The Inflatable Buddha: A Review

 

The title in Hungarian is Tövispuszta, the name of a fictional village near Budapest. The descriptions of what happened to people living under fascism and then Soviet communism are stark and illuminating. It’s a cautionary tale as we move into the 21st Century with its manifestations of a dystopian world.

This book is much more than a history lesson. It’s a story of how our allegiances and alliances, set against our grounding in what we experience in daily reality, including personal relationships and sense of community, plays out in modern times. This is the story of three boys, Pál, István, and Dávid, as they grow to adulthood and old age. Each one comes from a different social and economic background, and has beliefs formed by experience in their particular families as well as in the village. In each life humor and love occur along with hints of madness and sorrow. They are swept up in the turbulent socio-economic and political changes of the early and mid-20th century. They have to make decisions they determine best for them, their families, their country, and ultimately what they hope is on the side of the greater good. Each one has a moral and ethical sense, which tempered or informed by a survival instinct, is at the heart of their major decisions. And sometimes they make choices that put their freedom and their lives in danger. At the same time these exact same choices are necessary to give them a chance to survive, with or without integrity.

Several women play large and equally interesting roles. Elza is adopted by a Jewish family after found wandering in Budapest and taken to their home in Tövispuszta. She is passionate and independent. Then there is Lucky Gizi, another wonderful character, steadfast and resourceful. She is both lucky, and unlucky, to be married to István’s father. These and other female characters give the story much greater depth.

Kepes takes the characters through the decades of change. World War I “had left people hungry, defeat had left them bitter, and the disintegration of Hungary had humiliated them.” Word of worker and peasant power came with soldiers returning from the Russian front. Inequality between the landed gentry and peasant farmers threatened to blow up into armed conflict. By the 1930s, with Russian communism on one side, and German fascism on the other, Hungarians struggled with a choice of futures. By allying with Germany, some Hungarians believed their country could take back territories ceded to Czechoslovakia after World War 1. Other Hungarians were attracted to communism as a hoped-for improved form of socio-political arrangement. People in the small village took different sides. Some simply tried to survive. Kepes makes it clear that no one—the educated or uneducated, idealistic or pragmatic, rich or poor—escaped harm in the ensuing conflicts.

Another current was anti-Semitism. The Jewish people were blamed by the Nazis for tainting the strong native character of Europeans. Even though, as the author shows with ironic amusement, Hungarian families had tangled ethnic and racial roots, this prejudice became part of the nationalistic movement. The mass killing and deportation of Jews is told in the context of the characters’ lives in chilling detail.

The book has its flaws, but it shines in those episodes where the personal stories take center stage. Some of the most moving stories are about the Jewish family in Tövispuszta. The father’s abiding faith in human compassion is powerful. Although it doesn’t save his life, he faces reality with courage and makes his life positive, so much so that one of the boys, now a young man, is moved to punish his killers and publicly honor his memory. There’s a twist at the end in the tale of one of the other boys, in which his choices are re-evaluated by his family and country, but I don’t want to give too much of the story away.

The Germans and the Hungarian Arrow-Cross were brutal, but the Soviet-controlled communist leaders practiced a pervasive and corrosive control of people’s lives. People were imprisoned and tortured for having said the wrong thing or spoken to the wrong person. Then years later they were released and re-instated to their jobs and position, only to have it later taken away again. Under both systems, children were removed from families, names were changed. No one was safe. Personal control and responsibility, and the sense of community, were under siege. Who could be trusted?

While I was reading I wondered at the concerns of George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, and Hannah Arendt. Can evil be institutionalized and made the norm? Apparently it can, to a certain degree and only with popular complicity, for months, even years. Even then its destructiveness is terrifying, though it must be endured as part of the daily reality. Anyone who has experienced brutality knows it’s not banal. Then, sometimes sporadically at first, but always eventually, evil breaks out of efforts to contain and distribute it. But in those moments when it terrifies most, it begins to lose its power. To read this book is to remember those who have gone before in this struggle, and to see how they responded. While cruelty and oppression have often won the day, we can also see the perseverance of people toward what Sartre said is the most fundamental aspect of being human: freedom.

NEW RELEASE – ‘Enemy Skies’ by Forrest S. Clark

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Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

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Duty, courage, fear and bravery are words known by soldiers in battle.

In World War II, Americans joined the fight against Hitler and his cruel regime.

These soldiers, when face to face with the highly organized, technologically efficient enemy, learned the meanings of other words—brutality and wastefulness.

Forrest S. Clark was a young B24 gunner and radio operator who flew with the 8th Air Force, 67th Squadron, 44th Bomb Group, known as “The Flying Eightballs,” in the European Theater.

He witnessed fiery deaths in the skies over Germany, heard the click-click of the bombs dropping, and saw the fires in the cities below.

Some of the airmen who died, or were listed as MIA, had become friends.

In April 1944, he was on a mission to Lechfeld Air Base, near Dachau, south of Augsburg, when his B24 was hit in the fuel tank.

Pursued by German fighters, the pilot turned…

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The tip of the iceberg

Letters from Athens

A few days ago I had lunch with a friend who is very involved in the refugee crisis, since she works with the European official in charge. They had come to Greece in order to meet with various members of the Greek government and to visit  Lesvos (they had previously stopped by Lampedusa). The things she told me make for scary reading.

Firstly, the measures decided upon – after much debate – are simply not working.  The relocation project dependant on ‘hot spots’  being set up to process people is proving ineffective, even as Greece is asking for €480 million to implement it (less than six have been approved so far). The reason is the following:
Refugees must go to the nearest hot spot to be fingerprinted and given identity papers; then they will have to wait until they are sent to the country they are allocated to. This might take months, given the…

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COMPASSION a poem by Bette A. Stevens

Bette A. Stevens, Maine Author

compassion-poem-bas-2017Compassion is…

Compassion in life is a beautiful thing. But exactly what is compassion? I’ve always thought of compassion as love in action. After writing the poem COMPASSION, I searched Google to find a definition. The synonyms fit perfectly into my preconceived notion for the poem because they not only included love and mercy, each synonym requires action (stirring) on our part to metamorphose the ideaof compassion into the realty of compassion.

May compassion reign in our hearts and hands.

~ Bette A. Stevens

Google Search:

com·pas·sion
kəmˈpaSHən/

noun: compassion; plural noun: compassions

sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.

“the victims should be treated with compassion”

synonyms: pity, sympathy, empathy, fellow feeling, care, concern, solicitude, sensitivity, warmth, love, tenderness, mercy, leniency, tolerance, kindness, humanity, charity

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The Shared Universe

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On the well-worn path through the dunes, she heard the surf’s blended cacophony of lives past and present. Crossing the beach, she walked on hard-packed sand below the tide line. Gulls wheeled above, with sharp cries. A fiddler crab with one huge claw held aloft cantered toward her, skirting a patch of mangroves. A fine mist rose along the shoreline which seemed to bend into infinity.

The waves going out gave her a pull, a beckoning, and she took off her shoes. She watched small creatures scurry toward the rippling water and dig into wet sand the color of antique ivory, feeding on nutrients stirred up by tidal action. Like the subconscious feeding on the most interesting bits and pieces of our everyday lives, she thought, and working them into a private mythology, a mythology that stays beneath the surface, and is seldom if ever shared with anyone else. And yet it feeds into everything we do, into the shared universe.

© Mary Clark 2014

5 Star Review Of Miami Morning by Diane M. Denton

A Beautifully Written Journey of Growth and Faith, Review by Diane M. Denton

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As I read deeper into Mary Clark’s new novel, “Miami Morning,” I began to have the sense of following a pilgrimage, a journey of growth and faith. Out of the “levels to her life” as a teacher, community activist and friend, Leila emerges smart, cultured, amiable, supportive, and sometimes self-depreciating, a forty-something woman who engages her senses as she perceives her surroundings like an artist and doesn’t shy away from challenges. She has a need for place and purpose, whether she is in Miami teaching Social Studies, helping to beautify and maintain a playground, and making sure a bright student losing his hearing doesn’t fall by the wayside; or on a year’s sabbatical in South Africa as part of a team setting up clinics in small villages and working to diminish the marginalization of the disabled.

Almost serenely aware “of being on the threshold of accomplishment”, Leila’s restlessness doesn’t make her impatient or impulsive, just active, her movement not always surefooted but, like many a Miami morning, contentedly and expectantly taking her towards an “opening horizon”. Her steps are more proactive than reactive. For example, after breaking up with a lover, she is determined not to cling to “the anguish of love”; instead she accepts the teaching post in South Africa to pursue fulfillment as a teacher and public-spirited, evolving individual.

Certainly, Leila’s quest is for more insight and meaning on the “long journey of life”, but she also seeks a way towards trust—of others, but mainly of herself. She values her interactions with students, colleagues, and friends, is constant and accessible in her relationships, while being easily solitary and essentially private. She gives the novel its heart and spirit, and is someone I immediately engaged with and cared about.

Read full review on Amazon

Review of Miami Morning by Poet David Selzer

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading MIAMI MORNING. Its title raised expectations which were more than satisfied. The work is rich in characters, themes and incidents – and reads well throughout.

Mary Clark juggles and interweaves – sometimes only mixed metaphors will do! – an impressive range of plot lines very skilfully. So skilfully, in fact, that it seemed, for example, quite natural – rather than contrived – that the main protagonist, Leila, should meet up again with Mark, a probable soul mate, by chance on a Cuban beach!

I like Leila – her concerns and interests, her eclectic friendships, her alternating self-worth – and was engaged by her throughout. Mary Clark describes the wide range of relationships Leila has with a wide range people very convincingly.

life-is-an-adventure-1The author’s descriptions of people, places and weathers are very evocative. Just as I know I’d like Leila, I know I’d like Miami, for example – urban, urbane, and both disturbingly and reassuringly tropical. The accounts of the high school students brought back (good and bad) memories of working with adolescent learners very vividly.

Read the full review of Miami Morning on Amazon

Please visit David Selzer’s website. I’ve been following it for several years and have always been delighted by the range and depth of subjects taken on, and by the high quality of his writing. This is one of the poems I’ve most enjoyed: The Reclining Gardener.

Learning as You Write – Guest Post…

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Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

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Writers are advised by editors, agents, academic and self-appointed experts to write about what they know. Some people have pointed out that would be boring. As writers we live in a world of imagination. Some tend to exaggerate, or have a quirky point of view, but many of us simply wonder what’s beyond the known world. We daydream, pay close attention to and analyze our sensory experience, and experiment with ideas. In other words, we go beyond the bounds of ordinary existence. In a way our characters are avatars for ourselves as we explore a made-up world, one created from what we know and what we are curious to know.

When I wrote Miami Morning, I broke the rule on writing what you know. Instead, I was fascinated by what I could learn about topics that were new to me. As I wrote, for instance, I was challenged, just…

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT MIAMI MORNING by Mary Clark @mceyes #WomensFiction

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Today’s team review is from E.L Lindley, she blogs at http://lindleyreviews.blogspot.co.uk/

#RBRT Review Team

E.L. has been reading Miami Morning by Mary Clark

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Miami Morning by Mary Clark is the story of idealistic teacher Leila Payson. It’s a novel that affords the reader not only the opportunity to follow Leila on her journey through life but also offers a glimpse of what life is like working within the public schools’ system in Miami amid ever changing educational ideology and internal politics.

The novel begins on Leila’s 41st birthday, she is enjoying a comfortable existence having been a social studies’ teacher for fifteen years. However, her sense of peace is undermined as she begins to reflect back over her past. Clark uses Leila’s memories to draw the reader into her life as we are given an insight into key life changing events, such as the death of her mother.

A defining experience…

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