Ferenc Molnar



The plot of this book consists of boys' war games in Paul Street, located in the capital city of Hungary, Budapest. A group of boys who go to the same school and play in the "construction site" in Paul Street get into conflict with a group of boys from a neighboring school and street. The boys from Paul Street have formed their own gang called the "Collecting Marbles Association," while their opponents call themselves the "Red Shirts."
The empty lot they call the "construction site" represents the fortress of the boys from Paul Street, while the fortress of the "Red Shirts" is located on an island surrounded by a lake in the Botanical Garden. Just as some great wars started for meaningless reasons, here the conflict among the boys began because of the theft of marbles, which, of course, was unheard of and unforgivable. The conflict continues with a battle for territory because the "Red Shirts" want the "construction site" to become their playing area.
During the war games, the boys sometimes behave maturely and courageously like adults, and sometimes naively and amusingly because they are still children. Unlike adults and real wars, they strictly adhere to their rules and fair play, so there are no casualties after the battle.
However, the game ends tragically, and as is often the case in wars, the best and bravest suffer. In this conflict, despite all the honorable rules, the little boy Erne Nemecsek accidentally gets hurt. From this sad ending, we see how every conflict among children and people is bad because it takes its toll, and why it is best when there is peace. The ending of the novel shows the absurdity of fighting over a playground, as it will not belong to either side since the construction of a building has started on it.


  • The Boys from Paul Street, after school hours, gathered and played at the "construction site", an empty lot that was their fortress. They had their leader, President Janos Boka, while the other boys had various officer ranks, except for little blue Nemecsek, who was just a regular soldier. Their opponents, the boys from the neighboring street and school, called themselves the Red Shirts and had their fortress on a small island in the middle of a small lake in the Botanical Garden.

  • The conflict between the boys from Paul Street and the Red Shirts begins when the Pastor brothers (Red Shirts) take glass marbles from some boys from Paul Street. Additionally, the leader of the Red Shirts, Feri Ac, comes to the construction site and takes away the flag of the boys from Paul Street.

  • The boys from Pavlov Street decided to retaliate by leaving a note in the Red Shirts' fortress saying: "The boys from Paul Street were here." For this task, with leader Boka, the boy Conakosh and little Nemecsek, who wanted a promotion because he was the only soldier in the group while everyone else was an officer, set out.

  • Three boys managed to sneak onto the island, to the Red Shirts' fortress, in the dark (on that occasion, little Nemecsek clumsily fell into the lake water). There, to their great surprise, they saw Gereb, a boy from their group, collaborating with the enemy. By eavesdropping on his conversation with them, they find out that the Red Shirts want to take over their "construction site" so that it becomes their playground. The boys managed to leave a note in the fortress, but soon the Red Shirts discovered them and started chasing them. Somehow, they managed to escape to the Botanical Garden and hide there until the danger passed (little Nemecsek, who was already wet, hid in a pool of cold water, under a large fern leaf).

  • At school, Professor Rac found out about the group from Paul Street and demanded that they tell him everything about it. That's when the boys told him how their "Association for Collecting Git" came to be. Each of them had to bring a piece of git (git is a mixture used for gluing glass to windows), so they talked about how they managed to obtain it. The association also had its seal with the inscription "Association of Git Collectors. Budapest 1889". The professor confiscated the collected git and banned the further existence of the association. The boys were sad because without git, they couldn't have the association. But little Nemecsek managed to, during the conversation between the professor and the boys, take fresh git from a new window for the group. This made the boys happy because if they still had git with them, they could have the association as well. They agreed that from now on, their association had to become secret, and little Nemecsek was declared the secretary of the association.

  • Little Nemecsek followed the traitor Gereb and overheard his conversation with Slovak Janko, who was guarding the site (construction site). Gereb promised me money and cigarettes if he drove the boys from Paul Street away from the site and allowed only the Red Shirts to play there.

  • Little Nemecsek hurried to inform President Boka about it, looking for him at the construction site but he wasn't there. Right at that moment, their group was taking an oath not to reveal the secret existence of the association. They also invited little Nemecsek to take the oath, but he ran off urgently looking for Boka to inform him about Gereb's intentions. Due to disobedience, the group recorded little Nemecsek in their notebook, which was a black book, as a traitor.

  • To prove that he is not a traitor, little Nemecsek goes to the island, to the fort of the Red Shirts, and takes the flag they had taken. Hidden, he listened to Gereb telling the leader of the Red Shirts that he had made a deal with Slovak Janko to drive away the boys from Paul Street and leave the site to the Red Shirts. Their leader, Feri Ach, did not want the site to be captured in such a cowardly way, he wanted to take it by fair fight. Gereb said that there was not a single brave boy among the boys from Paul Street, but at that moment little Nemecsek came out with the flag and said that he was. The Red Shirts were surprised by his bravery. They took away his flag and then their leader invited him to join the Red Shirts. Little Nemecsek replied that he would never do that, for which he was punished. Since Nemecsek was too weak to be beaten, they bathed him in water and celebrated, and then let him go.

  • After the announcement of the attack on the construction site, Boka, the leader of the boys from Paul Street, made a defense plan, deployed the boys around the fort, and declared little Nemecsek his adjutant due to his bravery. All the boys, like true soldiers, bravely took on their tasks as if they were defending their country. Leader Boka, who declared himself a general, wondered if one day he would go into a real war with the same bravery. Then Gereb appeared, brought their flag that the Red Shirts had taken, and begged Boka for forgiveness for his betrayal, but Boka did not forgive him. Boka said that they would regain their flag in the battle against the enemy, and Gereb left crying, and the boys started their military exercise.

  • Gereb's father appeared, saying that his son was suffering a lot at home because he was expelled from the group, suspected of treason, and asked to know if it was true that he was a traitor. The boys directed him to little Nemecsek, who saw Gereb's betrayal, to tell his father everything. However, little Nemecsek said that Gereb was not a traitor. Gereb's father then proudly went home. Little Nemecsek was seized by fever and fire, falling ill from the cold water he accidentally fell into for the first time, hiding in the pool the second time, and when the Red Shirts bathed him for the third time. He was getting worse, and Boka had to take him home, while he rambled on about how they wrote his name in lowercase in the notebook, as a traitor and a coward.

  • When he learned that his son was not a traitor, Gereb's father rewarded him with a purchased book. Gereb gave that book as a gift to little Nemecsek. Then Gereb spied on the Red Shirts, learned their tactics for the attack, and relayed it to Boka, begging for forgiveness. Boka and the boys forgave Gereb and allowed him to fight with them.

  • Before the battle, both sides sent delegates for negotiations. They declared war on each other and then agreed on the rules of the fight. Fighting was not allowed, they would only fight by throwing sand bombs and wrestling. Delegates of the Red Shirts visited the sick little Nemeček at his home. The delegates of the boys from Paul Street returned their flag to the Red Shirts, which Gereb had brought to them, and said that they would capture it themselves in the fight. The next day, the war could begin. Little Nemecsek couldn't come because of his illness.

  • The battle began when the Red Shirts were divided into two groups and separately attacked the construction site from two different entrances. Thanks to Boka's good strategy, the boys from Paul Street quickly defeated the first attacking group and locked the captured boys in a shed. Then the second group, led by Feri Ach, attacked them, coming through another passage. The fight with that group became uncertain. Additionally, Feri Ach went to the shed to free his soldiers. But then little Nemecsek appeared out of nowhere and threw himself at Feri Ach, knocking him to the ground. After that, the remaining Red Shirts were quickly defeated. The boys from Paul Street won, mostly thanks to little Nemecek. They managed to recover their flag, which was captured by Gereb.

  • Because of his merits, little Erne Nemecsek was promoted to the rank of captain. He was still unwell due to illness. Soon his mother came and took him home. Together with her, a column of Paul Street boys escorted him to the gate, and then they parted ways, everyone except their leader, Boka. When he was alone, he cried because he realized that Nemecsek's health was very poor. He stood sadly in front of the gate until it was dark. When darkness fell, he noticed Feri Ach had come to inquire about Nemecek's health. After hearing that he was still in a bad condition, they left without saying a word.

  • Nemecsek's condition worsened. The doctor who came to examine him told his father that he would not survive and to prepare what was needed for the funeral. President Boka stayed by the boy's side to encourage him, but Nemecsek told him that he knew he would die. Boka comforted him with stories of how even Feri Ach came to ask about him, which amazed him. He also told him that the Red Shirts had removed Feri Ach at their assembly, and now their new leader was Pastor, his older brother. He told him that the director of the Botanical Garden, where the Red Shirts' fortress was located, had ordered the gate to be locked, forbidding them from entering the fortress.

  • Little Nemecsek told him that he was deeply affected by the injustice of having his name recorded in the association's notebook as traitorous. But Boka told him that the boys had corrected that injustice at the assembly and rewarded his bravery by creating an honorary diploma for him. Little Nemecsek said he wouldn't believe it until he saw it with his own eyes. Then he wished to go and see the "construction site" one more time, for the last time because he knew he would die, and he only regretted not being able to see the "sweet construction site." But due to his poor health, he couldn't go there. Soon he fell into a strong fever and rambled in delirium, as if still fighting for the construction site, calling for battle, charges, defense...

  • The boys brought the honorary diploma to little Nemecsek, in which it was written in red ink that they begged him for forgiveness and informed him that his name was written in capital letters in their big book. But it was too late, just as they arrived, little Nemecsek died, unable to see it.

  • Walking sadly through the "construction site," Boka saw some tools there. He asked the Slovak about it, and he replied that the construction of a new building was starting on the site. The construction site was no longer free for boyish games. At school, Professor Rac invited the students to come to Nemecsek's funeral the next day wearing black or dark suits. Boka then, for the first time in his childish soul, sensed the true truth about life, in which we are all fighting, sometimes sad, sometimes joyful servants.

Briefly Summarized Books