Extraordinary Renditions

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Set in Budapest?a city marked by its rich cultural heritage, the scars of empire, the fresher wounds of industry, and the collateral damage of globalism?Extraordinary Renditions is the sweeping story of three equally tarnished expatriates. World-renowned composer and Holocaust survivor Lajos Hark?lyi has returned to Hungary to debut his final opera and share his mother's parting gift, the melody from a lullaby she sang as he was forced to leave his Hungarian home for the infamous Czech concentration camp Terez?n....

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Extraordinary Renditions

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Set in Budapest—a city marked by its rich cultural heritage, the scars of empire, the fresher wounds of industry, and the collateral damage of globalism—Extraordinary Renditions is the sweeping story of three equally tarnished expatriates. World-renowned composer and Holocaust survivor Lajos Harkályi has returned to Hungary to debut his final opera and share his mother's parting gift, the melody from a lullaby she sang as he was forced to leave his Hungarian home for the infamous Czech concentration camp Terezín. Private First Class Jonathan "Brutus" Gibson is being blackmailed by his commanding officer at the US Army base in Hungary, one of the infamous black-sites of the global War on Terror, and he must decide between going AWOL or risking his life to make an illegal firearms deal in Budapest. Aspiring musician Melanie Scholes is preparing for the most important performance of her career as a violinist in Harkályi's opera, but before she takes the stage she must extricate herself from a failing relationship and the inertia that threatens to consume her future. As their lives converge on Independence Day, they too will seek liberation—from the anguish of the Holocaust, the chains of blackmail, and the bonds of conformity.

A formidable new voice in American fiction, Ervin tackles the big themes of war, prejudice, and art, lyrically examining the reverberations of unrest in today's central Europe, the United States' legacy abroad, and the resilience of the human spirit.

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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
“The variety of viewpoints and the author’s evident intimacy with an ancient foreign capital [Budapest] are promising, and Ervin makes it plain that he is taking on weighty themes.”—The New York Times Book Review

"Set in a madly grasping modern Budapest, literary critic Ervin's debut mines very different ways of achieving personal and artistic freedom in three neatly polished, interlocking tales. . . . With dexterous sensibility and fluid prose, Ervin's protagonists find liberation from the onerous strictures of Budapest's Nazi and Communist past."—Publishers Weekly

"A thought-provoking exploration of tyranny, freedom, and the power of music."—Booklist

“Ervin keeps his emotionally and politically fraught setting animated, thanks largely to his skill at inhabiting each of his characters . . . .[Extraordinary Rendition’s] ending makes a poignant case for the power of art in an age of war.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Darkly evocative . . . the book has a prismlike quality; each story makes us see the city from a different but overlapping perspective."—Philadelphia Inquirer

"Andrew Ervin writes with an empathetic passion, near poetic words, daring politics, and a sensitive and mature grasp of his characters. This is a strong debut."—Chris Abani

"I can't decide what amazes me most about this book: the confident, muscular beauty of Andrew Ervin's writing; the breadth of his imagination; or the depth and diversity of his profoundly engaging characters. Again and again, though the force of the narrative drove me relentlessly onward, I would stop simply to marvel. Extraordinary Renditions is an extraordinary debut."—Julia Glass

"This tautly plotted, richly detailed trio of linked stories documents, with devastating and blackly comic ardor, the impossibility of simple morality in the rapidly aging era of terror. With Philadelphia and Budapest as his unlikely anchors, Andrew Ervin gives us crooked military men, postmodern artists, marauding skinheads and concert musicians, all rendered in nimble prose that never fails to shock and delight. An awesome debut."—J. Robert Lennon

"Through the eyes of three outsiders, Extraordinary Renditions takes the reader deep into the heart of Budapest, both its past and present. The whole city is here, the banks of the Danube brimming with history, intrigue, art, food, drink, and most important of all, music. His characters may be lost—even the one native is a foreigner—but Andrew Ervin is a sharp-eyed, sure-handed guide."— Stewart O’Nan

"There is a striking moral clarity—a certainty even to the questions the work poses—evidenced as these narratives ponder the long-form's grand themes. Being. Music. War. Love. Extraordinary Renditions' clear tenor hearkens the ancient masters of the novel in the most sublime way, even as it points toward that which is post-mastery."—Bayo Ojikutu

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781566892469
  • Publisher: Coffee House Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2010
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 1,374,998
  • Product dimensions: 6.32 (w) x 11.04 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

Andrew Ervin grew up in the Philadelphia suburbs and has lived in Budapest, Illinois, and Louisiana. His fiction has appeared in Conjunctions, Fiction International, and the Southern Review, and his criticism has appeared in the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, USA Today, and The Believer. Extraordinary Renditions is his first book.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 31, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A little know part of Holocaust history

    The Holocaust remains one of the harshest examples of human brutality in history, and yet its history is still only partly known. Because the regions and peoples of Eastern Europe were all involved in different degrees, the experience is not simply defined. For example, a Jew in Russia may have had a completely different experience during this time period than a Jew in Warsaw or one in Hungary. Because of these differences, it's possible to read new accounts and catch new details that may be missed in another publication. All of them horrific, as the end usually remained the same no matter where they were from.

    That's what made this novel especially unique: it's the first time I had ever heard of Terezin, in Czechoslovakia. It was a camp that served as a stop on the journey to the more deadly concentration camps. In all, more than two hundred thousand Jews are estimated to have been through Terezin and who eventually died*. However, this camp was unique in that it was designed to propogate the idea that Hitler was simply moving Jews to a nice location to wait out the storms of war. Films were made to show the happy Jews enjoying the orchestra and the fine foods and beautiful resort-like buildings. However, like a movie set, this was all a facade. Before filming, prisoners painted and revamped the buildings, potted flowers were brought in to add color, and inmates had to rehearse their smiles.

    "For days, the filmmakers shot images of children playing soccer, of families sitting around large, food-laden tables, of citizens in line to deposit fake money at the town's newly built bank. The world would see the glorious gift the kaiser had given to the Jews-their own Edenic village, far from the devastation of the war."

    Prior to filming, a symphony was prepared and practiced. Since many musicians were sent to Terezin especially because of their talent, the symphony appeared to be a chance for them to demonstrate their skills. The musicians were given new and stylish clothes to wear before they performed, while the potted plants in front of their chairs concealed their actual disintegrating shoes. It was a triumphant performance, and horrific in that as soon as the filming ended, the musicians were led off the stage into waiting traincars heading to Auschwitz, and their likely death. Adding to the poignancy was the conductor, a Jew himself, who had to choose which musicians were selected for this 'special' performance.

    Sadly, for a long period of time the true horror of Terezin was hidden. Even Red Cross investigators inspected the camp and approved of the facility.

    Andrew Ervin has used this factual history to compose his own triptych-like storypiece, one that reveals true historical details from Budapest, the military (both then and now), and the structure of orchestras and music. He begins with the fictional composer and violinist Harkalyi, one of the few children who had survived Terezin, now back in Budapest for a special celebration of his new composition. This new symphony is to him the final evolvement of his personal life, from Terezin to a spectacular career as a renowned musician. He's returned to Budapest to see his only living family member, his niece Magda.

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