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Queer Budapest, 1873–1961

By the dawn of the twentieth century, Budapest was a burgeoning cosmopolitan metropolis. Known at the time as the “Pearl of the Danube,” it boasted some of Europe’s most innovative architectural and cultural achievements, and its growing middle class was committed to advancing the city’s liberal politics and making it an intellectual and commercial crossroads between East and West. In addition, as historian Anita Kurimay reveals, fin-de-siècle Budapest was also famous for its boisterous public sexual culture, including a robust gay subculture. Queer Budapest is the riveting story of nonnormative sexualities in Hungary as they were understood, experienced, and policed between the birth of the capital as a unified metropolis in 1873 and the decriminalization of male homosexual acts in 1961.
Kurimay explores how and why a series of illiberal Hungarian regimes came to regulate but also tolerate and protect queer life. She also explains how the precarious coexistence between the illiberal state and queer community ended abruptly at the close of World War II. A stunning reappraisal of sexuality’s political implications, Queer Budapest recuperates queer communities as an integral part of Hungary’s—and Europe’s—modern incarnation.

336 pages | 16 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2020

Gay and Lesbian Studies

Gender and Sexuality

History: European History, General History


“Anita Kurimay’s book is important not only as an amazing critical history of a rich array of sources on same-sex sexuality in Hungary from the late nineteenth century to the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1961, but also as a challenging response to widespread beliefs that often form the basis for attacks against the LGBT+ community in Hungary.”

Hungarian Cultural Studies

“With its rich readings of cultural, medical, and police records, Queer Budapest makes a major contribution to our understanding of modern queer European history. Kurimay’s vivid exploration of how political regimes of twentieth-century Hungary conceived of the queer in their midst illuminates the tangled relationship between politics and sexuality.”

Dan Healey, University of Oxford

“Filled with riveting subplots—from rural servants’ interpretations of aristocratic lesbianism to the brutal eugenic fantasies of Arrow Cross fascism—Kurimay’s book traces the paradoxical twists and turns in Hungarian authorities’ handling of homosexuality. Queer Budapest felicitously and brilliantly scrambles all our usual assumptions about the relationships between sexual and other kinds of politics.”

Dagmar Herzog, author of Cold War Freud: Psychoanalysis in an Age of Catastrophes

Table of Contents

Introduction. Sexual Politics in the “Pearl of the Danube”

1. Registering Sex in Sinful Budapest
2. The “Knights of Sick Love”: The Queers of Kornél Tábori and Vladimir Székely
3. Rehabilitating “Sexual Abnormals” in the Hungarian Soviet Republic
4. Peepholes and “Sprouts”: A Lesbian Scandal
5. Unlikely Allies: Queer Men and Horthy Conservatives
6. The End of a Precarious Coexistence: The Prosecution of Homosexuals

Epilogue. Queers and Democracy: The Misremembering of the Queer Past

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