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: 0-8032-4256-5

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Univ. of Nebraska

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1996

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

NIGHT

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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A PEOPLE'S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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