I was drawn to the cover ... a photo of the Hungarian Parliament building sitting on the edge of the Danube ... surrounded by a fog. Had I listened to the old adage "Don't judge a book by its cover" ... most likely I would *not* have read the book. This is a highly complex and controversial book but *not* as one would expect, because of its political contents, the most probable reason that it was a five year battle with the censors in Hungary before it was permitted to be published. No ... the world has long acknowledged there was repression experienced in Central and Eastern Europe during the post World War II Communist occupation of this region. In fact, many books have been published examining the causes and outcomes of the Hungarian Revolution in 1956. This book is risque because of the highly personal experiences revealed by the sensitive and intelligent main character whose memoirs we are reading. The daring revelations could push people's "buttons", those who make moral judgements about what two consenting adults do during intimate moments, those of the same gender or opposite. Frankly, had I known this was in the book, I would not have bought it. As it stands, the events unfolded gradually and amazingly, I was not shocked, after all, it was the main character's memoirs. The emotional complexity of the novel intertwines on many levels, with many different recollections of life experiences at different ages. The descriptions are highly personal and direct, it is as if we, the reader have a connection to how the character's mind works. The writing is elegant, the emotions are deep, the thoughts are intense ... It is a serious novel written with great attention to detail and texture. The descriptions of people's actions, the interpretation of their feelings and responses shows the author, Peter Nadas to be a man of refined sensitivity and superior intelligence. His description of the personal impact of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 on the lives of everyday people is extremely accurate and most highly impressive. I can say this because my family lived through it. The event divided us by many hundreds of thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean ... from our relatives ... although it also created closer emotional ties to our homeland, Hungary.
The book begins when the main character is living in East Berlin, he recalls the topsy turvy life he leads, describing the eccentric people who are his friends ... and his experiences during those turbulent times. The writing is complex because interwoven within the novel are connections to past events when the main character was growing up. We learn of his childhood and friends, who later play major roles in his emotional expiation of life experiences. Overall, this book is recommended for its profound and beautiful writing ... with reservations for those who are puritanical in their tastes about reading very personal intimate revelations. Erika Borsos (erikab93)