Scattered Ghosts: One Family's Survival Through War, Holocaust and Revolution Hardcover – 30 Sep 2013
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'Between fact and fiction, archival research and genealogy, Nick Barlay re-enacts the torments of Hungarian Jewish history from the Holocaust to 1956 and to exile in London, where he was born to refugee parents. He takes us to the margins and the cracks, the streets, the houses and the cellars. His tale is an astonishing tour de force, it is a memorial to the unsung heroes through the prism of his family: compelling and informative, deeply moving and scrupulously understated.' (Irène Heidelberger-Leonard, author of The Philosopher of Auschwitz)
'...an intriguing and moving narrative... his account of the fortunes of his large family - embedded in the fortunes of Hungarian Jewry in the most disastrous period of its history - comes across powerfully and convincingly.' (Ladislaus Löb, Emeritus Professor of German, University of Sussex and author of Dealing with Satan: Rezs Kasztner s Daring Rescue Mission)
'Is it family history? It is. Is it poetry? It is that,too - charming poetry. But clouds soon darken the scene. There's the smell of blood and the tumult of Arrow Cross pogroms. What binds these family fates together is fine writing - and Hungarian cherry strudel.' --(Peter Fraenkel, author of No Fixed Abode: A Jewish Odyssey to Africa)
'...a remarkable family memoir, with the modern history of Hungary cleverly woven into the narratives of individuals.' (Jewish Renaissance Magazine)
'With personal observations, vivid detail and glimpses of hope and humanity, [Scattered Ghosts] is a brave act of defiance against the Nazis' attempt to silence and dehumanise their victims.' --(The Lady)
'Nick Barlay's richly layered family history digs beyond the Shoah into Austro-Hungarian history.' --(Jewish Chronicle)
About the Author
Nick Barlay is the author of four acclaimed novels and was named as one of Granta s 20 best young British novelists in 2003, until it was discovered he was too old to be young. Born in London to Hungarian Jewish refugee parents, he has also written award-winning radio plays, short stories and wide-ranging journalism.
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This book gives a rare look at the death of the Austro-Hungarian empire, the weird idea (for British readers) that national borders move and towns which were once in one country now find themselves in another is a puzzle. The unbelievable savagery of the Nazis and the inhuman story of genocide are described personally. Then the arrival of the communists and the suspicion and violence all well set out. Hearing the story of refugees from the refugee's outlook was very interesting.
I loved this book and could not fault it. However if I could make two small comments I would have valued a map to help me put the towns and borders into context and also - for a Briton - the Hungarian words were a challenge, for instance where do you start with Hodmezovarsarhely? A simple phonetic pronunciation add would have been very useful.
I had read Nick Barlay's London trilogy (which I would also recommend). I loved his writing style, structure, and imagery. This book did not disappoint and adds an extra dimension to the collected works of one of the UK's most underrated writers. Five stars all the way.
Nick Barlay moves seamlessly between the contemplative to the journalistic. Through anecdotes and description, the reader gains a real understanding of Hungary under Nazi occupation and Communist rule through the eyes of someone who, whilst not involved at the time, has thoroughly understood the history.
The description of the angst in the family at the time of the Hungarian Revolution as to whether they should stay or leave was particularly powerful.
I very warmly recommend it.
Read it and find out for yourself!Scattered Ghosts: One Family's Survival Through War, Holocaust and Revolution