first night of Hattyú (Swan) in Paris in 1927 he was awarded the Grand Cross of the National Order of the Legion of Honour. Escaping fascism he spent increasingly more time abroad in Vienna, Nice, Geneva. In 1940 he emigrated to New York with his third wife, the actress, Lili Darvas. He never got used to the new environment. He lived detached in his hotel room near Central Park. His play Panoptikum (Waxworks) was first on in Broadway in 1949. He got into increasingly worse state of nerves and died on April 1st 1952 in New York.


Ferenc Molnár was determined to become the writer of Pest. As an accurate chronicler of the life of the town, he knew a great number of typical figures of the hungry big city. His newspaper articles, sketches are excellent snapshots of the Hungarian “Babel” at the beginning of the century. Journalists, writers, and artists created a special community of cafés. “Male character develops here, in the coffeehouse” - writes Molnár. The middle class audience that attended theatre performances developed in the last decade of the 19th century. The precondition of the liveliness of theatrical life was that performances meet the expectations of the spectators. They could tolerate only reassuring stories, only mockery avoiding important issues. Ferenc Molnár had extraordinary feel for this phenomenon and employed his talent to this end. He was in full possession of all means of creating theatrical sensation from the very beginning. French thesis dramas, wilde-like English comedies all served lessons for him; they were incorporated into his works resulting always in typical Molnár comedies. His unmatched popularity in Hungary and on several stages of Europe and also on Broadway came from the above fact. Despite every success, he could not tolerate disengagement from his homeland, from his livable environment. As he confessed: “Whether you liked the city or not, you breathed, watched, walked, ate, drank, slept, lived, existed and felt like a tourist. Then months passed, then years. The tourist did not go home. The tourist got stuck. The tourist became an emigrant. The healthy became ill.”

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