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.
This is the 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 part of a unique group who grew up in a time and place that will never come again. Four helped usher in the nuclear age and the computer, two were major movie myth-makers, two were immortal photographers, and one was a seminal writer.
The Great Escape is a groundbreaking, poignant American story and an important untold chapter of the tumultuous last century.
Noted journalist and bestselling author Marton (Hidden Power) offers a haunting tale of the wartime Hungarian diaspora. The nine illustrious Hungarians she profiles were all "double outsiders," for, as well as being natives of a "small, linguistically impenetrable, landlocked country," they were all Jews. Fleeing fascism and anti-Semitism for the New World, each experienced insecurity, isolation and a sense of perpetual exile. Yet all achieved world fame. The scientists Leo Szilard, Edward Teller and Eugene Wigner, along with game theorist and computer pioneer, John von Neuman, spurred Albert Einstein to persuade Franklin Roosevelt to develop the atomic bomb. Robert Capa and Andre Kertesz became legendary photojournalists. Alexander Korda was the savior of the British film industry, and Michael Curtiz directed Casablanca. Arthur Koestler penned the monumental anti-Communist novel Darkness at Noon. Marton intricately charts each man's career in the context of WWII and Cold War history. Herself Hungarian-born, the daughter of journalists who escaped Soviet-occupied Hungary in 1957, 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. 16 pages of photos, map.