Saturday, January 08, 2011

Journey to a Revolution: A Personal Memoir and History of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956Journey to a Revolution: A Personal Memoir and History of the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 

"For those who survived, life goes on, and even looking back in time, for those of us who were there, the events of October and November 1956 seem remote now, something out of another age." (p 205)

 Michael Korda is able to combine history and memoir in one package that at times reads like a novel, but at its heart is a very personal story of one man and his Hungarian heritage. The history is an inspiring story of the David versus Goliath battle that took place in Hungary in 1956. Korda was a student at Oxford who traveled to Budapest to bring help, medicine for hospitals, and to participate in one of the great moments in postwar European history. "The Hungarians stood up to the Soviet Union, bravely and alone; and although they lost, inevitably, they created a deep fissure in the monolith of communism" (p 204) that was omnipresent throughout Eastern Europe behind the "Iron Curtain." 
 Korda begins his story, after an introductory chapter, with an all too brief history of Hungary, a nation that was not unfamiliar with oppression by foreign rulers from the invasions of the Huns to the Empire of the Hapsburgs, but it had a proud culture.  Its' recent history was one of decline throughout the twentieth century.  The two world wars had been particularly harsh in the toll they took on the country's fortunes. I was impressed with the way Korda was able to transition from this history into his family's and ultimately his own position as a young man at Oxford - thus leading the reader into the main section of the book detailing the brutal details of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution. His own adventures as an eyewitness add credibility to his account and his lucid and readable style make this a successful memoir and history. Reading this in combination with some of the literature produced by Hungarian writers added to my enjoyment of both the literature and the history.

Journey to a Revolution by Michael Korda. Harper Perennial, New York. 2007 (2006)

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