The advertising company JCDecaux chose an unconventional method for promoting literary appreciation in Budapest: it announced a writing contest for anyone to submit short stories, and published the best ones on the advertisement spaces of bus and tram stops citywide. So, during July and August, if we forget to pack something to read while waiting for our ride, we can still pass the time with some original literary entertainment, provided both in Hungarian and English.
People often complain about how time gets wasted while we’re waiting for a bus or tram to arrive. During these idle minutes, some people play with their smartphones, some get upset, and some take a nap. But most of us just stand around with nothing to do – so why not pass this time by reading?
The deadline for the literature contest (titled “Stop for a short story!”) was May 20th, and many people submitted short stories that were a minimum of 3,600 characters and a maximum of 4,000 characters long – that is, short enough for an average passenger to read before the next tram arrives. At the awards ceremony, the president of the jury, writer Krisztián Grecsó, said that they received a record amount, more specifically, 2,000 entries – more than were received in a recent short-story contest of Élet és Irodalom, a weekly Hungarian magazine about literature and politics. Many types of people sent submissions, and the quality of these writings were outstanding. Ten years ago, there was a huge gap between exceptional and average submissions, but now it seems that people’s writing skills have improved significantly on average. “Many people have learned to write well or pretty well. It might be because they have to position themselves on Facebook and language is a demonstration tool, but I cannot be sure. In any case, they gave the preliminary jury a hard time,” the writer said.
The contest was won by Katalin Somogyi, who is studying to be an English-Hungarian teacher at Budapest’s ELTE university, with her short story titled Ladybird. Graphic designer Adél Orosz won second place with her story titled Connection, while Boglárka Somogyi placed third with her story titled Sometimes it is okay that you tear me down a little. The jury found another 17 submissions to be worthy of publication – we can see the works of all finalists at some busy bus and tram stops, complete with a portrait and short biography of the authors.
All 20 of the selected short stories were translated into English, as well. We can read the winning submissions at various points in Budapest through August, including the stop for bus 29 on Hűvösvölgyi Road, Harminckettesek Square, the terminal for bus 9 in Óbuda, the stop for bus 7 at Keleti Railway Station, or the stop for bus 70 on Olof Palme Promenade. The short stories are published at a few countryside locations, too, such as in the southeastern city of Debrecen.
The short stories are also available online, both in English and Hungarian, alongside a poll where we can vote for the “people's choice” award.