Artist pens angry autobiography
'KNOCK in the Night" burns with so much anger it will singe your hands. Balazs Szabo, an artist formerly based in Hawaii, grew up in Hungary at the height of the Communist oppression -- the dreaded "knock in the night" of the title.
"Knock in the Night"
By Balazs Szabo
(Prodigal Publishing Co.)
274 pages, $19.99
Told a little oddly in the third person, his autobiography vividly describes a heart-rending, exhilarating boyhood in the country, living with kindly grandparents. Later, after moving to Budapest, he suddenly finds himself at age 13 in the midst of the bloody 1956 uprising that rocked the Soviet system to its foundations.
Szabo, with an artist's eye for detail, provides chilling and persuasive imagery. You'll never forget his account of a Russian tank slowly and sadistically crushing a young man to death, an embittered worker putting out his cigarette in the wounds of a screaming secret police agent, the pungent smell and taste of a charred horse found dead in the streets. Images such as these (and there are many more) are pieces of history. Framed in the author's charming, slightly imperfect English, they read like the honed anecdotes of a fascinating dinner guest. This is a story that has been incubating for 50 years.
Unsurprisingly, Szabo is filled with searing hatred for Russia, which he views as a ruthless colonial power interested only in Hungary's uranium mines. His fury extends to President Eisenhower and the Western democracies, whom he accuses of abandoning Hungary.
Yet he continues to love America, political freedom and Sen. Joseph McCarthy, a man he considers a true patriot.
He believes that even today, communism poses a mortal threat and issues his book as a dire warning to us all.
"Knock in the Night" is not merely a political memoir. At its center are the human relationships Szabo values most, especially his love for his father, Sandor, an actor who also escaped Hungary in the revolution's aftermath.
Szabo's desperate yearning for acceptance by Sandor and his second wife, Kati, is among the book's most moving themes.
Like all good adventure stories, this one has a happy ending. In 1993, after 20 years in Maunawili and celebrated as the artist-creator of the Kaimuki Library mural, Szabo moved to Raleigh, N.C., where he now lives with his wife and two sons.
Judging by his book's cover, which he crafted himself, he is a fine graphic designer, too.
Order "Knock in the Night" through www.amazon.com
. Michael Egan
is a published author, scholar in residence at Brigham Young University-Hawaii and adjunct professor of English at TransPacific Hawaii College. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org