Budapest Diary: In Search of the Motherbook by Susan Rubin Suleiman (71,000 words and 2 photographs)
Can you forget the place you once called home? What does it take to make you recapture it? In this moving memoir, Susan Rubin Suleiman describes her returns to the city of her birth — where she speaks the language like a native but with an accent. Suleiman left Budapest in 1949 as a young child with her parents, fleeing communism; thirty-five years later, she returned with her two sons for a brief vacation and began to remember her childhood. Her earliest memories, of Nazi persecution in the final year of World War II, came back to her in fragments, as did memories of her first school years after the war and of the stormy marriage between her father, a brilliant Talmudic scholar, and her mother, a cosmopolitan woman from a more secular Jewish family.
In 1993, after the fall of communism and the death of her mother, Suleiman returned to Budapest for a six-month stay. She recounts her ongoing quest for personal history, interweaving it with the stories of present-day Hungarians struggling to make sense of the changes in their individual and collective lives. Suleiman's search for documents relating to her childhood, the lives of her parents and their families, and the Jewish communities of Hungary and Poland takes her on a series of fascinating journeys within and outside Budapest.
Emerging from this eloquent, often suspenseful diary is the portrait of an intellectual who recaptures her past and comes into contact with the vital, troubling world of contemporary Eastern Europe. Suleiman's vivid descriptions of her encounters with a proud, old city and its people in a time of historical change remind us that every life story is at once unique and part of a larger history.
"I recommend this autobiographical narrative because it is grave and beautiful. Better still, it is shatteringly truthful." — Elie Wiesel
"Susan Rubin was a little girl when her parents fled through darkened fields to escape the Communist regime in Hungary in 1949... [This] is a poignant piece of self-revelation, sprinkled with some trenchant observations on the way the dead hand of history has weighed down the former Warsaw Pact countries." — Kirkus
"[A] fascinating, revealing journal... brutally honest." — Publishers Weekly
"This pensive, forthright journal records Suleiman's efforts to reconnect with a long-forgotten homeland." — Booklist
"Suleiman lyrically describes her quest and the complex interaction of the Eastern Europe of the past and present." — Boston Globe
"A tale of survival, adaptation and pure luck, whose darker side reveals the linguistic and emotional cost of emigration and exile, the feeling of permanent displacement, of being nowhere at home." — Forward
"This story must speak to all those who have fled and who have ever dreamed of a return." — Independent Jewish Women's Magazine
"[A] thoughtful and sophisticated memoir... You don't have to be Hungarian or Jewish to appreciate writing like this." — Montreal Gazette
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