A Memoir of Secrets, Magic and Lies
By Anna Porter
Reissued to honour the fiftieth anniversary of the ill-fated Hungarian Revolution of 1956, Anna Porter’s heartfelt memoir of her grandfather situates an extraordinary family and its homeland within our collective imagination.
On long walks through the once-grand European capital of Budapest, set on the banks of the Danube, in confidences whispered in splendid fin-de-siècle coffee houses, Vili Rácz shared his wisdom and his stories with his granddaughter Anna. Some of his stories were as old as the Carpathian basin and some still held the sting of recent war and hardship.
At the heart of this engrossing memoir are the amazing stories of an amazing man. The Storyteller is also a vivid and textured saga of the whole Rácz family, in the tumultuous years from the Second World War to the 1956 revolution and the family’s exile to New Zealand. During this time, young Anna briefly goes to prison with her mother, sees her beloved grandfather sentenced to hard labour by the Communists, and witnesses unspeakable human loss in the streets of Budapest at the height of the revolution.
Praise for The Storyteller
“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.”
The Storyteller: Memory, Secrets, Magic and Lies
Doubleday Canada, 2000
Douglas & McIntyre, 2006
Also published in Hungary as Fenytoresek, Helikon, 2006