The cover of Janina Struk’s book shows the intriguing image of a soldier apparently about to take a snapshot with a digital camera. We cannot see the soldier’s face. It is hidden by his hands and by the camera being held to the eye. The camera appears as if pointed at the viewer, in this case the reader. Why is a photograph being taken? What is actually being photographed? What is going through the soldier’s mind as the button is pressed? Who will see the result, where and why? This cover picture of a picture being taken raises many questions. They are the type of questions addressed between the pages of the book itself.
For a former diplomat to write a book with “revolution” in the title (leaderless or otherwise) might seem strange indeed. But then Carne Ross is not your average former diplomat. Ross spent many years working for the British government in a variety of countries, including Germany, Afghanistan and the US, where for a long time he was part of the British mission to the UN.
A child smuggled across a border during the Second World War and growing up under an invasive and dictatorial regime; love and loss; drudgery and luxury; bear-hunting parties in the Carpathians; and a happy ending: this book has all the elements of an engaging read despite its serious historical setting.Â
One of the most commonly held assumptions about Hungary is that the country must have become a dictatorial, one-party state immediately following the end of the Second World War. After all, there was the presence of Soviet troops and the various agreements between the allied powers, both during the war and after, in effect ensured that Hungary would remain in the Soviet sphere of influence.
On 23 March 2003 Michael Moore went on the stage of the Kodak Theater in Hollywood to receive the “Best Documentary” Oscar for his film Bowling for Columbine. A few days earlier, the US had invaded Iraq. In his short acceptance speech he condemned the invasion and the fact that President George W. Bush had sent the US to war “for fictitious reasons” – a reference to the issue of whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction which posed a threat to America. “Shame on you, Mr Bush,” he declared. “Shame on you.”
Sharp lines criss-cross the dark purple cover like a badly tied parcel or a broken mirror: it is obvious the marriage in Portraits of a Marriage won’t be a happy one, despite the golden, heart-shaped locket that hangs on the spine of the novel. One of Hungary’s great writers of the interwar period and currently enjoying a certain revival, Sándor Márai was a chronicler of his times. Written over several decades, Portraits of a Marriage closely intertwines themes of love, unhappiness, and the told and untold in human relationships with, as a backdrop, the collapse of Hungary’s interwar society.
In 1960, soon after Soviet writer Vasily Grossman had completed his epic novel Life and Fate, the KGB raided his apartment and seized all copies of the manuscript they could find, as well as notebooks and even typewriter ribbons. One of the Kremlin’s chief ideologists, Mikhail Suslov, would later tell Grossman that his novel could not be published for up to 300 years. An appeal sent by the author to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev produced no result.