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Still, a valuable and absorbing chronicle of a terrible ordeal and of the transcendent courage shown by both its survivors...

A notable European intellectual’s path from persecution, exile and privation to the status of spokesman for his embattled country’s resiliency.

Born in 1933, Konrád grew up among a well-to-do middle-class Jewish family supported by his father’s hardware store, until the Nazis’ approach persuaded the Hungarian government to capitulate. “The town had deported its Jewish citizens,” Konrád recalls more than 60 years later, “and viewed all their possessions as its own, moving strangers into their houses.” The episodic story of young George’s survival (with his sister and two male cousins) after the “removal” of their parents from their village (Berettyóújfalu) is an odyssey of hasty travel, crowded and imperiled experiences at home and abroad shared with those who sheltered them, and—following “Liberation” in 1945—return to Hungary (in a cattle car) to a nearly destroyed home and a future whose bleakness was mitigated by their parents’ safe return from an Austrian internment camp. The book’s latter half depicts Konrád’s salvation through formal education; jobs as social worker, magazine editor and teacher; the publication of his brilliant first novel (The Case Worker, 1969) and the polarizing sociopolitical study (The Intellectuals on the Road to Class Power, 1979) he co-authored; and the hard-won acquisition of survival skills required of Hungary’s Jews, doubly victimized by the Third Reich and by the violent class struggle of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. Konrád’s novelistic skills (also displayed in such fiction as The City Builder, 1977, and Stonedial, 2000) produce vivid, terse sketches of numerous relatives and acquaintances, and the book features dozens of heart-stopping perceptions (e.g., the realization that his aged mother’s “forgetfulness may help her. . . . She is letting go of her burdens”). But the book is flawed by confusing past-present shifts, and an imbalance that is presumably the result of its “slightly edited” second half.

Still, a valuable and absorbing chronicle of a terrible ordeal and of the transcendent courage shown by both its survivors and its victims.

Pub Date: April 24, 2007

ISBN: 1-59051-139-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2007

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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