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.



Our Books

Veil of light
Veil of light

In this fascinating autobiography, Husein Rofé takes us with him on his journey – physical and sp...

Regular price £15.00
Honour and Duty
Honour and Duty

Set against the backdrop of World War II and the invasion of Hungary, the life of Countess Ilona...

Regular price £11.95

Book Reviews

Countess Ilona-Gyulai Edelsheim was born on 14th January 1918 in Budapest. However she spent her childhood and teenage years in Slovakia, as the Treaty of Trianon tore their family estate from Hungary. 1940 was a life-changing year for her: she married the son of Regent Miklós Horthy, General Director of the Hungarian Railways. The countryside countess moved into the Royal Palace at this point both in its real and in its symbolic meaning. She became both an historic figure and an active witness. In August 1942 István Horthy died in a plane crash at the Russian front, and from then on the young widow,  discreetly, completely out of his reflected light became a  trusted companion of the Regent, playing an extremely important role at his side. Her pragmatism, exceptional mental strength and sensitivity affected everyone she met”

Honor and Duty

/ Torony Rádió 2010/ - / Radio Torony /

“One of the most authentic witnesses of the 20th century recalls crucial years of her life.  Spouse and widow of the Hungarian Vice-Regent István Horthy, Ilona-Edelsheim Gyulai was not only  an eyewitness but also an active participant in history-changing events.  All the information she provides is […]  outstandingly helpful and lifts history from the legends. “

Honor and Duty

/ Libri kiadó / - /Libri Publisher Ltd. 2001. /

“She is an historic figure, who undertook the role of an objective mediator as well.”

Honor and Duty

/ Debrecen Online without date /

“Her person, her femininity became a model for modern, equal and  European women of her age.”

Honor and Duty

/ Origo – 2013. 04. 18. /

“She not only had a view of the Regent’s decisions from  the closest point, she also assisted him in them.”

Honor and Duty

/ Püski kiadó / - / Püski Publisher Ltd. - without date /

“The vice-regent’s widow, countess Ilona Edelsheim-Gyulai took an active role in preparations for the armistice.  After the war she stayed with her husband’s parents, the older Miklós Horthy and his wife. The Regent’s last words were addressed to her.    

Honor and Duty

/ Sinkovics Ferenc: Utolsó Reménysugár, Magyar Hírlap, 2010. November 15. / - / The last ray of hope – Magyar Hírlap, 2010. November 15./

“This memoir is not an apology for an era, and its responsible political actors. This is about a man’s war, from the view of the women who lost the most in it. As a young widow and mother she was obliged to be present at all the funeral masses, celebrations and flag inagurations, while she had her work as a nurse with injured soldiers, and knew there was no escape. There was only honour and duty and constant service and readiness in a man’s world.”

Honor and Duty

/ Ma 95 éves Edelsheim Gyulai Ilona – Magyar Női Magazin, 2013. / - / Ilona Edelsheim-Gyulai celebrates her 95th birthday – Hungarian Women’s Journal /

“A woman with an exceptionally strong soul and outstanding beauty, who managed to keep her dignity in all circumstances – even when her life was in turmoil.”

Honor and Duty

/ Nem film, valóság, Horthy Istvánné a kiugrási kísérletről – Keresztény Női Magazin, 2013 / - / Not a movie, but the reality – Ilona Edelsheim Gyulai’s memories about the failed armistice attempt - Hungarian Christian Women’s Journal, 2013. /

“Witness and active participant in several crucial historical events…. Daughter-in-law of Regent Miklós Horthy, she was awarded the Order of Merit of  the Hungarian Republic in 1993 for her resistance work against the German occupation, and her participation in the armistice preparations.”

Honor and Duty

/ Kisnánai Vár , 2013. / Page of The Castle of Kisnána - 2013. /

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