Budapest Diary: In Search of the Motherbook

Rubin Suleiman, Author, Susan Rubin Suleiman, Author University of Nebraska Press $25 (232p) ISBN 978-0-8032-4256-2
Suleiman (Risking Who One Is) and her parents left Budapest in 1949 as she was about to turn 10, and she put her birthplace out of her mind for years. Only later, when her own sons were hovering around that same age, did she return, first for a short visit with her children in 1984, and then for six months in 1993 as a fellow at the newly founded Collegium Budapest Institute for Advanced Study. This fascinating, revealing journal covers both periods, as well as a 10-day return in 1994. Suleiman succeeds with this ambitious examination of nationality and religion (her father was a rabbi) and the aftereffects of the ""the Change,"" which is how her Hungarian acquaintances refer to the political events of 1989, because she rarely edits herself. Whether dealing with emerging memories of her last years in Budapest, her thoughts on the political views of her colleagues (""He likes women, but not feminism,"" she observes of one), or her parents' unhappy relationship, she is brutally honest. The genealogical research is equally absorbing (she makes a short trip to her father's birthplace only to find that all official records of Jew have been destroyed), and her accounts of everyday conversations are illuminating (she records one dark joke she heard at dinner about a Jew who becomes rich by blackmailing the Christian family that hid him during the war). As with all journals, there are sometimes non sequiturs in these pages, and questions are often left open, but overall Suleiman's recollections offer real insight. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
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