Thursday, January 14, 2010

Enemies of the People by Kati Marton

Book description:
"You are opening a Pandora's box," Marton was warned when she filed for her family's secret police files in Budapest. But her family history -- during both the Nazi and the Communist periods -- was too full of shadows. The files revealed terrifying truths: secret love affairs, betrayals inside the family circle, torture and brutalities alongside acts of stunning courage -- and, above all, deep family love.

In this true-life thriller, Kati Marton, an accomplished journalist, exposes the cruel mechanics of the Communist Terror State, using the secret police files on her journalist parents as well as dozens of interviews that reveal how her family was spied on and betrayed by friends and colleagues, and even their children's babysitter. In this moving and brave memoir, Marton searches for and finds her parents, and love.

Marton relates her eyewitness account of her mother's and father's arrests in Cold War Budapest and the terrible separation that followed. She describes the pain her parents endured in prison -- isolated from each other and their children. She reveals the secret war between Washington and Moscow, in which Marton and her family were pawns in a much larger game.


Kati Marton's parents were Hungarian journalists working for Western news outlets behind the Iron Curtain, a courageous choice that became reason enough for them to be declared enemies of the people by the Communists in Hungary. The story of their lives as revealed through personal memories and their secret police files makes for an engrossing read on many levels.

The book does a masterful job of peeling back the bare facts that are public knowledge about the Martons to reveal the deeper history of this extraordinary couple. The reader shares the author's sense of discovery as she learns of her Jewish heritage and the true facts of her parents' early lives. Marton's love for her parents combined with her frustration about their unwillingness to discuss the past rings through this memoir; it is the ultimate irony that she only came to know and understand her family history because of the massive secret police files maintained by the government that imprisoned her parents and ripped her family apart.

Well-written and fast-paced, this book was an obvious labor of love that will appeal to readers no matter their level of familiarity with Hungary in the post-war years. Highly recommended.

1 comment:

jennysbooks said...

Oh wow, I can't imagine finding out all this about my parents from police files - how insane, and how good that she was able to make it into a memoir. :)