WHEN THE WORLD WAS WHOLE: A Family Album by Charles Fenyvesi


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A historical, anecdotal, sentimental, and rather charming romp through the author's ancestral Hungarian homeland. Like the Jews of Poland and Russia, Hungarian Jews were 98% impoverished, 2% wealthy. Fenyvesi's family account presents many sociological and economic differences, however, that make the book a valuable record of Hungarian Jewish history. Hungary remained feudal and rather medieval for a longer time, allowing for a more defined and benign relationship between gentiles and Jews, and allowing exceptional Jews, like the author's ancestors, to own land. Fenyvesi (a writer at U.S. News & World Report) and his forebears are seen scooping up and lovingly smelling the rich Hungarian soil--a strange, almost heretical attachment for the exiles of a Holy Land. But we are introduced to legends like a biblical well that followed the community to Hungary, and we sip from the source of this peculiar loyalty of these Jews to Hungary and its language. Just as Jews preferred Hungarian to Yiddish, the local gentiles have many reverential legends about Jewish sages. The rich strata of history here extends all the way back to Genghis Khan, as the author and a priest who knew of his great grandfather discover artifacts from the days of the Mongol invasion. After an exercise in family history, lore, and genealogy, Fenyvesi often transcends the particulars to present a nostalgic picture of the neatly fenced fields of a once ""whole"" world.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Viking