About Time I Read It: Masquerade by Tivadar Soros

Over the years I’ve read books translated from a variety of languages including Russian, Arabic, Italian, Albanian and Greek but I’ve never read anything translated from Esperanto. Esperanto, for those who don’t know is an international auxiliary language created in the late 19th century by Polish ophthalmologist L. L. Zamenhof. Using the Latin alphabet with vocabulary borrowed from Romance and Germanic languages, combined with Slavic grammar Zamenhof hoped Esperanto would be so easy to learn and use it would become a universal second language, helping promote world peace and international understanding. While Esperanto might not have made the world a peaceful place it soon developed a kind of cult following among linguists, intellectuals and internationalists around the globe.

Thoughts of Esperanto were the furthest thing from my mind that day at the public library when I spotted Masquerade: Dancing Around Death in Nazi Occupied Hungary on the shelf. What caught my eye was the book’s author Tivadar Soros. Wondering if Tivadar was somehow related to billionaire philanthropist and human rights advocate George Soros I took a closer look at Masquerade and learned from its jacket blurb Tivadar was George’s father. I also learned Tivadar Soros’s 2001 memoir recalls the year he spent hiding under a false identity in Nazi occupied Hungary. Needing something set in Hungary something for Rose City Reader’s European Reading Challenge I grabbed Masquerade along with a few other books and headed to the automated check-out kiosk mere hours before my public library locked the doors in hopes of slowing the spread of COVID19.

I was pleasantly surprised by Masquerade. Initially I feared something translated from Esperanto might come across as wooden or clunky but kudos to Humphrey Tonkin for  crafting a translation that expertly captures the memoirist’s voice, one heavily ladened with Mitteleuropa charm, sophistication and, believe or not considering the circumstances, optimism. Tivadar comes across as a confident, urbane and intelligent man of the world, even if that world is crashing down around him.

Using the skills and connections he’d acquired over the years as a successful and respected Budapest attorney, he’s able to secure false identities and secret hiding places for himself as well as his wife and two sons. Wisely, the Soros family opts to live underground instead of registering with the local Jewish council, thus avoiding deportation to Auschwitz. Throughout his ordeal, Tivadar retains not only his humanity but also his refinement and sense of purpose. Perhaps for that reason alone Masquerade is a memoir worth reading.

7 thoughts on “About Time I Read It: Masquerade by Tivadar Soros

  1. I’ve never even thought to look for literature in Esperanto but am fascinated to hear about this. Do you know if there are a lot of book-length works written in the language? It sounds like a very interesting memoir in itself, so thank you for drawing this to my attention.

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    • I found the Wikipedia entry on Esperanto quite informative. It includes links to a ton of Esperanto writers so I would start there if you want to explore their writings. It’s a great memoir. Thanks for dropping by and commenting! By the way, I love your blog! Keep up the great work!

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  2. In primary school I took part in enrichment classes offered off campus, one of the classes I took was in Esperanto (but all I remember of it for some bizarre reason is the word for window – fenetre). Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this book.

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  3. Pingback: 2020 European Reading Challenge Wrap-Up | Maphead's Book Blog

  4. Pingback: A Reader’s Guide to Eastern Europe | Maphead's Book Blog

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