Two real-life stories to finish out my list (which could go into the hundreds but I will restrain myself). First, believe the unbelievable in the true story of NPR and ABC correspondent Kati Marton’s family, oppression by the Nazis and Communists and their eventual escape. Second, the story of an ingenious modern-day criminal, who was recently released from prison…
9. Enemies of the People: My Family’s Journey to America, by Kati Marton. This well-known writer is the daughter of Hungarian journalists of Jewish descent, and chose to delve into the former secret police files and conduct dozens of interviews to reveal her family’s painful past in this book. Her family, bourgeois intellectuals, were the classic enemy of the communist regime, hated for everything from their furniture to their thoughts. They were spied on and informed on by neighbors, people they thought were friends, even their children’s nanny. Kati’s father was arrested, but friends secured their escape to Washington, D.C. A true story, personal but part of world history, told by a professional storyteller who’s also an eyewitness…. Available for order online and on e-readers.
10. Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts by Julian Rubenstein. Certainly there are many works of Hungarian fiction that could be included instead of this book and many criticize this book for “glorifying” a common criminal. Truth be told, the story of this brilliant thief is riveting. Attila Ambrus was born in Transylvania (the ethnic Hungarian part of Romania), sought fame and fortune in Hungary as an ice hockey goalie but turned to bank robbery to make ends meet in the Wild West atmosphere of the Budapest of the early 1990s – and the latter is why I include it on this list. He often escaped from the scene of a crime in a taxi, and robbed dozens of banks, credit unions and post offices over seven years. Ambrus, known as the Whiskey Robber, got his name from his habit of downing a shot of whiskey at a pub near his next robbery target. He was released from prison in January of this year at age 44, after serving 12 years of a 17-year sentence. He got his high school diploma in prison, and trained as a ceramicist, but is expected to make a living selling his story… The book is available online and on e-readers.
That’s all for this week. Stay tuned for next week’s top 10… I’ll let it slip that I’ve got Top 10 Non-Hungarian Restaurants, Top 10 Weird Hungarian Foods & Sweets and Top 10 Places to Visit Outside Budapest in my back pocket… vote for one or suggest another!