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The Storyteller: Memory, Secrets, Magic and Lies [Paperback]

Anna Porter
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

Aug. 28 2001
Born in 1889, Anna Porter's grandfather, Vili Rácz, was a patriot and an Olympic athlete, a magician and a lawyer, a publisher and a prisoner, a philanderer and a devoted family man. On long walks through the once-grand European capital of Budapest, in confidences whispered in splendid fin-de-siècle coffeehouses, Vili shared his stories of heroes and hardships, war and revolution. Vili's stories are the foundation of this vivid memoir, which follows Anna and her family from the tumultuous years of the Second World War to the Hungarian Revolution and the family's exile to New Zealand. Through young Anna's eyes, we accompany her to prison with her mother, see her beloved Vili unjustly sentenced to hard labour, and witness unspeakable human loss in the streets of Budapest during the failed uprising against the Communists. As Anna grows up in the beautiful but beleaguered city, her grandfather's stories of strife and survival give her a personal sense of history and of values, in a country the world seems to have forgotten.

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"My whole family told stories--many true, a few imagined, others invented so long ago they had become true--but none were as full of life as my grandfather's." Growing up in Budapest during the 1940s and '50s, Anna Porter learned her family history--and the history of her troubled country--through the captivating stories of her grandfather, master storyteller Vili Racz. The Storyteller is, in turn, a masterfully told memoir that weaves Vili's fantastic tales, Hungarian history, and Porter's life experiences into a remarkable story of a nation in turmoil and the changing fortunes of a proud, resilient family.

There is Vili Racz, born in 1899, an accomplished swordsman, Olympic athlete, war hero, respected businessman and citizen, relentless philanderer, splendid dresser, and devoted family man. There is his equally devoted yet long-suffering wife, and their three beautiful, complex daughters--Leah, Sari, and Puci (Porter's mother)--each with a daughter of her own. In the years between World War II, the Hungarian revolution, and the family's ultimate exile to New Zealand, the Racz clan's lives are marked by great loves and losses, personal and political betrayals, danger, and moments of incredible loyalty, beauty, and tenderness. As the family endures loss of property and income, unjust prison sentences, and violence at the hands of the Communist regime, theirs becomes a gripping story of tenacity and survival. Yet as Vili's mythic stories and Porter's accomplished retelling make clear, memory is a powerful tool of survival as well. --Svenja Soldovieri --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"All of his stories took many tellings, but the first time is the one I always remember the best." —Anna Porter

"Among the numerous memoirs of Central and Eastern Europe refugees, whether political or literary or both, The Storyteller stands out because of the unusual sensitivity of its author, as well as because of the often brilliant portraiture of a family and of her grandfather, who incarnated a now entirely vanished world." —John Lukacs, author of Five Days in London

"Enchanting! With a fabulous blend of memory, myth, and mystery, of melancholy, comedy, and irony, Anna Porter conjures up moments of magic. The past comes alive in the only way it should, as suggestion rather than as truth." —Modris Eksteins, author of Walking Since Daybreak

"Anna Porter has written a magical book, worthy of her legendary raconteur and duellist grandfather, Vili Racz. Something of a Hungarian Cyrano do Bergerac, Vili Racz could do it both with his words and his sword. His granddaughter does it with words alone." —George Jonas, author of Final Decree

“But The Storyteller speaks eloquently of the uses — and misuses — of history and the power of narrative. So deep is the appeal of the stories she absorbed as a child that at the end of the book we see Porter, in 1998, going back to those lands of her ancestors, now in Romania and Yugoslavia, sharing memories with her mother, passing on memories to one of her daughters. Vili would be proud.” —The National Post

The Storyteller represents a much higher level of literary accomplishment, a worthy addition to the growing literature of displacement, and a poignant reminder that the best history is not always written by the winners.” —The Toronto Star

“…Porter manages a difficult feat — she conveys the heartbreaking innocence of childhood with an overlay of the knowledge and humour of the person she is today.” —The Globe and Mail

The Storyteller shows that great storytellers are both born and made. Like grandfather, like granddaughter.” —Chatelaine

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful blend of biography and history Nov. 10 2002
Format:Paperback
History through the eyes of a child has never been so beautifully told. Ms. Porter remembers detail and allows us to eavesdrop on the intimate exchanges she enjoyed with the great man in her life, her grandfather Vili Racz. He is ever-present in this story of one family in the turmoil that was Hungary in the 1940s and '50s. But the tale reaches much farther back, illuminating corners of Eastern European history too long forgotten. Savour this book for it shows how powerful the simple stories that comprise our collective past can be.
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful blend of biography and history Nov. 10 2002
By Paul Globus - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
History through the eyes of a child has never been so beautifully told. Ms. Porter remembers detail and allows us to eavesdrop on the intimate exchanges she enjoyed with the great man in her life, her grandfather Vili Racz. He is ever-present in this story of one family in the turmoil that was Hungary in the 1940s and '50s. But the tale reaches much farther back, illuminating corners of Eastern European history too long forgotten. Savour this book for it shows how powerful the simple stories that comprise our collective past can be.
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