Kati Marton discusses her new book, Enemies of the People: My Family’s Journey to America.
When award-winning journalist and author Kati Marton went to Hungary to research her family’s life there, she expected to find some good material. After all, her parents were reporters for the AP and UPI during the heart of Hungary’s Cold War past. Still, it was a bit of a shock when the archivists brought her “shopping carts full of documents about my family.” In fact, Marton’s parents were among the most investigated people in all of Hungary.
“Pretty much everyone in my family’s inner-circle was an informer,” said Marton, whose new book, Enemies of the People: My Family’s Journey to America (Simon & Schuster), chronicles her childhood in communist Budapest. Even the elderly French nanny was a full-time agent—a fact Marton found vindicating: “I never liked her!” Still, the stories of that time weren’t all so lighthearted. During the Alma and Joseph Gildenhorn Book Series event at the Institute, Marton described agents searching her home and slicing into her stuffed rocking horse with a knife. That was the night her father was taken to prison. Though in a way, she says, the family’s life in Budapest was already a “prison, with zero privacy.”
During “the final throes of Stalinism in Hungary,” Marton’s parents organized strikes during the revolution, reported on the human rights abuses that occurred every day in that country, and even spent time in jail—all while raising two young girls. “I think history is too important to leave to scholars,” said Marton, who wants to put the face of human experience on this dark time in a small nation’s past.