Can you forget the place you once called home? What does it take to make you recapture it? In this moving memoir, Susan Rubin Suleiman describes her returns to the city of her birth—where she speaks the language like a native but with an accent. Suleiman left Budapest in 1949 as a young child with her parents, fleeing communism; thirty-five years later, she returned with her two sons from a brief vacation and began to remember her childhood. Her earliest memories, of Nazi persecution in the final year of World War II, came back to her in fragments, as did memories of her first school years after the war of the stormy marriage between her father, a brilliant Talmudic scholar, and her mother, a cosmopolitan woman from a more secular Jewish family.
In 1993, after the fall of communism and the death of her mother, Suleiman returned to Budapest for six-month stay. She recounts her ongoing quest for personal history, interweaving it with the stories of present-day Hungarians struggling to make sense of the changes in their individual and collective lives. Suleiman's search for documents relating to her childhood, the lives of her parents and their families, and the Jewish communities of Hungary and Poland takes her on a series of fascinating journeys within and outside Budapest.
Emerging from this eloquent, often suspenseful diary is the portrait of an intellectual who recaptures her past and comes into contact with the vital, troubling world of contemporary Eastern Europe. Suleiman's vivid descriptions of her encounters with a proud, old city and its people in a time of historical change remind us that every life story is at once unique and part of a larger history.