I Kiss Your Hands Many Times: Hearts, Souls, and Wars in Hungary

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Overview

A magnificent wartime love story about the forces that brought the author’s parents together and those that nearly drove them apart
 
Marianne Szegedy-Maszák’s parents, Hanna and Aladár, met and fell in love in Budapest in 1940. He was a rising star in the foreign ministry—a vocal anti-Fascist who was in talks with the Allies when he was arrested and sent to Dachau. She was the granddaughter of Manfred Weiss, the industrialist patriarch of...
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I Kiss Your Hands Many Times: Hearts, Souls, and Wars in Hungary

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Overview

A magnificent wartime love story about the forces that brought the author’s parents together and those that nearly drove them apart
 
Marianne Szegedy-Maszák’s parents, Hanna and Aladár, met and fell in love in Budapest in 1940. He was a rising star in the foreign ministry—a vocal anti-Fascist who was in talks with the Allies when he was arrested and sent to Dachau. She was the granddaughter of Manfred Weiss, the industrialist patriarch of an aristocratic Jewish family that owned factories, were patrons of intellectuals and artists, and entertained dignitaries at their baronial estates. Though many in the family had converted to Catholicism decades earlier, when the Germans invaded Hungary in March 1944, they were forced into hiding. In a secret and controversial deal brokered with Heinrich Himmler, the family turned over their vast holdings in exchange for their safe passage to Portugal.
 
Aladár survived Dachau, a fragile and anxious version of himself. After nearly two years without contact, he located Hanna and wrote her a letter that warned that he was not the man she’d last seen, but he was still in love with her. After months of waiting for visas and transit, she finally arrived in a devastated Budapest in December 1945, where at last they were wed.
 
Framed by a cache of letters written between 1940 and 1947, Szegedy-Maszák’s family memoir tells the story, at once intimate and epic, of the complicated relationship Hungary had with its Jewish population—the moments of glorious humanism that stood apart from its history of anti-Semitism—and with the rest of the world. She resurrects in riveting detail a lost world of splendor and carefully limns the moral struggles that history exacted—from a country and its individuals.
 
Praise for I Kiss Your Hands Many Times
 
I Kiss Your Hand Many Times is the sweeping story of Marianne Szegedy-Maszák’s family in pre– and post–World War II Europe, capturing the many ways the struggles of that period shaped her family for years to come. But most of all it is a beautiful love story, charting her parents’ devotion in one of history’s darkest hours.”—Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief, the Huffington Post Media Group
 
“In this panoramic and gripping narrative of a vanished world of great wealth and power, Marianne Szegedy-Maszák restores an important missing chapter of European, Hungarian, and Holocaust history.”—Kati Marton, author of Paris: A Love Story andEnemies of the People: My Family’s Journey to America

“How many times can a heart be broken? Hungarians know, Marianne Szegedy-Maszák’s family more than most. History has broken theirs again and again. This is the story of that violence, told by the daughter of an extraordinary man and extraordinary woman who refused to surrender to it. Every perfectly chosen word is as it happened. So brace yourself. Truth can break hearts, too.”—Robert Sam Anson, author of War News: A Young Reporter in Indochina

“This family memoir is everything you could wish for in the genre: the story of a fascinating family that illuminates the historical time it lived through. . . . Informative and fascinating in every way, [I Kiss Your Hands Many Times] is a great introduction to World War II Hungary and a moving tale of personal relationships in a time of great duress.”Booklist (starred review)
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This tragic family history weaves together the lives of journalist Szegedy-Maszák’s parents and their extended families with the fate of their native Hungary during and after WWII. The author’s father, Aladár, was a Gentile civil servant in the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, whereas her mother, Hanna, came from a family of Jewish industrialists who converted to Christianity. Aladár and Hanna’s romance blossoms under the shadows of war and anti-Semitism, and continues to grow even after Aladár is shipped off to the Dachau concentration camp for voicing his strong anti-Nazi opinions. Hanna and her family, meanwhile, strike a deal with Heinrich Himmler to trade most of the family’s holdings for passage out of Hungary. In the aftermath of the war, Aladár and Hanna are reunited, and the fragile Hungarian government names him minister to the U.S. Despite his best efforts, he is powerless to prevent the Communist ouster of the democratically elected Hungarian government. Through her parents’ correspondence and other sources, Szegedy-Maszák reveals a father who is by turns “luminous” and broken, a mother who is “hilariously funny and brilliant,” and a nation struggling to find its footing after decades of war and repression. Photos. Agent: Flip Brophy, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
I Kiss Your Hand Many Times is the sweeping story of Marianne Szegedy-Maszák’s family in pre– and post–World War II Europe, capturing the many ways the struggles of that period shaped her family for years to come. But most of all it is a beautiful love story, charting her parents’ devotion in one of history’s darkest hours.”—Arianna Huffington, president and editor-in-chief, the Huffington Post Media Group
 
“In this panoramic and gripping narrative of a vanished world of great wealth and power, Marianne Szegedy-Maszák restores an important missing chapter of European, Hungarian, and Holocaust history.”—Kati Marton, author of Paris: A Love Story andEnemies of the People: My Family’s Journey to America

“How many times can a heart be broken? Hungarians know, Marianne Szegedy-Maszák’s family more than most. History has broken theirs again and again. This is the story of that violence, told by the daughter of an extraordinary man and extraordinary woman who refused to surrender to it. Every perfectly chosen word is as it happened. So brace yourself. Truth can break hearts, too.”—Robert Sam Anson, author of War News: A Young Reporter in Indochina

“This family memoir is everything you could wish for in the genre: the story of a fascinating family that illuminates the historical time it lived through. . . . Informative and fascinating in every way, [I Kiss Your Hands Many Times] is a great introduction to World War II Hungary and a moving tale of personal relationships in a time of great duress.”Booklist (starred review)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385524858
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/27/2013
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 149,491
  • Product dimensions: 6.66 (w) x 9.42 (h) x 1.09 (d)

Meet the Author

Marianne Szegedy-Maszák is a journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, The New Republic, Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and Psychology Today, among others. She has worked as a reporter at the New York Post, an editor at Congressional Quarterly, a professor of journalism at American University, and as a senior writer at U.S. News & World Report. She has won the awards for her journalism from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, the National Mental Health Association, and the American Psychoanalytic Association. The recipient of a Pulitzer Traveling fellowship and the Alicia Patterson Foundation fellowship, Szegedy-Maszák has been an officer on the boards of the Center for Public Integrity and the Fund for Independence in Journalism. This is her first book.
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

You See, I Used to Live Here

In 1978 I visited Budapest for the first time. I lived in Dijon from January until June of the year between college and graduate school, and my parents met me in Zurich, where some of my mother's many relatives lived. Together the three of us toured France and Italy before arriving at our ultimate destination, Budapest.

A complete role reversal occurred when we were in Europe together. For the first time in my life, I did not mediate conversations between one of my parents and a shop clerk or a waiter or a bus driver or a flight attendant or a person on the street. Instead I was mute and inarticulate, as my parents, my incompetent immigrant parents, speaking French or German or, eventually, Hungarian, handled the quotidian minutiae that used to be my secure domain. I felt bad enough when infantilized in private conversation, but this all felt horribly, extravagantly public.

Somehow I remember our time in Hungary all as being rainy and gray, though my journal describes beautiful spring days. The city in 1978 still looked traumatized from its World War II siege and the Hungarian revolution of 1956. Bullet holes marked buildings, and dirt spewing from both factories and small Soviet cars left a haze in the air and soot on the walls and a vague headache for the first few days. And yet the grandeur of the Danube, the intricate pillars and crevices of the Parliament building rising on its left bank, the craggy hills of Buda, the flat, urban density of Pest, the sweeping bridges, and the reconstructed castle district all seemed familiar.

Images from My First Book of Hungary by István Csicsery-Rónay, a frequent Patterson Street guest, were now life-size and three dimensional. The book was published in 1967, and its introduction was the perfect example of the Hungarian self-involvement that I never witnessed at Patterson Street but that I grew to appreciate among some émigrés:

Hungary, or Magyarorszag (maw-dyawr-or-sahg), as the Hungarians call their country, may well be called the land of the middle. It lies in Central Europe; it is halfway between two corners of Europe (the Strait of Gibraltar and the Ural Mountains); and it is halfway between the North Pole and the Equator.

Dispensing with latitudes and longitudes, Hungary is simply the center of the universe.

My father brightened as we approached the city of his birth, the only place on the planet where he ever felt at home, despite all its radical changes. Sitting in the front seat of the cab we took from the airport, he engaged the driver in a wide-ranging conversation about national politics and local concerns. Even though he was already seventy-five, he was vigorous and energetic. He was voraciously curious and well informed, so he knew what to ask. When I casually remarked on the presence of soldiers at the airport, he, ever vigilant, shot me a warning look that said such observations should be kept quiet.

While my parents were both from Budapest, more than the thirteen years that separated their ages divided their experiences. My mother's world of the rich but new Jewish aristocracy had once, when he was a very young man, been vividly a part of my father's middle-class resentments, class tensions, and misunderstandings. In his 1929 diary he wrote defiantly, "I always had an insensible prejudice toward the rich and powerful--maybe because I am neither of those and would like to be both. . . . I always had a sense for the social distances, especially upward, and I am proud of having that sense." It became clear to me that while my parents' two families obviously did not represent...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2014

    I have read many books both biographical and historical fiction

    I have read many books both biographical and historical fiction about WW2.  In fact, I have read so many that the stories tend to sound the same.  I am not in any way attempting to demean the stories of those who survived and those who did not survive.  I have read few stories about  the invasion of Hungary.  

    This story  not only discussed the plight of survivors - although ultimately a far different plight from their fellow Jewish inhabitants of  Budapest,  the love story of the author's non Jewish father and her mother who was a member of possibly the wealthiest Jewish family in Budapest.  

    In some ways the book is written as a history book - lots of facts, quotes from newspapers, etc. and includes her father's memoirs of his service as an ambassador as well as love letters and family letters.   Basically with so much diverse information plus the author's opinions and interpretations for me the book did not flow well.   

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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