The Paul Street Boys
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|Original title||A Pál utcai fiúk|
The novel is about schoolboys in Józsefváros neighbourhood of Budapest and set in 1889. The Paul Street Boys spend their free time at the grund, an empty lot that they regard as their "Fatherland". The story has two main protagonists, János Boka (the honourable leader of the Paul Street Boys) and Ernő Nemecsek (the smallest member of the group).
When the "Redshirts"—another gang of boys, led by Feri Áts, who gather at the nearby botanical gardens—attempt to take over the grund, the Paul Street Boys are forced to defend themselves in military fashion.
Although the Paul Street Boys win the war, and little Nemecsek repeatedly demonstrates that his bravery and loyalty surpasses his size, the book ends in tragedy.
Literary significance and criticism
Very popular in Hungary, the book is also one of the most famous Hungarian novels outside the country. It has been translated into many languages, and in several countries, it is a mandatory or recommended reading in schools. The first English translation was made by Louis Rittenberg and published in 1927, and later revised by George Szirtes for a re-release in 1994.
Erich Kästner took up the theme of two groups of boys conducting a "war" and using all the terminology of militarism and nationalism in The Flying Classroom, published just before the Nazi Party won elections in Germany. Kästner was, however, less harsh with the character resembling Nemecsek, who in Kästner's version suffers no more than a broken leg.
In Israel the book, in Hebrew translation under the title Mahanaim (Two Camps), was highly popular in the 1940s and 1950s, and recently a new translation was published. The Israeli left-wing columnist Haim Bar'am, of the Kol Ha'ir weekly in Jerusalem, wrote: "The highest praise which I can bestow on a pure-hearted, idealistic person is to compare him or her to Nemecsek. I don't often do that, only when I feel that somebody truly deserves the ultimate compliment.".
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
- A Pál utcai fiúk - silent film (Hungary, 1917), directed by Béla Balogh - First version of the story by Hungarian director Béla Balogh.
- A Pál utcai fiúk - silent film (Hungary, 1924), directed by Béla Balogh, with György Faragó (Nemecsek), Ernö Verebes (Boka), Ferenc Szécsi (Gereb), István Barabás (Feri Ats), Frigyes Pártos (Csonakos). - Second version of the story by Hungarian director Béla Balogh.
- No Greater Glory - film (USA, 1934), directed by Frank Borzage and released by Columbia Pictures, with George P. Breakston (Nemecsek), Jimmy Butler (Boka), Jackie Searl (Gereb), Frankie Darro (Feri Ats), Donald Haines (Csonakos).
- I ragazzi della via Paal - film (Italy, 1935), directed by Cesare Civita, Alberto Mondadori and Mario Monicelli, with Giulio Tamagnini (Nemecsek), Alberto Vigevani (Boka), Giulio Macchi (Gereb), Bruno Aghion (Feri Ats), Carlo Cartigliani (Csonakos).
- A Pál-utcai fiúk - film (Hungary-USA, 1969), directed by Zoltán Fábri, with Anthony Kemp (Nemecsek), William Burleigh (Boka), John Moulder-Brown (Gereb), Julien Holdaway (Feri Ats), Robert Efford (Csonakos). - The film was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
- I ragazzi della via Pal - TV film (Italy-Austria-Germany-Hungary, 2003), directed by Maurizio Zaccaro, with Mesés Gáspár (Nemecsek), Csaba Gáspár (Boka), Gergely Mészáros (Gereb), Daniel Lugosi (Feri Ats), Péter Ványi (Csonakos).
- A Pál-utcai fiúk - TV film (Hungary, 2005), directed by Ferenc Török, with Balázs Bojtár (Nemecsek), Krisztián Fekete (Boka), Milán Király (Gereb), Csaba Csuhai Csinos (Feri Ats), Róbert Rostási (Csonakos).
Other European books depicting "war" between rival groups of boys
- HaGada haSmalit ("The Left Bank"), Israeli political and literary website, November 19, 2008 
- "The Paul Street Boys translated by Ramil Safarov published in Azerbaijani". Azerbaijan Press Agency (APA). 28 May 2012. Retrieved 12 September 2012.
- "A Pál-utcai fiúk (1917) in IMDb.
- "A Pál-utcai fiúk (1924) in IMDb.
- "No Greater Glory (1934) in IMDb.
- "I ragazzi della via Paal (1935) in IMDb.
- "The Boys of Paul Street (1969) in IMDb.
- "I ragazzi della via Pál (2003) in IMDb.
- "A Pál utcai fiúk (2005) in IMDb.