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This review is taken from PN Review 214, Volume 40 Number 2, November - December 2013.

Chances of Survival andrew karpati kennedy, Chance Survivor (Old Guard Press) £12.95

Andrew Karpati's book starts like a dreamy, sensuous poem. Strong visual, sensory images reconstruct the slow, orderly world of a provincial Hungarian town in the early 1930s and its abrupt collapse, seen through the eyes of a bright, curious little boy born into an affluent, assimilated Jewish family. The second part of the book is a precise, distant description of the struggles of a lonely, suicidal young man, who tries to find his place in exile in England. What happens in between is a story of several survivals and a partially deliberate identity change, the price paid for those survivals.

The powerful images of the first part concentrate strong emotions. The author evokes being lost in the middle of a meadow, a glass of delightful fresh milk drunk on a train that recalls the tea given to the deportees on another train, the train to Auschwitz; a bliss of freedom he felt when he got off the train on the way back to Hungary and found himself standing alone in a vast field not surrounded by barbed wire. There is an anaesthetised quality to the remembering in the second part. With hindsight, one understands what an enormous work of emotional archaeology must have been involved in digging out that little boy from under the ruins of his destroyed world and reconstructing the smells, feelings, spaces and relationships that belonged to it.

The first circle of hell and survival is 1944, when the little boy's family is deported. By accident their train is sent to Strasshof in Austria, ...


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