Suleiman (French/Harvard; Risking Who One Is, 1994) returns to her birthplace after more than 40 years, looking for her...


BUDAPEST DIARY: In Search of the Motherbook

Suleiman (French/Harvard; Risking Who One Is, 1994) returns to her birthplace after more than 40 years, looking for her Hungarian Jewish roots. Susan Rubin was a little girl when her parents fled through darkened fields to escape the Communist regime in Hungary in 1949. Through a series of lucky accidents, they had managed to avoid the Nazis and their Hungarian henchmen during the Holocaust; now they were on the run to America. In 1984 Suleiman went back to Budapest with her two young sons for a vacation, trying to give them a sense of her childhood in that beautiful Central European city. Finally, nine years later, she returned again, this time on a six-month fellowship. The bulk of Budapest Diary recounts that lengthier visit, colored by memories of her childhood and her own imaginings of how her sons, now almost grown men, would regard this latest trip. At the heart of her book is the understandable desire to retrieve a piece of family history, to situate herself in ""a feeling of 'at homeness,' ""as she puts it. Gradually, the author finds herself, a perpetual emigrant, developing something like that feeling for the city in which she was born. At the same time, she must come to terms with memories of her parents' stormy marriage; her father was a Hasidic rabbi, her mother a devotedly secular Jew who would taunt him for his ""slum"" upbringing. At its best, the book is a poignant piece of self-revelation, sprinkled with some trenchant observationis on the way the dead hand of history has weighed down the former Warsaw Pact countries. Unfortunately, too much of the second half of the book becomes a mere catalogue of movies seen, parties attended, and dinners eaten. Although this fails to deliver on the promise of its first half, the book is an engaging jaunt through one of the most interesting of the emerging eastern European nations.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0803292619

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1996