The self-portrait of a young man, now the CEO of Intel.
Grove, chairman of the world’s largest computer-chip company and author of several management books, reaches back to his childhood years in Budapest to produce something like a Bildungsroman in the classic tradition. Born before WWII to assimilated, middle-class Jewish parents, young Andris Grof found his life torn apart with his father’s being sent to the Russian front and the Nazis taking control of Budapest. The Grofs survived the war, however, and the Communist regime that followed it, but when Russian tanks rolled into town to suppress the Hungarian revolution, Grof, then a chemistry student, took advantage of the chaos and stole across the Austrian border. From there he made it to the Bronx, talked his way into City College, and became Andy Grove, chemical engineer and American. The rest, as they say, is history. Thankfully, Grove spends little time foreshadowing his later success but instead offers a tight, simply told, extremely intimate memoir with careful attention to structure and detail: even the metaphor in the title is multifaceted, adding depth and resonance as the story moves forward. And although his family suffered during the war, Grove’s tale resembles pre-war generations of immigrant success stories; laced with a sardonic, though unmistakable, faith in the American dream, it’s like The Rise and Fall of David Lewinsky with a happy ending. Still, more than a few readers will find their eyes welling up when Grof’s mother asks young Andris, who has zealously hidden his identity during the war, to recite a Jewish prayer to a newly arrived Russian soldier. Grove, though, maintains a steady hand and keeps the tear-jerking to a minimum.
The outcome, while not earth-shattering—and possibly self-indulgent on occasion—is a polished, solid portrait of a particular time and place.