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Swimming Across: A Memoir [Hardcover]

Andrew S Grove
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 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
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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...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 or a dramatic and mawkish retelling of his climb to the top from unimaginably humble origins. Swimming Across: A Memoir - Andrew Grove's simple, elegant recounting of the first 20 years of his life - is that rare exception.
Grove, one of the founders of Intel and still its chairman, was born Andras Grof in Hungary in 1936, the only child of parents who were in the dairy business. We tend to forget that prior to 1945 there was no Iron Curtain, and countries we think of now as post-Communist had vital histories of their own before the Soviet Union stitched together its empire following World War II.
Grove recounts a happy childhood in Budapest, the country's largest and most cosmopolitan city. The specter of war loomed large in Europe in the late 1930s, but Grove was too young to be aware of its darker aspects. His family was Jewish and even as a young child he knew that many Jews were forced to live separately in ghettos. But to the young Grove and his playmates, this reality was simply material for another schoolyard game, much to the horror of their kindergarten teacher.
Grove's early years, before the full force of the war descended upon Europe, were comfortably middle class. Budapest was actually two distinct communities, the wealthier Buda on one side of the Danube River and the more commercial Pest on the other side. Grove's family moved to Pest in 1938 when his father expanded the dairy business.
In 1942, Grove's father was drafted into the Hungarian army.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not what I expected -- Disappointment April 21 2002
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 lasting impression on any grandchild.
The book did not capture my attention into the character insight of Andy Grove that his other books did, which is surprising, given that this is a memoir. I am always very interested in understanding the character development of leaders, especially the circumstances surrounding their education development and the life changing events of their lives. The times in which he lived certainly contained the impactful circumstances, but I do not feel the book related those circumstances to who he is today in any lucid manner. I found the memoir detached from who he is today, which should be a fascinating build up of a biography when read along with his other books. My thoughts throughout the book where that the story flow could have been much more fun to read if he had collaborated with a writer that could have livened the prose up a bit.
If you have not read about Andy Grove before, then you will find this book an interesting story. However, if you are looking for a deeper insight into Andy Grove today, you will find a much more enjoyable insight by reading his other books.
I was dissappointed with this book, so I would recommend as alternatives that you should read: Only the Paranoid Survive : How to Exploit the Crisis Points That Challenge Every Company and Andrew S. Grove: High Output Management. You will find these books to provide much more meaningful insight into who he is.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Great book
Published 2 months ago by fussy
3.0 out of 5 stars Read this book or the content, not for literary strength
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. Read more
Published on Jan. 18 2004 by Roger Davies
4.0 out of 5 stars This Book is Humbling
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. Read more
Published on Jan. 2 2004 by J. E. Robinson
5.0 out of 5 stars Stays with you
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... Read more
Published on June 15 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. Read more
Published on Feb. 4 2003 by Brady L. Buchanan
5.0 out of 5 stars An inspiring tale and lesson
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. Read more
Published on Dec 24 2002 by Nicholas J. Csorba
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 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
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
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