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Swimming Across: A Memoir [Hardcover]

Andrew S Grove
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Nov. 12 2001
Set in the cruel years of Hungary's Nazi occupation and subsequent Communist regime, SWIMMING ACROSS is the stunning childhood memoir of one of the leading thinkers of our time, the legendary Intel chairman.

The story of Andris Grof-later to become Andy Grove-begins in the 1930s, on the banks of the Danube. Here, in Budapest, young Andris lives a middle-class existence with his secular Jewish parents. But he and his family will be faced with a host of staggering obstacles. After Andris nearly loses his life to scarlet fever at the age of four, his family is forced to deal with the Nazi occupation of Hungary. Fleeing the Germans, Andris and his mother find refuge with a Christian family in the outskirts of Budapest and then hide in cellars from Russian bombs. After the nightmare of war ends, the family rebuilds its business and its life, only to face a new trial with a succession of repressive Communist governments.

In June 1956, the popular Hungarian uprising is put down at gunpoint. Soviet troops occupy Budapest and randomly round up young people. Two hundred thousand Hungarians follow a tortuous route to escape to the West. Among them is the author...

Combining a child's sense of wonder with an engineer's passion for detail, Grove re-creates a Europe that has since disappeared. From the Nazis' youthful victims innocently exulting in a "put the Jews in the ghetto" game...to a May Day march through Budapest under the blaring strains of prerecorded cheers...to the almost surreal scenes of young escapees securing the help of a hunchbacked peasant and his fantastically beautiful, colorfully costumed wife, he paints a vivid and suspenseful, personal and cultural portrait.

Within these pages, an authentic American hero reveals his origins in a very different place during a very different time. He explores the ways in which persecution and struggle, as well as kinship and courage, shaped his life. It is a story of survival-and triumph.

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Product Description

From Amazon

Andrew Grove has earned fame and fortune as chairman and cofounder of Intel. But, we learn from this remarkable memoir, he began life under very different circumstances, narrowly escaping the Holocaust and the closing of the Iron Curtain.

Born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1936, Grove--then called Andras Grof--grew up in a modestly prosperous, secular Jewish family. Through foresight and sheer good fortune, they avoided the fate of many of their fellow Jews, fleeing the Nazis into the countryside and living in a dark cellar in which "the sound of artillery was a continuous backdrop." Under the Communist regime that followed, Grove distinguished himself as a student of chemistry and was seemingly destined for a comfortable position in academia or industry--until revolution broke out in 1956 and he found himself in that cellar once again.

How Grove emerged, "swam across" to America, and made a new life under a new name makes a satisfying conclusion to this humane memoir, which gives readers valuable insight into the business guru and technologist. --Gregory McNamee

From Publishers Weekly

"Jesus Christ was killed by the Jews, and because of that, all of the Jews will be thrown into the Danube," says a playmate to four-year-old Andris Grof Grove's original name. Born to a middle-class Jewish family in 1936, Grove, chairman of Intel, grew up in Budapest during his country's most tempestuous era. Despite avoiding deportation and death, Grove's family lived in fear during Nazi occupation and lost some rights and property. Afterwards, they lived under Soviet control. Curiously, Grove's memoir charts the routinized mundanities of his teen years seeing his teacher at the opera, being afraid to meet young women at the local public pool, the success of a short story he wrote more than life in war-torn Europe. But his discussion of contemporary politics is astute and personal "I had mixed feelings about the Communists... they had saved my mother's life and my own.... On the other hand... they increasingly interfered with our daily life." Never didactic, he remains focused on his own intellectual growth. Grove continued his education in New York after the 1956 revolution failed. The intelligence, dedication and ingenuity that earned him fame and fortune (he was Time's Man of the Year in 1997) are evident early on. He deftly balances humor e.g., subversive anti-Communist jokes from Hungary with insight into overcoming endless obstacles (from hostile foreign invasions to New York's City University system). Though lacking in drama, Grove's story stands smartly amid inspirational literature by self-made Americans. B&w photos. (Nov. 12)Forecast: Warner's fanfare pre-pub bookseller luncheons, Jewish Book Fair appearances, publication events in New York and San Francisco and concerted media campaigns will bring this book to readers' attention despite it not being the sort of business-oriented book most would expect from Grove. Its unexpected subject matter will mean that, despite the Grove name, it won't come near to matching Welch-size sales, but still, it should thrive.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Grove some time back. He's an intelligent man, with a powerful persona and strong sense of character.
I was surprised then, when I picked up the text. Swimming Across did not meet my expectations from a literary perspective. The presentation is very simply written and seems to be directed at an individual with a 6th or 7th grade reading level. I nearly put the book down and opted for another as a result.
The story however, is compelling. Mr. Grof and his family found a way to survive, compete, and eventually excel despite very long odds in Nazi and Communist dominated Hungary.
Read this story for its content (it is stirring). Read this to understand the character development of a leader. It is likely that your respect for the individual (like mine) will have grown.
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4.0 out of 5 stars This Book is Humbling Jan. 2 2004
I gave the book four stars because I thought that is what it deserves as a piece of literature. But of course his "story" is five stars. That goes without saying. He is the second best known computer guy after Bill Gates and a modern Horatio Alger.
Here is a person that leads by example. He has shown to have as superior intelligence and combined that with hard work, and outstanding communication and leadership skills. Obviously there are elements of luck in his success in computers and being at the right place - Intel - at the right time, but it is possible that if he had entered another field he still might be just as well known.
An awe inspiring and humbling story of an immigrant to America.
Jack in Toronto.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Stays with you June 15 2003
By A Customer
I loved this clear, accessible memoir about a boy (and later young man) who grows up in Hungary during the WWII and Revolution years, escapes to the West and comes to the United States to start a new life. I'm biased because my father is from Hungary and is of the exact same generation; he even had experiences similar to Mr. Grove's, going to preparatory high school, university, getting caught up in the Hungarian Revolution and escaping in the middle of the night to Austria. How wonderful to have some of the history and experiences of the times described in such an accessible way. The story is clear and straightforward and yet extremely moving, almost haunting. I loved how the title becomes clear when you read the book (an allusion to swimming across the lake of life and how not everyone makes it to the other side). How glad I am that Mr. Grove made it (across the Atlantic, at any rate) and wrote such a lovely book. It means a lot to at least one daughter of a Hungarian immigrant.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A STORY OF LIFE ADJUSTMENT PAR EXCELLANCE Feb. 5 2003
The majority of Andrew Grove's story takes place in Hungary as a young boy, but eventually graduates to a young adult and then as an immigrant to the U.S.A. You learn of the big difference of the society in Hungary vs America; it is great. Andy Grove achieved great success, but you must read this book to discover why and how he did it. It was all due to personal determination and you learn of the setbacks encountered during his journey to adulthood. A fine read of inspiration.
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5.0 out of 5 stars An inspiring tale and lesson Dec 24 2002
The Book is easy to read and understand and gives you the sense that, today, you learned a fine lesson in growing up in self fullfillment and what it takes. The book is a story of success against a turmoil filled landscape. It is clearly a reaching out story, to young and old, in history, self-achievement, and good people. We are a much too distracted people today to follow through as this author had. Alot to learn, should you be able to apply oneself to the lesson. Bravo to this hungarian man and writer. I have always searched for this book, being Hungarian and appreciative of excellent historical and biographical stories.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Antidote for CEO Excess Nov. 27 2002
Consider this book your antidote for all the recent tales of CEO excess and duplicity. Andy Grove's story of his first 20 years in Hungary and New York City tells us how the events of World War II and the Hungarian Revolution shaped the integrity and inner drive of one man.
The story is compelling in its own right. But to read the story of Andras Grof and realize that this boy and his distant childhood turned into Andrew S. Grove...well, it's a journey of unfathomable proportions.
To his credit, Grove never oversells the story. He is quite forthright about his role in the Revolution - he was simply a bystander. Fellow Hungarians have read his story and lauded him for his accuracy and honesty.
Grove's writing style is sparse and direct. He recalls events with clarity and without extensive interpretation. He gives credit to a couple of editors who helped shape the story, most notably Norman Pearlstine of Time. But this is no ghost-written CEO treatise. These are obviously his words.
Some will read "Swimming Across" and conclude that it is a statement about the triumph of the American system. Grove notes near the end of the book "I've continued to be amazed by the fact that as I progressed through school and my career, no one has ever resented my success on account of my being an immigrant."
While there's an element of that, I think you'll see it more as a simple but brilliant testament to the Power of One Man.
Long live Andy Grove.
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Andrew Grove was a founder of Intel Corporation and is the company's CEO today. His memoir tells the story of his childhood and early college years in Hungary. Grove survived World War II and emigrated to the United States following the Revolution.
Andrew's parents seem remarkably strong. His family enjoyed a comfortable life as owners of a dairy business. His father survived, improbably, a stint in a prison camp during World War II and later saw the business dissolve into state ownership. His mother's spirit kept him alive during the War.
Both parents worked hard but gave Andrew what we would call "quality time." Even when money was tight, he had English and music lessons.
After reading so many stories of growing-up-in-wartime-Europe, I was surprised to find myself drawn into the story. I wanted to keep reading and actually wish the book had continued into Andrew's early years.
What works is Grove's straightforward, matter-of-fact style. He conveys a sense of, "I did what had to be done," with no time wasted on emotional fallout. As a result, his story can seem cold.
For instance, when escaping from the Austrian countryside to Vienna, Grove and his boyhood friend decide to leave early to avoid "procedures" of the local gendarmes. They do not awaken the two girls who traveled with them from Hungary, and these girls are never mentioned again. Indeed, the only women Grove mentions are his mother, his occasional dates and -- in two sentences -- his wife and daughters.
Apart from the compelling narrative, Grove's book shows how qualities of a future CEO emerge in childhood. Grove continually sought to learn and grow. At one point he even signed up for singing lessons.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Swimming Across
SWIMMING ACROSS is a personal & cultural memoir tracing Andrew Grove's most formative years. Beginning on the eve of Nazi Germany's invasion of his native Hungary & ending with his... Read more
Published on Sept. 5 2002
4.0 out of 5 stars Intel Chairman Andrew Grove Reminds Us of Our Roots
...Intel Chairman Andrew Grove Reminds Us of Our Roots
It is a rare book by a corporate CEO that isn't either a trumpet blasting his visionary insight and strategic brilliance... Read more
Published on Aug. 29 2002 by Knowledge@Wharton
4.0 out of 5 stars A non-detailed look back
To those of you that might read this book, I do recommend it. I was interested in this book because it took place during a lifetime I did not live and a place I will more than... Read more
Published on June 21 2002 by Cameron Maxwell
3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected -- Disappointment
I like the idea that Andy Grove wrote this book for his grandchildren...certainly knowing the story of your grandfathter's childhood experiences, in an uncommon time, will make a... Read more
Published on April 21 2002 by Bruce V. Culver
5.0 out of 5 stars a book for generations to come
It is rare that many young people ever get the chance to hear about the early life of some of the most successful business people. Read more
Published on March 3 2002 by Victor Lue-Yat
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
The text in the book is simple and lucid. I could not help completing the book in one sitting. It is an inspiring story of a boy's triumph over hardships and personal handicap to... Read more
Published on Feb. 18 2002 by Kalyan C. Bandari
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