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I Kiss Your Hands Many Times: Hearts, Souls, and Wars in Hungary Hardcover – Deckle Edge, August 27, 2013

4.5 out of 5 stars 98 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* 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. The author’s father, Aladár, was a diplomat for the Hungarian government, and her mother, Hanna, was part of a wealthy Jewish family. After seeing the madness of Hitler in Berlin, Aladár returns to Budapest to oppose Nazism and is introduced to the lovely Hanna. When the Germans finally invade their cowed ally in 1944, both to seize their industrial resources and correct their insufficiently enthusiastic persecution of Jews, Hanna’s family goes into hiding and eventually escapes to Portugal, while Aladár is arrested and almost dies in Dachau. The author’s close relation to her subjects results in an occasionally hagiographic tone but also affords unique insights into their experiences. We see the society lady who spits out a bitter “Now it’s our turn” to Hanna’s mother after the German invasion, as well as the Nazi officer who, during an interrogation, screams questions at the captured Aladár—and then leans in and whispers acceptable replies in his ear. Informative and fascinating in every way, this memoir is a great introduction to WWII Hungary and a moving tale of personal relationships in a time of great duress. --Lynn Weber

Review

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 and Enemies 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

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; First Edition edition (August 27, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385524854
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385524858
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (98 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #171,069 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
It's billed as a memoir, it's not. Rather, Marianne Szegedy-Masak's debut explodes as its own genre: "microhistory." Part war thriller, part social, economic and political history and all love story, "I Kiss Your Hands Many Times" delivers the rarest of tales: an account of two people through an unlikely courtship and marriage during one of the world's most wrenching periods.

The book follows the author's parents, Aladar and Hanna Szegedy-Masak, he of movie-star good looks and intellectual heft and she from a family of aristocratic and fantastically wealthy industrialists. That's plenty enough for a good story, but the events unfold in Hungary, a place to most of us that's entirely exotic, against the sweep of World War II.

Ms. Szegedy-Maszak was born in 1955, when her father was already 51 years old. She makes that point early on. What follows is an elegantly detailed, manifestly researched and finely written discovery of her own parents; she could hardly know them in the 30 years she had with them, never mind that her father's life had left him a distant and tragic figure.

Once a dashing Hungarian diplomat, Aladar had been imprisoned at Dachau, the notorious Nazi camp, where he hungered as much for food and salvation as he did for the woman he loved for so long. Hanna, meanwhile, had fled to Portugal with her family.

Through it all, Ms. Szegedy-Maszak drops mind-blowing revelations. Her father had once met Adolf Hitler. Hanna's industrialist-magnate patriarchs had made a deal with Heinrich Himmler. Winston Churchill had gotten involved in the family's plight. Later, after the war, Aladar spends a few minutes with Harry Truman. An uncle invests in a company that becomes Gulf + Western.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The book had a slow start. I also felt at the beginning that it was being written in too emotionless a manner. There were a lot of people to learn. But oh my gosh! It picked up a full head of steam and took off! And the writing style was perfect!

It's hard to believe that so much information was written into one book. There is lots of historical information on things that happened during the war in Hungary. In reading many holocaust survivor books, I had known that the Hungarian Jews were delivered to the camps really late in the war, but I did not realize why; I had never studied what happened in Hungary during the war. Most of the people in this family were blessed by making it out of the Reich alive.

They were able to make a deal with a Nazi to get their family out, which really shocked me. They could have taken what they wanted and killed them all, but they didn't. The family was criticized after the war for making the deal with them, but since the alternative was to just stay there and see their family decimated, I don't think they had any choice at all.

There are many stories of the families (the book is about the large, extended family) in wartime, and of the author's father, in Dachau. But there are also stories of what happened to them after the war. During the time of the communist takeover of Hungary. The author's father was a diplomat from Hungary to the US after the war, and the book really brings home the struggle that went on at that time. Part of the family was here in the US, and part of the family was still in Hungary.

It has always bothered me that after the War, Stalin just took over and made so many countries communist, because he had been our ally, and he was on the winning side.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
My various ancestors moved to the United States from Hungary around 1900, but I had very little, if any, knowledge of Hungarian history, so this book was quite an eye opener. This book is a very personal look at major events in Hungary, centering on World War II, and how the upheaval dramatically affects the lives of one extended family. It's a fascinating story. A large part of the book is drawn from the letters, journals and (never published) autobiography of the author's father, a Hungarian diplomat. The author obviously adored her father (her mother - not so much).

The author's parents were not just common folk. On her mother's side, the family was fabulously rich and powerful. They owned several industries and many were involved in various cultural arenas as well. They hobnobbed with the rich and famous of Europe. They also were of Jewish descent, a difficult heritage in Europe in the early to mid-1900's. As a result, some members of the family converted to Catholicism, and some of the younger members did not even know as children that their parents or grandparents had been Jewish. Still, to the Nazis, they were all Jews.

On her father's side, the family was middle class and Christian. Her father was a rising star in diplomatic circles, and openly anti-Nazi. He fell in love with the author's mother, who had been brought up Catholic, although he was aware of her Jewish ancestry. He knew firsthand the dangers of Nazism, as he personally dealt with (and feared) many of the leaders, including Hitler himself.

As the war breaks out, and Hungary chooses to align with Germany mainly to prevent being invaded by the despised Russians, the families remain in Hungary.
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