The story of the 20th century can be told in big, sweeping brush-strokes charting the rise and fall of dictators and political movements, the vast spread of world wars and the chaotic effects of natural disasters. But so often the stories of individuals have so much more to say to us about the day-to-day impact of world movements, the way in which the super-scale phenomena of geopolitics can shape a single life from birth to death and say more about the past than any text-book history.
Yudit Kiss’s book, The Summer My Father Died, tells the story of her father, a Hungarian academic and ardent communist, a Jew, who as a child found himself in a foundling home and somehow missed being transported to an extermination camp unlike most of his relatives. Yudit’s book focuses on the last years of her father’s life, during which he suffered two brain tumours, surviving the first one for seven years until being hit by the second which eventually killed him.
However, the book is more of a memoir than a biography for as she writes at the beginning of her book, “the story of my father’s death is interwoven with another story that is not concerned with the series of real changes in my father or the events surrounding him. This other story is made of memories, thoughts and emotions that followed, blended with and, in some cases anticipated reality”.