There’s a children’s book from 1977 called The Big Orange Splot. In it, all the houses on one block look the same. Until one day, when a pelican drops a bucket of orange paint on one roof. Instead of painting over it, and returning to the status quo, Mr. Plumbean decorates the roof—and then the facade, and then the yard—with wild, rainbow patterns. His neighbors think he’s lost his mind. But one by one they see the beauty in individual expression, however weird and wacky it may look at first.
The popular book sounds like an allegory about communism, and conformist lifestyles. And as it turns out, something similar happened in the Hungarian countryside in the 1960s, during the height of communism. The result—those decorated houses—are the subject of Hungarian Cubes, by Katharina Roters.[…]