What if the Nazis had won the Second World War? What if the Confederacy had taken over the Union? Tempting questions – with thousand and one answers. These are the most popular periods in English alternate history novels from Philip K. Dick to Robert Harris, let alone the enormous bibliography of Harry Turtledove. I can’t deny that these events were real turning points of recent history. A fascist Britain? A communist America? These can be very exciting topics, even for a Hungarian. But what can I say? I’m bored of these books. There are so many other fields of history. So what about Hungary? Are we interested in other topics?
very few novels in the genre. Exactly: seven, and I’m counting the one I co-authored. Not a popular genre, you may say, but hell, we just rediscovered the whole detective fiction with Kondor Vilmos’s brilliant Budapest-novels. The lack of this genre is more surprising when you learn about our miserable history: Hungarians are constantly whining about how fate or God screwed us throughout history. It would be logical, though, to have a flourishing alternate history subculture. We don't have it, however, unless you count the often antisemitic conspiracy theorists or the believers of Sumer/Japanese/Tibetan/Korean/Syrian ancestry.
Three of the seven Hungarian AH-novels deal with the utterly boring question of what-if-the-Nazis-had-won-the-war. Gáspár László wrote the Mi, I. Adolf (We, Adolf I), a novel about the prosperous post-war German empire. In the A negyedik birodalom (The Fourth Reich) by Galántai Zoltán (W. Hamilton Green) the space-conquering Nazis have to fight an alien enemy. And lastly Trenka Csaba Gábor’s Egyenlítői Magyar Afrika (Hungarian Equatorial Africa) takes us to a Hungarian colony in Africa and shows us the end of the Nazi regime through the eyes of a young colonist.
Ezüst félhold Blues (Silver Crescent Blues) Gáspár András examine a world where the Ottomans have never been defeated and Hungary is still a Turkish territory in the 20th century. Trenka Csaba Gábor’s fresh novel, Place Rimbaud takes a similar approach and shows us a contemporary Hungary dominated by the Ottomans and a world dominated by France. In László Zoltán’s novel Hiperballada (Hyperballad) computer technology developed faster in the Soviet Union, and Hungary is still on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain.
But I have always thought Hungary and Central Europe have far more exciting opportunities than these. What if St. Stephen, the founder of Hungary lost the decisive battle against the pretender Koppány? What if Matthias Corvinus had had a rightful, powerful heir who could have organized the army and could have brought in some international help against the Ottomans in 1526 at Mohács? What if John Sobieski of Poland had not honored his obligations in 1683, and the Ottomans could have taken over Vienna? And what if the Hungarian rebels had defeated the Habsburg armies at some point in the freedom fight in 1848 or 1849?
This last one is my favorite question, which I examined with my co-author Pintér Máté in the novel A szivarhajó utolsó útja (The Last Journey of the Cigar Ship). Our divergence point is in 1848, when an engineer invents a Gatling-gun-like weapon in Munkács, Hungary. With the help of this “Wunderwaffe” the Hungarian army can stop the intervening Russians at the Dukla Pass and later they can occupy Vienna. As a result of this the Habsburg Empire’s minorities join the rebellion and they form the Danubian Confederation together. In the next decade Poland and most of the Balkans are liberated, Italy and North Germany are unified with the help of the Danubian Confederation. In 1860, the Confederation has eleven members: Bavaria (with Baden and Württemberg), Austria, Hungary (with Slovakia), Bohemia, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Bosnia, Transylvania and Bulgaria.
So this is the situation in Hungary. Few books, half of them about the Nazis, yet endless opportunities in our history.
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