City guide

Hungarian artists paint “The Paul Street Boys” on a London wall

Photo : Lehel Kelemen

“The Paul Street Boys” is one of the most popular Hungarian novels of all time. Ever since its launch in 1907, it has been translated into numerous languages and has become an essential children’s book worldwide. Now, on the occasion of the 104th birthday of its writer, Ferenc Molnár, the book’s three main characters, János Boka, Ernő Nemecsek and Csónakos, have been immortalised on a London street thanks to Budapest’s Színes Város Festival.

The story of The Paul Street Boys is one that every Hungarian knows, and one that became popular all over the world as it depicts the timeless classic rivalry between kids as it happens everywhere. The book tells the story of schoolboys living in the Józsefváros (District VIII) neighbourhood of Budapest in 1889. The Paul Street boys spend their free time at the grund, an empty lot between buildings used as a lumber yard. When another gang of little guys, the Redshirts led by Feri Áts – who gather at the nearby botanical gardens (the Füvészkert) – attempt to take over the grund, the Paul Street boys need to defend it in military fashion. The rivalry ends in heartbreaking tragedy.

Photo: Lehel Kelemen

The three characters depicted on the mural are János Boka, the honourable and confident leader of the Paul Street boys, key figure Csónakos, and the smallest, weakest but all the more loyal and brave Ernő Nemecsek. In the book, Ferenc Molnár only gives first names to main characters to bring them close to the reader.

Photo: Lehel Kelemen

The Színes Város Festival (Colourful City) gathers artists from around the world every year to beautify Budapest with new murals, transforming drab and dull walls with colour. And now, Hungarian artists iamsuzie and Cokestd have immortalised Hungary’s great literary treasure on Old Gloucester Street in Holborn, central London.