What About Research?

Writers should be, among other things, intellectually curious, curious to dig into things, to learn what is below the surface. Whatever the subject matter (even those you think you know perfectly well), there will be a myriad of details to probe into. And this process might be a rather long one if you intend to write about a time you haven’t lived in, about the people of a culture you’re not familiar with.

For Broken RhapsodyA Retake on War and Csardas, for instance, I researched for nine months before I wrote almost anything and continued to do so after I started writing.

In addition to history books in various languages, I read major Hungarian authors’ works to get a feeling of the social and cultural background of those periods. I visited Hungary with particular attention to Budapest, talking to people, smelling, tasting, looking, timing, measuring, in short trying to discover how everything must have been in the past. I walked the streets of Paris for days, looking at the capital from a perspective I never had before. I spent weeks in the National Archives at Kew and the Imperial War Museum in London and days at the archives of several museums and art galleries in Hungary.

I might not have used all of this information in my book, but I presume such research is, somehow, indirectly reflected in the narrative rendering a sense of reality to it; and most importantly, saving the characters from becoming mere puppets that convey information to the reader and turning them into real human beings that the readers love or hate, but in any case can identify with.

I consider a thorough research as a sign of respect for the reader, respect for the art of letters. And when you respect your readers, all your efforts will bear fruit; every single accurate detail you add to your narrative will help you win the respect of your readers in return.


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