Biography, Literature

Review: Biro, One Must Also Be Hungarian

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Earlier today, Gabriel Sanders, associate editor of the Jewish daily Forward, published an interesting review of Adam Biro’s new book One Must Also be Hungarian. Biro’s book is a biographical account of the lives of his Jewish-Hungarian ancestry that traces their struggles back through famine, poverty, and the Holocaust. Sanders writes:

Biro’s attitude toward his ancestral land is complex. He is enchanted by its mysteries, disgusted by its villains and, ultimately, bereft in the face of what he sees as its disappearance. The part of Europe “from where I am so proud of hailing,” he writes, “is no longer the source of dark geniuses like Kafka, of Hungarian suicides and musicians, of Dr. Sigmund and other Austro-Hungarian kindred spirits. &hellip It has now joined the chase for the buck, and this is so sad, so lonely.”
The book, elegiac yet witty, gains in complexity as Biro grapples with the fact that his ancestors were not only Hungarian but also Jewish, or, as the author puts it, “Jewish but Hungarian.” …
Throughout his mournful and evocative book, this émigré son, who left Hungary when he was 15, tries to come to grips with why his unhappy heritage continues to have such a hold on him. Amid his discussion of his father’s father—a great patriot betrayed by the country he loved—Biro offers a possible explanation.
“One day,” he writes, “my father told me, ‘Jews are very intelligent, Hungarians very creative, so, a Hungarian Jew is the apex of the human species.’ I believed him for a long time. And, all shame set aside, I must confess that I might still believe it.”

Read an excerpt.