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Memoir of Hungary, 1944-1948 [Paperback]

By Sandor Marai (Author)
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Item description for Memoir of Hungary, 1944-1948 by Sandor Marai...

This scathing, humorous, and insightful memoir by exiled Hungarian novelist Sandor Marai provides one of the most poignant and humanly alive portraits of life in Hungary between the German occupation and the solidification of communist power.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Central European University Press
Pages   426
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.3" Width: 5.7" Height: 1"
Weight:   1.1 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Mar 1, 2001
Publisher   Central European University Press
ISBN  9639241105  
ISBN13  9789639241107  

Availability  1 units.
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More About Sandor Marai

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Sandor Marai was born in Kassa, in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in 1900, and died in San Diego in 1989. He rose to fame as one of the leading literary novelists in Hungary in the 1930s. Profoundly antifascist, he survived World War II, but persecution by the Communists drove him from the country in 1948, first to Italy, then to the United States. He is the author of a body of work now being rediscovered and which Knopf is translating into English.
Carol Brown Janeway's translations include Binjamin Wilkomirski's Fragments, Marie de Hennezel's Intimate Death, Bernhard Schlink's The Reader, Jan Philipp Reemtsma's In the Cellar, Hans-Ulrich Treichel's Lost, Zvi Kolitz's Yosl Rakover Talks to God, and Benjamin Lebert's Crazy."

Sandor Marai was born in 1900 and died in 1989.

Sandor Marai has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Vintage International

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs > General
2Books > Subjects > Biographies & Memoirs
3Books > Subjects > History > Europe > Hungary
4Books > Subjects > History > Military > General
5Books > Subjects > History > Military
6Books > Subjects > History > World > General
7Books > Subjects > History > World

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Reviews - What do customers think about Memoir of Hungary, 1944-1948?

Uneven, but worth the effort  Mar 30, 2008
Some parts of this autobiographical work are delightful reading for anyone with an interest in 20th century history. Other sections impress because of Marai's singular gifts as a writer, his powers of observation, and his analysis of the human condition.
The book is a bit uneven, however, featuring too much reflecting on the role of the writer in society and his relation to language and so on and so on.
Most memorable thought: when Marai has decided to leave his country for good, he makes an effort, before leaving, to read as many books by lesser known Hungarian authors - because those will not be available abroad.
Most humorous glimpse of history: when Russian soldiers search Marai's house for German soldiers, calling out "Hermann! Hermann!"
What is at the Still Center of the Whirlwind of Contemporary Events?  Jun 26, 2007
The "Memoir" covers a four year period out of some forty years during which Marai, the prominent and praiseworthy Hungarian novelist, kept a journal. At present it is the only portion of this long-running commentary which has been published in English. The translation by Albert Tezla is an excellent one which captures the author's spirit and style. The four years in question are those which proved to be a major historical turning point for Hungary and a bitter and deeply personal turning point for the author.

What happened during those four years? In brief: the final tergiversations and collapse of Horthy's Regency government; its replacement by a desperate Nazi-backed Arrow Cross regime which was determined to go down in flames and take as many victims as it could with it in a final Wagnerian gesture of hatred; an uneasy period of "liberation" by the Soviet army (where liberation equaled successful military operations against the Germans plus looting and other depredations); the machinations of political parties and leaders who were making their moves in a shrinking circle of authority and responsibility, since all knew or suspected that their fate would be decided in Moscow; the return of exiled Communist factotums who had been winnowed and educated by Stalin's system in its period of purges, men who lived in fear and ruled by fear; the springing up of fellow-travelers and shape-shifters of every description, each fleeing guilt while feathering his own nest; the period of land-redistribution followed by nationalizations of industry and commerce, then the creation of collective farms; the debasements of the period of currency hyperinflation; and, what breaks the author's heart the most, the "treason of the clerks" (that portion of the middle class and its literary and artistic spokesmen who abandoned their humanistic ideals and threw themselves into collaboration with the new, all-powerful Party apparatus).

For Marai personally this was a period when he began to take serious stock of his career hitherto as a successful bourgeois author and came to the sad conclusion that both he and his work might have been nothing but caricatures of a dying way of life. And, in 1947-48, it is a time when he turns this reckoning, along with his truly depressing picture of Hungary's total spiritual compromise and abasement under both its previous and its new systems of rule, into a decision to leave his homeland forever.

In his judgments of failure of intellect and behavior, he is as hard on the Hungarian and the broader European middle class as he is on the Communists. After a year or so when he feels he must commit himself to a "neutral" evaluation of the Red Army and its political masters, he comes to truly detest Communism. He hates it for the anti-humanism of its official philosophy (which he characterizes as an outdated and culturally dead and deadening theory which might have been appropriate in Marx's day but was irrelevant to the problems Europe faced in 1945). He hates it for the phoniness of its leaders' attempts to convince his countrymen that they are "building socialism" while in fact they are knowingly establishing a Russian colonial satrapy which will prove to be as indifferent to the needs of workers and farmers as it is to the death of the middle class and the old Hungarian aristocracy - both the real one and the faux-aristocracy of the Regency. And he hates it because he sees its leadership and middle-men as untrained, incompetent bunglers and looters whose real purpose is mere political survival at any cost. Marai does not regret the fate of the old land-owning class, whom he feels was as indifferent to the hardships of life of the vast majority of his countrymen as the new masters will prove to be. But the decay and destruction of the middle class truly disturbs him, since he believes that the educated, politically liberal bourgeoisie was the only group which had a chance of representing cultural humanism and political democracy in a way that might have withstood fascism and communism. More painfully, he acknowledges that this decay and destruction was brought on by a lack of vigilance and vigor by the middle class itself, which was losing confidence in the older accepted rationales for its existence and way of life. He indicts this middle class for sacrificing its principles on the altars of political expediency and self-interest.

All of this leads him to a period in which his own mind moves slowly and inexorably toward the decision to break with his past and his country. Most disturbing to him is the notion that if he stays - whether as a practitioner of "internal emigration" or as an occasional "fellow traveler" and regime booster who will be allowed to publish his work in return for such compromises - he will lose his "Self", because it is the capture of the core of his identity that is the objective of the new system. He is more afraid of that system's intolerance of the silence of a member of the intelligentsia than he is of its crass desire to manipulate writers and other artists into the practices of "socialist realism". He has to leave in order to save his relationship with his own language and to protect that Self. (His reflections on this give rise to the title of my review.)

But this memoir is more than a series of gloomy meditations on social and political affairs and trends. It is also a sort of love-letter to the beauties of the Hungarian language (which is Marai's declared "homeland") as they were developed over several generations by belletristic writers. There are recollections of the careers of his fellow writers and a portrait of the atmosphere of literary ferment and creativity that permeated the cafes, bars, and news-rooms of periodicals and daily papers for whom many of these writers worked in order to keep themselves alive while they also produced poetry, short-stories and novels for a loyal cohort of sophisticated readers. There are generous comments made about the many talented writers of his own generation and the two generations that preceded it. There is a paean to the minor Hungarian writers (the "second set") whom he feels were every bit as talented and worthy as the major and more successful ones (he spends his final year in locating and reading increasingly rare copies of the works of these minor writers, since he thinks they will become inaccessible to him after he goes into exile; this knowledge and experience is the only thing he wishes to take with him as he leaves his land and culture behind). And there is the recurring lament of the Hungarian writer who looks to world literature for both influence and approval: "We are alone with our unique language that is surrounded by a sea of powerful and mutually supporting Indo-European tongues that constitute this world-literature in Europe. Who will appreciate our efforts and take the time and trouble to learn the great beauties of own painfully created literary tradition and to see where it belongs in this broader sea of humanistic achievement?" (The foregoing is the reviewer's weak paraphrase of a longing expressed powerfully by Marai.)

The book opens with highly particular observations of the situation in Hungary in March of 1944, and it closes with more general ruminations about the psychological, ethical and cultural state of Europe in 1948. The author is pessimistic, but he will not yield an inch on the overarching importance of a humanistic culture which he feels may be moribund, but without which he sees Europe and the modern world as bereft of rational ideals and purpose. It might be better to read two or three of Marai's novels which are now available in good English translations before turning to this memoir - in this way the reader will be exposed to sophisticated and moving literary portrayals of the world whose loss he laments here. The Corvina Books Ltd. edition of the Memoirs has a brief, cogent Introduction by the translator, who has also compiled very informative end-notes on Hungarian personalities and events alluded to by Marais. This book is highly recommended to anyone who wishes to learn what this historical period looked and felt like "from the inside".

We need more of Maria's books translated  Jun 12, 2006
This is a first-rate book and that's all that needs to be said. The customer reviews on this site provide a rich discussion of its content and of Marai himself. The most important aspect of the book -- and the reviews -- is to draw attention to a major and prolific novelist whose work disappeared for fifty years as a result of the political purging of the communist regime. Embers, the first of the rescued novels, is simply superb -- and such a surprise; you will not have read anything like it. Conversations is more complex and takes a while to get into but it, too, is the work of a unique mind and style.
So, this is a good introduction to Marai and an excellent historical memoir but it is the novels that matter most. There will be more -- the search is on to find the original Hungarian books. Embers should be on your bookshelf and Christmas/Fathers Day/Whatever gift list
Buy,beg,borrow or steal but read this book !  Apr 20, 2005
This is a wonderful memoir set in Hungary covering the last days of World War II and the gradual take over of power by the communists.The memoir ends in 1948 when Marai left his homeland for good.
As anyone who has read Embers will know Marai is a very gifted writer and this memoir is an absolute delight to read.It is full of brilliant insights and perhaps gives the reader a better idea of what life was like in an East European city in the post war era compared to historical studies.I particulary enjoyed the sections in the book where he recounts his dealings with the Russian soldiers who "liberated" Hungary.
There is only one sadness attached to this book and that is that Marai has only the 3 books available in English.He was a prolific author and if Embers,Converstaions in Bolzano and this memoir are anything to go by he is a writer of great quality and I would gladly read anything he has written.So come on publishers show a bit of initiative and get more of this great twentieth century Hungarian writer into translation.
Fine account of the Red Army occupation of Budapest  Apr 10, 2004
I cannot improve on the review below, but I can try to help by summarizing a few important points about this book. The reason why it gets five stars is the author's fascinating personal account of the Soviet Army's occupation of Budapest in 1944-1945 and of the cultural clash between Soviet soldiers and the Hungarian bourgeois. This makes up the first third of the book (113 pages). The other two-thirds of the book cover the aftermath of the destruction of Budapest, and the increasing Communist stranglehold on society ending in Marai's flight to Switzerland. These latter parts are not bad, but not as good; they sometimes drag a bit, with Marai tending to entwine himself in navel-gazing intellectual discourse from which a better editor might have rescued him.

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