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If you’re after something more unique, books as well as records, ask one of the staff to open up one of the display cases. Serious collectors can inspect the goods in a roped-off side room while alongside, right at the back, experts assess the value of artefacts being brought in for sale, turning their nose up if it’s dross – don’t even think about dumping your dog-eared chick-lit cast-offs here. This is the kind of place which hires out the gilded Mirror Room of the Festetics Palace for auctions.
café and community space in one, Massolit in the heart of the Jewish Quarter takes its name (‘Literature for the Masses’) from Bulgakov’s cult Soviet novel, Master and Margarita, copies left in a prominent spot in the busy lobby
area. Foreign-language publications comprise the bulk of the stock, tatty old volumes
left outside, new editions neatly arranged just inside the entrance, then
shelves and shelves of mainly used titles in the warren-like interior leading to
a small back garden. Labelled by category, non-fiction fills the front (Film,
Photography) and narrow middle (African Studies, Eastern-European History) spaces, where tables are at a
premium in winter, customers deep in long Zoom conversation by laptop. Literature begins towards the back, two separate
groups organised in A-Z order, differentiated by whim into ‘fiction’ and ‘pulp fiction’,
cheaper, racier type facing the French- and German-language shelves by the door
to the ivy-clad garden. Irvine Welsh will be pleased/displeased to know
that he has been categorised in ‘fiction’.
Massolit’s key role in the expat community – Budapest’s Shakespeare and Company, if you will – is underlined by the rack of postcards by long-term expat urban caricaturist Marcus Goldson in the window and stack of English-language arts magazine Panel on the bar counter. Its editorial staff, equally responsible for recent anthology If We're Talking Budapest, is one of many local groups to congregate here. Massolit staff, meanwhile, post up little hand-written recommendations of their latest reads. Alongside, a doorway opens into a white-walled gallery where, currently, an exhibition of line drawings by Lili Moharos gives the talented 18 year old her first platform. Christmas sees a constant buzz around the café-cum-cash till, traditional bejgli rolls laid out by the gluten-free brownies – this is the kind of place that offers loyalty cards for carrot cake – and gifts to peruse. Pretty postcards by PaCa design present animal likenesses, lovely notebooks show Budapest and Kraków on the cover and famous writers feature on tote bags. Local expats can also donate their cast-off books or negotiate a fair price for something a bit special.