At both ends, the Hungarian population faced deportation, imprisonment, and death. In the face of economic downturn, identification with extremes still permeates the political scene.
The far right-wing Fidesz Party controls two-thirds of the Parliamentary vote. The situation, seemingly inescapable and colored in red, conjures up the same sense of finality as the finished red side of the Cube. I hope that Hungary embraces the complexity of its political puzzle instead of rushing toward an extreme solution—because if Hungarian politics continues on its current trajectory, then nascent fascism is emerging as the winner.
Most of the talk you'll hear along Publishers Row these early spring days strikes a gloomy note - about important houses that are up for sale, about talented editors, promotion and sales people who are out of work, about the ''none-too-good'' business being done by many bookstores across the country. If you're looking for smiling faces, you're most likely to find them in the section of the Row that's home to the people who create and distribute travel guides.
It's a crowded neighborhood. Some 75 American firms now publish more than periodically updated vade mecums to cities and countries around the world and to every section of the United States and Canada, almost all of them in handy-to-carry paperback format.
No matter how lean or fat your pocketbook, no matter what your hobby or predilection, they have a book for you. There are books for those who choose to travel by bus, by auto and by plane, for bicyclists, hikers, campers and caravaneers. There are books about grand hotels, picturesque country inns and modest bed-and-breakfast stops.
There are guides to restaurants, shops, auctions, battlefields, literary shrines and places that fascinate children. For those determined to get completely tanned, there's even a guide to nudist beaches around the world. The giant in the travel book field is Rand McNally, the yearold house whose full-time writers and artists produce some 40 guides, including the best-selling ''Rand McNally Road Atlas'' and the seven regional editions of the ''Mobil Travel Guide.
Most of the other houses turn to freelancers to write and update their books. Why are the travel bookmen smiling while their colleagues in other fields are so grim? During the inflation and recession of recent years, a number of them tell us, their sales have held up quite well and in many cases have markedly increased.
The very rich and the young-of-heart have kept traveling, no matter what, and bought books to help them on their way. They have a hunch that this summer, with gas prices down and the dollar going much further in countries like France and Italy, middle-income Americans, even those with children, will find ways to succumb to the vagabonding itch.
Two bookstores that specialize in travel books - Manhattan's The Complete Traveler and San Francisco's Gourmet Guides - report that their sales are markedly greater than they were this time last year. Recently the Ingram Book Co. The response thus far has been ''most encouraging.
A guide to the guides.