Synopses & Reviews
In this ground-breaking book, acclaimed author Kati Marton brings to life an unknown chapter of World War II: the tale of nine men who grew up in Budapest's brief Golden Age, then, driven from Hungary by anti-Semitism, fled to the West, especially to the United States, and changed the world. These nine men, each celebrated for individual achievements, were actually part of a unique group who grew up in a time and place that will never come again. It is Marton's extraordinary achievement to trace what for a few dazzling years was common to all of them -- the magic air of Budapest -- and show how their separate lives and careers were, in fact, all shaped by Budapest's lively cafe life before the darkness closed in.
Marton follows the astonishing lives of four history-changing scientists, all just one step ahead of Hitler's terror state, who helped usher in the nuclear age and the computer (Edward Teller, John von Neumann, Leo Szilard, and Eugene Wigner); two major movie myth-makers (Michael Curtiz, who directed Casablanca, and Alexander Korda, who produced The Third Man); two immortal photographers (Robert Capa and Andre Kertesz); and one seminal writer (Arthur Koestler, Darkness at Noon).
Marton follows these brilliant products of Budapest's Golden Age as they flee fascism in the 1920s and 1930s en route to sanctuary -- and immortality. As the scientists labor in the secret city of Los Alamos in the race to build the atom bomb, Koestler, once a communist agent imprisoned by Franco, writes the most important anticommunist novel of the century. Capa, the first photographer to go ashore on D-Day, later romances Ingrid Bergman and is acknowledged as the world's greatest warphotographer before his tragic death in Vietnam. Curtiz not only gives us Casablanca, consistently voted the greatest romantic movie ever made, but also discovers Doris Day and directs James Cagney in the quintessential patriotic film, Yankee Doodle Dandy.
Ultimately, The Great Escape is an American story and an important, previously untold chapter of the tumultuous last century. Yet it is also a poignant story -- in the words of the great historian Fritz Stern, an evocation of genius in exile . . . an instructive, moving delight. An epilogue relates the journey into exile of three members of the next generation of Budapest exiles: financier-philanthropist George Soros, Intel founder Andy Grove, and 2002 Nobel laureate in literature Imre Kertesz.
"Just when you thought you'd heard all the stories about World War II, along comes andlt;iandgt;The Great Escapeandlt;/iandgt;, a great read and a long overdue account of the remarkable lives of a small band of greatly gifted Hungarians who made profoundly important contributions to the American effort. Kati Marton tells this astonishing story with grace and passion, a sharp eye for the telling detail and the broad sweep of history." -- Tom Brokaw, author of andlt;iandgt;The Greatest Generationandlt;/iandgt;
"Describes the crossroads where art and politics meet, the perils of dictatorship and the horrors of war, all of it punctuated by the frantic struggle to create the atomic bomb.... Deserves a special place on bookshelves alongside Budapest 1900." -- Robert Leiter, andlt;iandgt;The New York Times Book Reviewandlt;/iandgt;
"Filled with a number of wonderful anecdotes.... Marton's book makes you want to reread andlt;iandgt;Darkness at Noonandlt;/iandgt; and get to Blockbuster to rent andlt;iandgt;Casablancaandlt;/iandgt;." -- Jennifer Hunter, andlt;iandgt;Chicago Sun-Timesandlt;/iandgt;
"Noted journalist and bestselling author Marton offers a haunting tale of the wartime Hungarian diaspora.... Marton intricately charts each man's career in the context of WWII and Cold War history.... Marton captures her fellow Hungarians' nostalgia for prewar Budapest, evoking its flamboyant cafes, its trams, boulevards and cosmopolitan Jewish community. Marton writes beautifully, balancing sharply defined character studies of each man with insights into their shared cultural traits and uprootedness." -- andlt;iandgt;Publishers Weeklyandlt;/iandgt; (starred review)
"Fascinating!...The story of nine men who grew up in Budapest and were driven from Hungary by fascism, just one step ahead of Hitler's era of terror. They came to the West, especially the United States, and their tremendous achievements changed life for us all." -- Betty E. Stein, andlt;iandgt;Fort Wayne News Sentinelandlt;/iandgt; (Indiana)
"Kati Marton's wonderful book celebrates what is glorious and eternal in the human condition." -- Elie Wiesel, Nobel Laureate and Professor of Humanities, Boston University
"Kati Marton captures beautifully the genius and flair, as well as the insecurity and essential loneliness, of nine brilliant Jewish refugees from Hungary. Not only is this great biography, it gives a touching insight into human nature and the wellsprings of creative ambition." -- Walter Isaacson, author of Benjamin Franklin
"Hungarians, those men from Mars, escaped west in the years before World War II and gave us great scientists, filmmakers, photographers, and engineers. Kati Marton's lively, engaging group portrait recovers for us the lives and work of the extraordinary men who invented Hollywood and the atomic bomb." -- Richard Rhodes, author of The Making of the Atomic Bomb
"In this insightful, moving, and deftly researched book, Kati Marton writes about nine Hungarians whose experiences are a prism through which we can see the quest and ultimate triumph of humanity seeking the right to dream and the freedom to create." -- Vartan Gregorian, President, Carnegie Corporation of New York
"No exaggeration at all is needed to stress the importance of these individuals, who really did 'change the world,' as the book's subtitle has it.... No false melodrama is needed for Marton to make this an intensely gripping story.... For a European, this story -- with its reminder of horrors still within living memory -- is painful and absorbing to read." -- Geoffrey Wheatcroft, andlt;iandgt;The Washington Post Book Worldandlt;/iandgt;
"Marton, who fled Hungary as a child in 1957, illuminates Budapest's vertiginous Golden Age and the darkness that followed.... By looking at these nine lives -- salvaged, and crucial -- Marton provides a moving measure of how much was lost." -- andlt;iandgt;The New Yorkerandlt;/iandgt;
"andlt;iandgt;The Great Escapeandlt;/iandgt; is a good fit for Kati Marton's multifarious talents, requiring deep knowledge of the history and culture of Budapest, the analytical abilities of a seasoned reporter and a keen understanding of what it means to leave one's country behind.... While the work of uncovering this neglected piece of history required the skills of a worldly journalist, the telling came from the heart.... This is a book that should be read with special care." -- Kimberly Marlowe Hartnett, andlt;iandgt;The Seattle Timesandlt;/iandgt;
"An engrossing book.... Marton does such a good job of introducing her subjects, showing how they persevered through prejudice and personal problems to shape their times, that she leaves the reader wanting to learn more. Highly recommended." -- andlt;iandgt;Library Journalandlt;/iandgt;
"A moving account of nine emigrants from Hungary who changed our world and their professions -- a remarkable testament to the intrepid human spirit." -- Henry Kissinger
Extravagantly praised by critics and readers, this stunning story by bestselling author Kati Marton tells of the breathtaking journey of nine extraordinary men from Budapest to the New World, what they experienced along their dangerous route, and how they changed America and the world. andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt; They are the scientists Leo Szilard, Edward Teller, Eugene Wigner, and John von Neuman; Arthur Koestler, author of andlt;iandgt;Darkness at Noonandlt;/iandgt;; Robert Capa, the first photographer ashore on D-Day; Andre Kertesz, pioneer of modern photojournalism; and iconic filmmakers Alexander Korda and Michael Curtiz.
Extravagantly praised by critics and readers, this stunning story by bestselling author Kati Marton tells of the breathtaking journey of nine extraordinary men from Budapest to the New World, what they experienced along their dangerous route, and how they changed America and the world.
They are the scientists Leo Szilard, Edward Teller, Eugene Wigner, and John von Neuman; Arthur Koestler, author of Darkness at Noon; Robert Capa, the first photographer ashore on D-Day; Andre Kertesz, pioneer of modern photojournalism; and iconic filmmakers Alexander Korda and Michael Curtiz.
About the Author
Kati Marton is the author of seven books, most recently, Enemies of the People: My Family’s Journey to America, a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist and the subject of an upcoming motion picture. Her other books include The Great Escape: Nine Jews Who Fled Hitler and Changed the World and the New York Times bestseller Hidden Power: Presidential Marriages That Shaped Our History, as well as Wallenberg, The Polk Conspiracy, and A Death in Jerusalem. She is an award-winning former NPR and ABC News correspondent. She lives in New York City.
Table of Contents
- Magic in Their Pockets 1
Part One - Plenty 13
Part Two - Harvest at Twilight 47
Part Three - Darkness 127
Part Four - False Dawn 171
Selected Bibliography 245