Archive for the ‘Communists’ Category

My talk at the German Historical Institute about 100 years of German history

November 8, 2013

Final

I shall be giving a talk about 100 years of German history at 5.30 pm, on Tuesday 12 November, at the German Historical Institute, 17 Bloomsbury Square, London WC1.

Open to the public. Free entry. All welcome.

See http://www.ghil.ac.uk/

Advertisements

First media interview for my new book “The Budapest House: a Life Re-Discovered”

September 26, 2013

25.9.2013 Jewish Telegraph

 

 

 

 

 

 

See …

http://amzn.to/15hyS3x

My new book – The Budapest House: a Life Re-Discovered

September 8, 2013

The Budapest House cover

 

My third book – The Budapest House: a Life Re-Discovered – has been published!

A Hungarian traumatised by the loss of half her family in Auschwitz returns to Budapest to retrace her roots. She discovers a dramatic personal history that enables her eventually to shed the burden of her past and move forward to a new life.

The Budapest House is Europe’s house…. a poignant but unsentimental journey … Marcus Ferrar masterfully recounts moving personal stories against their wider historical backdrop and vividly evokes Budapest’s haunted past.

Adam LeBor, correspondent of The Economist and author of The Budapest Protocol

Available online on

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Budapest-House-ebook/dp/B00ERDLXLQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1377803580&sr=1-1&keywords=the+budapest+house

and

http://www.amazon.com/The-Budapest-House-ebook/dp/B00ERDLXLQ/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1377803944&sr=1-1&keywords=the+budapest+house

Paperback version comes out in early October.

My other books are:
A Foot in Both Camps: a German Past For Better and For Worse (2012)

Slovenia 1945: Memories of Death and Survival After World War II (2005 – co-author John Corsellis)

“Writing about people with difficult histories” – my author talk in London

June 22, 2013

DSC06572

 

On 21st June 2013, I gave a talk in London on three books I have written about people with difficult histories. They are :

Slovenia 1945: Death And Survival After World War II
A Foot In Both Camps : A German Past For Better And For Worse
The Budapest House: Traumas Of Eastern Europe (to be published in September)

In all three countries, a catastrophic historical event continues to cause harmful divisions in societies today.

In Slovenia, it was the murder of 13,000 surrendered and disarmed Home Guard soldiers – 2% of the Slovene population – by Communist Partisans after World War II had ended.

For Germans, it was the fatal mistake of bringing Hitler to power, participating in genocide of the Jews and ravaging Europe with a World War.

For Hungarians, it was colluding in the dispatch of 500,000 of their Jewish compatriots to Auschwitz.

In all three countries, events confronted people were with finely-balanced moral dilemmas. Their choices had enormous consequences. Germany has accepted guilt and recovered, but in Eastern Europe, the resulting internal conflicts continue to hinder the harmonious development of societies.

Government decides on media controls in the UK – but they won’t work

March 23, 2013

In blogs I posted on 23.11.2011and 4.12.1012, I forecast that nothing much would change in the UK media as a result of the Leveson inquiry into journalistic malpractices, triggered by a scandal over popular newspapers hacking mobile telephones.

Leveson has since reported, and the government, backed by the two other major political parties, has decided to set up a supervisory body acting according to criteria set by the politicians. However in practice, much will still continue as before.

The Economist, The Spectator and Private Eye have declared they will not submit themselves to the new body, even though refusal is supposed to expose them to extra-harsh legal penalties if they step out of line. The newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch, as well as the Telegraph and the Daily Mail, have reserved their positions but all likewise indicated opposition.

The new arrangement will be enacted not by legislation, but by Royal Charter. Not having lived in the UK for some time, I’m not sure what a Royal Charter is. However it’s seems obvious that it is weaker than a law, even if the parties insist it will have “statutory underpinning,” another phrase I don’t really understand.

If The Economist will remain outside, that means nothing essential changes for me, since I only actually read The Economist. It earns most of its income outside the UK, so should have no trouble staying out of range of UK controls.

I once lived as a foreign correspondent in Eastern Europe, where the Communist hold over the local media was absolute. People nevertheless found out what was going on through listening to foreign radios. In the UK today, consumers looking for unregulated news can find it on a host of foreign web sites. No need even for a radio set.

In Portugal, during the 1970s revolution, the radical left nationalised nearly all the media, with the result that they all reported the same versions of partial truth. However one newspaper, Espresso, remained independent. So anything that was not favourable to the regime got published there, and we all knew about it. Espresso became the newspaper to read. Controls which are not absolute have no effect.

So does that mean no joy for the victims of mobile phone hackers? Under existing legislation, hacking phones is illegal anyway, so the police could and should do a better job of enforcement.

Some of the media will doubtless remain rascally, but we have got on with that ever since newspapers first appeared. Even if much journalism is rotten, the world can still roll along.

Coming soon … The Budapest House: Leaving Home, Leaving Your Past

March 1, 2013

DSC01949

Authors from different countries and writing backgrounds are taking part in an internet project called The Next Big Thing. We’re answering the same 10 questions about a work in progress.

My friend from the Geneva Writers Group, Katie Hayoz, asked me to take part. See her blog http://www.katiehayoz.blogspot.ch featuring Untethered, her YA novel about astral projection.

Here’s what I’m up to:

1) The title?
The Budapest House: Leaving Home, Leaving Your Past

2) Where did the idea come from?
I met the main character of this book through her husband, and her story fascinated and moved me.

3) Genre?
Historical memoir

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a film?
Meryl Streep

5) In one sentence: what is the book about?
A Hungarian Jew traumatised by Auschwitz struggles to find her identity on returning to Budapest, where she finds the property she inherited is inhabited by a sinister individual.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
My agent is Lorella Belli.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft?
Nine months – but I am not on the first draft!

8) What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
The Hare With Amber Eyes (Edmund de Waal)
Burying the Typewriter (Carmen Bugan)

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I share the main character’s concern over confused identity – it nags at me.

10) What else might pique a reader’s interest?
It’s a poignant story of a person who works through a difficult past and finally leaves her “bad home” to realise herself.

For other authors preparing their Next Big Thing see:

http://www.susantiberghien.com/ – Celebrating Love: Memories from a Long Marriage

http://www.danielanorris.com – On Dragonfly Wings: a Journey to Mediumship

SPECIAL OFFER – A Foot In Both Camps – ebook at only 99p, $1.99, €1.99

December 15, 2012

A Foot In Both Camps

A Foot In Both Camps: A German Past For Better And For Worse, by Marcus Ferrar, is available as an ebook for only               99p, $1.99 and €1.99 in a year-end special offer. Valid until 15 January 2013.

Since launch this summer, the book has enjoyed excellent reviews and feedback. This is what readers have said:

not just good but brilliant
… made tears sting the backs of my eyes – a wonderful and moving book
… eloquent, thought-provoking and remarkably reflective
… a passionate, fluent and deeply insightful book
… quite exceptionally good – and very moving
… an absorbing and uplifting story told in fine style
… one of the best books about Germany
… the perfect introduction for anyone visiting the country for the first time
… unputdownable
… very satisfying both intellectually and emotionally
… this book is unique … easy-to-read

Also available in paperback. Publisher LBLA digital. ISBN: 978-10908879-08-0

German domination of Europe? No chance. They’ll pay up.

July 21, 2012

As a swathe of Eurozone countries teeter on the verge of financial collapse, Germany with its healthily growing economy gains power and influence in Europe. Its unrivalled strength is already well established.

Little more than half a century ago, Germany also dominated Europe. Germans occupied much of the continent, killed and pillaged with abandon, conducted racial genocide and enforced their will over enslaved peoples with arrogant cruelty.

Are we on the verge of something similar? No we are not, and the reason is that war guilt continues to deter Germans from exploiting their growing power. In the 1930s, they rallied to a hysterical firebrand addicted to violence and killing on a massive scale. Today they elect an Angela Merkel who is dumpy, down-to-earth and understated. She could hardly be more different.

Germans have totally admitted their war guilt. No ifs and buts – they comprehensively assume responsibility. Through their financial generosity to the Soviet Union, Poland and other countries who suffered worst from their wartime savagery, they recognised their obligation to atone.

After World War II, Germans were largely excluded from political or military leadership in Europe. All that was tolerated was that they work hard to rebuild their economy. Which they did with great success, creating a well-functioning free market, a reputation for quality and a social contract for industrial peace.

In the 1970s and 1980s, West Germany was assisting people oppressed by post-war Communism. Now they are helping bail out nations which of their own free will have spent beyond their means. Will Germany continue its generosity to people who have brought their ills upon their own heads?

Most probably yes. Germans still shy away from military involvements and show no inclination to exercise political leadership in Europe. For them, insertion into a European Union with no real leaders suits their low-key ambitions. They are ready to pay the price for its imperfections and concentrate on thriftily building their wealth.

Germans will do as much as they can to influence others towards greater fiscal propriety until disaster looms. Then they will pay up.

The rest of us can be happy that Germans still feel their guilty obligations. It is right that they do, and helpful to us all.

For more about Germany and Britain since 1912, see A FOOT IN BOTH CAMPS: A GERMAN PAST FOR BETTER AND FOR WORSE by Marcus Ferrar, published July 2012 https://www.facebook.com/marcus.ferrar#!/afootInbothcamps

Carmen Bugan’s book on Romania – both heart-warming and spine-chilling

July 20, 2012

Carmen Bugan had an idyllic childhood in the Romanian countryside, relishing home-grown food, unspoilt nature, a benevolent climate and quaint old country customs. Her new book Burying the Typewriter in this respect reads like memoirs from elsewhere in Europe in the early 20th century.

Except that Carmen is in her early forties, and it comes as a shock to realise that this is Romania in the 1970s and 1980s – a land held back in cruel backwardness by the misguided tyranny of Nicolae Ceausescu. If electricity is scarce, that’s not because it has only just been invented. It’s because the regime cares nothing for the wellbeing of its people.

Shock number two comes as a teenager when Securitate police burst in on her when she’s alone at home, interrogate her for weeks, wire the house up with listening devices, come in and out at all times of the day and night, stop her going to school, and make her life a torment for year after year.

Unbeknown to the family, her father had paraded ostentatiously through the centre of Bucharest with protest banners against the communist regime. He was in prison, and the family from then on were pariahs. Only when the mother agreed to divorce her husband did the school allow Carmen to return to classes.

One or two people discreetly showed the family solidarity. But the majority of those around her had no scruples in ostracising them. So shock number three is that these collaborators in her persecution now carry passports of the European Union, despite having shamefully betraying the principles it stands for.

Carmen finally dared to contact the U.S. Embassy to ask for asylum for the family. As she crossed the square to the Embassy, Romanian guards converged to try to stop her while a female diplomat she’d alerted headed out of the gates to meet her. The diplomat reached her first. When she left to return home, the guards seized her and berated her as a treacherous whore. But the diplomat had told her she should say she was under the protection of the United States. It worked and they let her go.

Then followed emigration to the U.S. and scholarships to study at Oxford University. Surprise number four is how exquisitely Carmen writes. From her earliest youth, she immersed herself in the great authors of European literature. When the stress of persecution became intolerable, she wrote quatrains to relieve her despair.

Now, at little more than 40, she lives in Geneva with an Italian physicist husband and two small children. She has come far in a short time.

Burying the Typewriter is a masterpiece of refined expression and a moving story of the victory of light over darkness. Read it.

Why there will be no “Arab Spring” in China

March 8, 2012

Rob Gifford, head of The Economist’s new China section, talked to Fellows of the Reuters Institute of Journalism in Oxford. Highlights:

– In Arab countries people were hopeless. In China, there is hope. People are getting wealthier, and many believe they are lucky to be able to “join the gold rush.” There will be no “Arab Spring” in China.

– Over 300 million Chinese are middle class. But there is a big gap in living standards between the cities and the countryside and this is causing tensions.

– The regime’s unspoken deal is: stay out of politics and you can do what you like. The Chinese people have bought the deal.

– China has 175 million manufacturing jobs. But it can no longer live on being a cheap manufacturer. Skilled labour is so expensive and scarce in the coastal cities that firms are building new factories deep in the interior.

– The current combination of a one-party state and market economy cannot last. State capitalism has done well so far, but is transitional, not sustainable.

– The regime is frozen and unable to plan a road map forward. Communist Party politicians are scared of the chaos which broke up the Soviet Union under Gorbachev.

– China won’t be able to keep up its non-interventionist foreign policy of the the last 20 years, since it has so many Chinese working abroad. China is already helping nations combat piracy.

– Chinese journalists cannot write about Taiwan or Tibet – the subjects are off limits.Chinese know nothing about the crimes of Mao Tse-Tung. The subject is too painful.

– Over the next decade, China is likely to be transformed by the development of a civil society.

– If you are confused about China, you should be!

 


%d bloggers like this: