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Michael Korda is the author of Ulysses S. Grant, Ike, Hero, and Charmed Lives. Educated at Le Rosey in Switzerland and at Magdalen College, Oxford, he served in the Royal Air Force. He took part in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and on its fiftieth anniversary was awarded the Order of Merit of the People's Republic of Hungary. He and his wife, Margaret, make their home in Dutchess County, New York.
In October 1956 the Hungarian people spontaneously rose up against an oppressive Soviet-imposed Communist regime and basked briefly in the light of freedom. In this history lesson-cum- memoir, Korda (Another Life) stitches an appealing retelling of his journey of discovery into the larger context of the desperate, short-lived Hungarian revolt. Part hard-nosed history lesson, part affectionate celebration of Hungary and Hungarian culture, and part sepia-tinged memoir, the book attempts to pull back the veil on the post-WWII machinations of the victorious Allies and expose how such diplomatic wheeling and dealing can devastate an entire nation. The first two-thirds are strong, with both a comprehensive overview of the postwar geopolitical scene and a finely tuned take on the specifics of the Hungarian situation. Korda's account of his own journey there during the revolution at age 24 is strangely flat. Along the way from the pastoral comfort of his native England to the rubble and corpse-strewn streets of Budapest, he has some near misses with life-threatening danger. At the border between Austria and Hungary, Korda and his mates encounter a machine gun-toting guard who offers them barack, homemade peach brandy, and a warning about the invading Russians: "there are some very bad guys in Gy?r." While the tale at times has difficulty rising from the page, Korda's story is a worthy read. (Oct.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Korda's lively personal account is complemented by Gati's more academic title. Born and raised in Hungary, Gati (European studies, Johns Hopkins Univ.; The Bloc That Failed) was a young journalist in Budapest at the time. Using hundreds of documents in the archives in Budapest, Moscow, and Washington, he has written a thorough and scholarly analysis of the revolution. An expert in Soviet and Eastern European politics, Gati seeks answers to such questions as why the Soviets changed course and decided to intervene in Hungary after initially pulling out, what effect the attitude of the United States had on the outcome of the revolution, and what role other world events played in forcing Hungary to be a lower priority to the West. Both authors have written honest, unromanticized accounts of those tragic days. They both agree that it was a sort of "David and Goliath" struggle and that although the revolution failed, it ultimately contributed to the fall of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989. Gati's book is clearly the more scholarly, but both works are accessible and engaging. Recommended for public and academic libraries. [Victor Sebestyen's Twelve Days: The Story of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution is forthcoming from Pantheon. Ed.] Maria C. Bagshaw, Lake Erie Coll., Painesville, OH Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.