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Under a Cruel Star


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An exceptionally intimate and poignant memoir by a Czechoslovakian exile. Kovaly, a Jew, was forcibly deported to a Nazi labor camp in the early days of German occupation. A spirited woman, she not only survived the camp but returned to Prague to wed her childhood sweetheart, Rudolf Margolius. Though their fortunes rose in the postwar era, Rudolf eventually lost his life in the Stalinist purges of the early Fifties, leaving Heda to face life as a nonperson. Kovaly's recollections of her life during the purges form the core of the book and convey with brutal clarity the magnitude of suffering inflicted on thousands of Czechs. Her brief impressions of the famous ``Prague Spring'' of 1968 are also illuminating. Recommended for libraries with large Eastern European collections. Joseph W. Constance, Jr., Georgia State Univ. Lib., Atlanta

A Jew in Czechoslovakia under the Nazis, Kovaly spent the war years in the Lodz ghetto and several concentration camps, losing her family and barely surviving herself. Returning to Prague at the end of the war, she married an old friend, a bright, enthusiastic young Jewish economist named Rudolf Margolius, who saw the country's only hope for the future in the Communist Party. Thereafter, Rudolf became deputy minister for foreign trade. For a time, the Margoliuses lived like royalty, albeit reluctantly, but then, in a replay of the Stalinist purges of the 1930s, Rudolf and others, mostly of Jewish background, were arrested and hung in the infamous Slansky Trial of 1952. Kovaly's memoir of these years that end with her emigration to the West after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 are a tragic story told with aplomb, humor and tenderness. The reader alternately laughs and cries as Kovaly describes her mother being sent to death by Dr. Mengele, Czech Communist Party leader Klement Gottwald drunk at a reception, the last sight of her husband, the feverish happiness of the Prague Spring. Highly recommended. (November)

A tragic story told with aplomb, humor and tenderness.|A story of the human spirit at its most indomitable ... one of the outstanding autobiographies of the century.San Francisco Chronicle-Examiner|Once in a rare while we read a book that puts the urgencies of our times and ourselves in perspective.... That has just happened to me. In telling her story-simply, without self-pity-[Mrs. Kovaly] illuminates some general truths of human behavior. Anthony Lewis, New York Times|Kovaly's attention to the world's beauty, even while in hell, is so brazen as to take my breath away.[E.J. Graff, Columbia Journalism Review|This is a book that should never have had to be written; but since it had, we are lucky that it was done so well.

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