The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler and Changed the World Paperback – 1 Nov 2007
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"Hungarians, those men from Mars, escaped west in the years before World War II and gave us great scientists, filmmakers, photographers, and engineers. Kati Marton's lively, engaging group portrait recovers for us the lives and work of the extraordinary men who invented Hollywood and the atomic bomb." -- Richard Rhodes, author of "The Making of the Atomic Bomb"
"Kati Marton's wonderful book celebrates what is glorious and eternal in the human condition." -- Elie Wiesel, Nobel Laureate and Professor of Humanities, Boston University
"Kati Marton captures beautifully the genius and flair, as well as the insecurity and essential loneliness, of nine brilliant Jewish refugees from Hungary. Not only is this great biography, it gives a touching insight into human nature and the wellsprings of creative ambition." -- Walter Isaacson, author of "Benjamin Franklin"
"In this insightful, moving, and deftly researched book, Kati Marton writes about nine Hungarians whose experiences are a prism through which we can see the quest and ultimate triumph of humanity seeking the right to dream and the freedom to create." -- Vartan Gregorian, President, Carnegie Corporation of New York
""The Great Escape" is a good fit for Kati Marton's multifarious talents, requiring deep knowledge of the history and culture of Budapest, the analytical abilities of a seasoned reporter and a keen understanding of what it means to leave one's country behind.... While the work of uncovering this neglected piece of history required the skills of a worldly journalist, the telling came from the heart.... This is a book that should be read with special care." -- Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett, "The Seattle Times"
"A moving account of nine emigrants from Hungary who changed our world and their professions -- a remarkable testament to the intrepid human spirit." -- Henry Kissinger
"Describes the crossroads where art and politics meet, the perils of dictatorship and the horrors of war, all of it punctuated by the frantic struggle to create the atomic bomb.... Deserves a special place on bookshelves alongside Budapest 1900." -- Robert Leiter, The New York Times Book Review
"No exaggeration at all is needed to stress the importance of these individuals, who really did 'change the world, ' as the book's subtitle has it.... No false melodrama is needed for Marton to make this an intensely gripping story.... For a European, this story -- with its reminder of horrors still within living memory -- is painful and absorbing to read." -- Geoffrey Wheatcroft, The Washington Post Book World
"Marton, who fled Hungary as a child in 1957, illuminates Budapest's vertiginous Golden Age and the darkness that followed.... By looking at these nine lives -- salvaged, and crucial -- Marton provides a moving measure of how much was lost." -- The New Yorker
"The Great Escape is a good fit for Kati Marton's multifarious talents, requiring deep knowledge of the history and culture of Budapest, the analytical abilities of a seasoned reporter and a keen understanding of what it means to leave one's country behind.... While the work of uncovering this neglected piece of history required the skills of a worldly journalist, the telling came from the heart.... This is a book that should be read with special care." -- Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett, The Seattle Times
"Noted journalist and bestselling author Marton offers a haunting tale of the wartime Hungarian diaspora.... Marton intricately charts each man's career in the context of WWII and Cold War history.... Marton captures her fellow Hungarians' nostalgia for prewar Budapest, evoking its flamboyant cafes, its trams, boulevards and cosmopolitan Jewish community. Marton writes beautifully, balancing sharply defined character studies of each man with insights into their shared cultural traits and uprootedness." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Filled with a number of wonderful anecdotes.... Marton's book makes you want to reread Darkness at Noon and get to Blockbuster to rent Casablanca." -- Jennifer Hunter, Chicago Sun-Times
"An engrossing book.... Marton does such a good job of introducing her subjects, showing how they persevered through prejudice and personal problems to shape their times, that she leaves the reader wanting to learn more. Highly recommended." -- Library Journal
"Just when you thought you'd heard all the stories about World War II, along comes The Great Escape, a great read and a long overdue account of the remarkable lives of a small band of greatly gifted Hungarians who made profoundly important contributions to the American effort. Kati Marton tells this astonishing story with grace and passion, a sharp eye for the telling detail and the broad sweep of history." -- Tom Brokaw, author of The Greatest Generation
"Fascinating!...The story of nine men who grew up in Budapest and were driven from Hungary by fascism, just one step ahead of Hitler's era of terror. They came to the West, especially the United States, and their tremendous achievements changed life for us all." -- Betty E. Stein, Fort Wayne News Sentinel (Indiana)
About the Author
Kati Marton is the author of six books, including the New York Times Bestseller Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages That Shaped Our History and The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler and Changed the World as well as Wallenberg, The Polk Conspiracy and A Death in Jerusalem. A former NPR and ABC News correspondent and bureau chief, she is the recipient of a Peabody Award. Marton is also active in human rights, journalism, and education advocacy. In addition, she is a member of the Committee on Foreign Relations, P.E.N. International, and the Authors Guild.
Top customer reviews
As her title indictes, her choice of nine Hungarian Jews is driven largely by two common factors. The first is anti-semitism; the second is that our lives have been brightened, or enlightened as a result of their ideas. But in the case Edward Teller and von Neumann and their attitude to the development of the Atom bomb, some would say our lives have been blighted.
This book is not simply about scientific genius. Marton has chosen subjects from the world of both the arts and sciences. Michael Curtiz directed Casablanca. Alexander Korda produced The Third man. Robert Capa co-founded (with Henri Cartier-Bresson) Magnum Photos, which virtually invented modern photo journalism in which the photo-essayist André Kertesz played a father-figure. Arthur Koestler, one of the twentieth century's greatest political writers, was among the first to expose Stalinist brutality. Leo Szilard, Edward Teller, Eugene Wigner and John von Neumann pushed the frontiers of physics and maths.
As the twentieth century unfolds, Marton unfurls the lives of her escapees to reveal some of the ingrained characteristics of their native Hungary, and Hungarian culture. Her book is not a story of tragedy, but of the enormous success and influence on our modern-day lives.
The story is made real, and endearing by the many anecdotes Marton has been able to tease out from the many interviews she held with contempories of these great escapees. Korda lived in the grandest hotels, when he could least afford them. Capa bought an elegant Burberry raincoat for the Normandy invasion he photographed.
This book is about nine men, all of whom were big thinkers with big dreams. Many of their ideas surround our daily lives. For example, game-theory originally developed by von Neumann underpins the strategic thinking of many of the world's largest corporations.
Many of their dreams, and some of their nighmares, have become our reality. Szilard's mind was his laboratory. In 1933, Szilard was walking the streets of Bloomsbury, when he suddenly realised that if one neutron is shot in to an atom, and more than one neutron is produced, then a chain reaction releasing vast amounts of energy could be the result. In a flash, he realised that a nuclear chain reaction could also mean an explosion.
Marton's "Great escapees..." helps us all to understand the background to many aspects of our lives today, by bringing these nine great escapees to life. But don't do what I did by taking the book on holiday. Hardly able to put the book down, I feel I missed about half the holiday but caught up on some very important lives.
This is a weakness of the book. It creates a tale of minorities under pressure, rather than the utter horror of 20th century anti-semitism. Perhaps it was the secular nature of the Jewry concerned. Perhaps it is lack of a feeling of story in the tale. Either way, the books does not, IMHO, succeed.
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