Ferenc Fejtő Library
Ferenc Fejtő was an original, democratic leftist thinker. His library is a unique trace of the criticism of Eastern European rightist, authoritarianist, socialist dictatorship, and Western European leftist romanticism. Fejtő, who maintained strong connections with European intellectual elites, left Hungary for France in 1938, yet remained deeply committed to the fate of freedom-lacking Eastern Europe.
Fehérvárcsurgó Petőfi Sándor utca 2, Hungary 8052
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Name of collection
- Ferenc Fejtő Library
Provenance and cultural activities
Ferenc Fejtő, the Hungarian leftist thinker and journalist who lived in France, consciously collected publications that were in his interest and which would help him in his work as a journalist and political scientist. Fejtő was an oppositionist intellectual who confronted both the authoritative regime in Hungary between the two World Wars, and the Bolshevik dictatorship of the proletariat. He left his home in 1938, and was not allowed to return to Hungary after 1945. His private library, which in a few decades became a collection of thousands of volumes, included accumulated and dedicated books by Fejtő’s friends, colleagues or well-known politicians and scholars with whom he had made some connection. As time went on Fejtő found it increasingly difficult to find a place for all of his books and, towards the end of his life, thought it better to donate his library to a private collection. He chose the Joseph Károlyi Foundation for two reasons: first, Fejtő liked the idea of the collection finding a home in his native land, Hungary; second, he personally knew the creators of the Foundation, György Károlyi and his wife, Angelica. Fejtő had met the Károlyis at a conference in the 1970s, and later worked with Angelica at the Political Science Institute of Paris. (Fejtő was in contact with other members of the Károlyi family earlier; between 1947 and 1949 he had worked with Mihály Károlyi, the Hungarian ambassador of Paris, who was the half-brother of József Károlyi, György’s grandfather.) The aim of the Joseph Károlyi Foundation, of which Fejtő was a member of the Board of Trustees, was to help Hungary’s intellectual return to Europe, something Fejtő favoured. Thus, in 1998, he donated his books and archival documents to the Foundation. The material was collected from three different homes in Paris, and was transported to Fehérvárcsurgó in autumn 1999, with the help of the Hungarian Institute of Paris. On 9 October 2003, the Library was officially inaugurated in the presence of Ferenc Fejtő and the French ambassador, Dominique de Combles de Nayves, at the renewed northern wing of the Károlyi castle, in Fehérvárcsurgó. That same year the books were removed from metal shelves and placed on wooden shelves.Ferenc Fejtő’s valuable collection contains mostly works of political science and history, a reflection of the emigrant’s interest. Fejtő was an internationally-known intellectual open to the world, who focused on the modern problems of East-Central European countries, opposition movements against communism, and geopolitical questions most of his life. His library contains numerous volumes on the development and influence of leftist, anti-communist ideas. As a result, Fejtő’s library represents the Hungarian social-democratic tradition before World War II. And hence, it includes valuable sources for important publications on the history of oppositional movements against extreme, leftist policy before and after 1945. Additionally, the library reflects the work and network of a Hungarian emigrant who lived abroad for an extensive period.
Description of content
The Ferenc Fejtő Library has three main components: books, press dossiers, and archival material. The 7,000 books in the collection are mainly written in French, German, English and Italian, but include some Hungarian titles as well. Ferenc Fejtő’s own writings are contained in a separate section. Most of the works deal with political science and history, with many philosophical, theological (mainly Judaistic), sociological, and linguistic tomes. The dominant topic is the modern history of Europe (from the 18th century until present-day), with a focus on Central Europe. There are many writings on leftist ideology (communism, Trotskyism, social democracy), human rights, international relations in the 20th century, and China and Chinese-Soviet relations. A number of books cover the oppositional movements in socialist countries, among them, works banned by the dictatorship. There are also several literary (Hungarian and international) publications. Fejtő acquired this collection in France after 1945, with only a few titles published before 1945. Many of the books are signed. The works are organized by topic according to the cataloguing system of the Paris Institute of Political Studies. Hungarian and international periodicals are included on the aforementioned themes. The collection of 350 journals was sorted alphabetically.
The collection of press-dossiers includes articles Fejtő collected from the end of the 1940s to the early 2000s on topics of interest to him. This series contains writings in French, German, English, Italian and Hungarian on some of the international/historical events of the 20th century and their reception, with some notes. The articles come from leading West-European and Hungarian journals. Classified thematically and chronologically, they follow the classification system of the library. Unique materials include the news agency reports before 1989, and information from Radio Free Europe.Ferenc Fejtő’s archive, comprising nearly100 boxes, contains personal notes, colloquium and conference papers, manuscripts, and articles, as well as the professional and personal correspondence of Ferenc Fejtő. The archival inheritance also contains press reviews of Fejtő’s writings. There are approximately 20 boxes of letters and manuscripts. Half of the correspondence have been sorted. The archive catalogue is developing slowly due to the variety of skills—French, German, and English language proficiency, and other skills (for example: historical/political science knowledge, the ability to read manuscripts, etc.)—needed to sort the documents.
- grey literature (regular archival documents such as brochures, bulletins, leaflets, reports, intelligence files, records, working papers, meeting minutes): 500-999
- publications (books, newspapers, articles, press clippings): 1000-
Geographical scope of recent operation
Date of founding
Place of founding
Fehérvárcsurgó Petőfi Sándor utca 2, Hungary
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Important events in the history of the collection
- visits by appointments
Part of network
Author(s) of this page
- Pál, Zoltán
Károlyi György: A Károlyi József Alapítvány [The Károlyi József Foundation]. In: Fehérvárcsurgó története [The History of Fehérvárcsurgó]. Ed. by Dakó Péter - Erdős Ferenc - Vitek Gábor. Fejér Megyei Levéltár, Fehérvárcsurgó - Székesfehérvár, 2004. 205-210.
Borsi-Kálmán Béla: Fejtő Ferenc, a par excellence magyar polgár. [Ferenc Fejtő, the par excellence Hungarian Citizen] In: Uő.: Megközelítések II. Tanulmányok, esszék, beszélgetések. [Approaches II. Studies, essays, conversations] Lucidus Kiadó, Budapest, 2012. 103-116.
Fejtő Ferenc: Budapesttől Párizsig, Párizstól Budapestig [From Budapest to Paris, From Paris to Budapest]. Kossuth Könyvkiadó, Budapest, 2007.
Borbándi Gyula: Egy magyar emigráns Párizsban [A Hungarian Immigrant in Paris]. In: Hommage á Fejtő Ferenc. A 90 éves Fejtő Ferenc köszöntése emlékezésekkel és tanulmányokkal [Hommage á Fejtő Ferenc. Salute to the 90 year old Ferenc Fejtő with Reminiscences and Studies]. Szerkesztőbizottság [Editor Group]: Jacqueline Chermault-Serpet et al. Világosság Alapítvány, Budapest, 1999. 41-47.
Károlyi, Angelica, interview by Pál, Zoltán, February 27, 2018. COURAGE Registry Oral History Collection