Different ways of looking at the world
Purple Pagoda Press Ltd (PPP) is a boutique publishing house started by Astuti Horthy and Sharif Horthy. Here is the story, in the words of its founders:
We started the PPP to fulfil a practical need. Sharif’s mother, Ilona Edelsheim Gyulai, had written a two-volume autobiography that appeared in Hungarian in 2000 and 2002 and her many friends and admirers were asking for an English edition. This required both translation and a certain amount of editing, to be supervised by the author herself, so it seemed sensible to avoid the long hassle of finding a publisher and to do the work in-house, as it were, by starting our own publishing company.
Purple Pagoda Press was conceived in the Pagoda, a floating Chinese restaurant in the Brighton Marina. As the name ‘Pagoda Press’ was already taken, we added the auspicious colour, purple. After a lot of work, the launch of “Honour and Duty, the Autobiography of Countess Ilona Edelsheim-Gyulai” followed in 2005.
A few years later Husein Rofé, a friend of ours who had read and enjoyed “Honour and Duty”, asked to have his own autobiography published by PPP. The result, “Veil of Light”, came out in June 2018.
With just two books under our belt, it might sound pretentious to talk about PPP’s special area of interest or philosophy, and yet these first two books have a thread running through them that might well give a clue as to our future direction. Our two authors – who were born just three years apart – could not have been more different. Ilona came from a Catholic Austro-Hungarian family with some ancestors from Germany and Italy thrown in, while Husein was a Muslim, descended from Sephardic Jews who settled in the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century and moved to England in the 19th.
And yet these two authors, who knew – and mostly liked – each-other, had a number of traits in common. Both of them were somewhat uncomfortable sticklers for the truth who gave short shrift to anyone who tried to embellish it with ‘alternative facts’. Another common trait was an openness and interest towards other cultures, the further removed from what was familiar, the better. This explained a knack they both had for making friends across cultural divides, and, in Husein’s case, it provided the incentive for his prodigious appetite to learn languages.
But under the surface they shared a more unusual trait, which is their sense that there is a real spiritual dimension that underlies our physical life in this world. In the early part of Ilona’s story this largely remains unspoken, but manifests as a total fearlessness in moments of great danger. It later becomes more explicit. With Husein it provides the guidance and impetus towards his mission in life that he constantly acknowledges.
Our modern civilisation is understandably in love with physics, the study of the reality we perceive with our senses. But the study of physics does not adequately describe the realities we encounter in the course of our life. There is much more to our common human experience than what can be understood through the lens of physics: this is the realm of the soul, of which both these life stories provide compelling evidence.
We certainly hope that these and future stories we may publish will help readers to reflect on the nature of reality, the meaning of life and what constitutes living well.