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June 13, 2011

KNOCK IN THE NIGHT - Balazs Szabo

admiralperryinhawaii_s.jpgWhen reading Knock In The Night(www.lulu.com), one is prone to forget the celebrated artist that Balazs Szabo is and discover that he is every bit the talented writer as he is painter. But Szabo's book is not a work of fiction, but a raw, revealing, riveting childhood memoir of a life lived under Soviet domination and occupation in 1950's Hungary. And while some might like to dismiss the book as some old Cold War relic, Szabo's memoir is as relevant today as ever. Sure, the old Soviet empire doesn't exist anymore but ruthless dictators, tyrants, Islamic fundamentalists, and yes still some hardline communist regimes (North Korea, Burma) flourish while tightly controlling all aspects of their subject's lives. Extremely well written, the book contains historical narrative interwoven with Szabo's remarkable story. The book begins with a frenzied, harrowing escape into neighboring Austria on the heels of the Hungarian uprising in 1956. The book ends the same way. In between are chapters detailing family life, the failures of the "perfect" society, coming of age foibles, and of course the yearning to be free. Balazs (pronounced Balage) is the son of prominent Hungarian stage and screen star Sandor Szabo. He along with his equally talented actress wife Kati as well as Balazs's maternal grandparents figure prominently in his memoir. And while the day to day existence was dreary and at times unbearable, Szabo adds some levity with that great Hungarian sense of humor he possesses. One story in the book involves a pet pig, his grandfather, and the farmer's daughter. Other hilarious hijinks ensue but one could never get too comfortable in a closed society that was 1950's Hungary. One feared the knock in the night when the Hungarian secret police hauled you in for torture or worse - forced labor in a Soviet gulag over real or perceived threats to the state. Of course the Hungarian rebellion was dealt with swiftly and severely but you do get the feeling from reading the book that the fates of the Hungarian people would have turned out much differently if the U.S. would have dared intervened in that conflict. Others insist that would have caused a much wider conflict. I'll leave it to historians to judge that. But that is another reason the book is so relevent. We are asking the same kinds of questions today with the involvement or lack thereof in Libya, Syria, and any number of Middle Eastern countries. Remember the Arab spring which has turned into the Arab summer? Szabo and his family's remarkable journey would eventually take them to America where he has enjoyed a long career as an artist (www.balazsart.com). It would only seem fitting for a young artist steeped in communist ideology would someday find his freedom in America and paint the portrait of Capitalism's ultimate successes - Ray Croc, he of McDonald's fame. Some have compared the memoir to that of The Diary Of Anne Frank for its candid portrayal of life lived under a terrorist regime. It gained the attention and endorsement of former titan of the auto industry Lee Iacocca. It's a must read for anyone who values free expression, and the democratic ideals of a free society.

About June 2011

This page contains all entries posted to DR. BYNUM'S SHOW in June 2011. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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