Hungarian Rhapsodies by Richard Teleky
Essays on Ethnicity, Identity, and Culture

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Like the renowned American writer Edmund Wilson, who began to learn Hungarian at the age of 65, Richard Teleky started his study of that difficult language as an adult. Unlike Wilson, he is a third-generation Hungarian American with a strong desire to understand how his ethnic background has affected the course of his life. "Exploring my ethnicity", he writes, "became a way of exploring the arbitrary nature of my own life. It was not so much a search for roots as for a way of understanding rootlessness -- how I stacked up against another way of being". He writes with clarity, perception, and humor about a subject of importance to many Americans-reconciling their contemporary identity with a heritage from another country.

But more than a collection of essays on ethnicity by a talented writer, the book is structured to share with the reader insights on language, literature, art, and community from a cultural perspective. The book is also unified by the author's attention to certain concerns, including the meaning of multiculturalism, the power of a language to shape one's thinking, the persistence of anti-Semitism, the significance of displacement and nostalgia in emigration, the importance of understanding the past, the need for a narrative tradition in the writing of fiction, and the power of books in Central Europe.

From an examination of photographer Andre Kertesz to a visit to a Hungarian American church in Cleveland, from a consideration of stereotypical treatment of Hungarians in North American fiction and film to a description of the process of translating Hungarian poetry into English, Teleky's interests are wideranging. The book concludes with an account of the author'sfirst visit to Hungary at the end of Soviet rule, and a discussion of what he has come to see as the arbitrariness of ethnicity.

Because of its interdisciplinary nature, the book makes a contribution to several fields: Central European and Hungarian studies; North American immigrant and ethnic studies; contemporary literature; comparative literature; and popular culture.


About Richard Teleky

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Richard Teleky is a Fitzhenry and Whiteside author.
Published January 1, 1997 by University of Washington Press. 256 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Travel, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

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North America, for the most part, has been extraordinarily welcoming to immigrants and tolerant of their longings for home, with the result that some of its citizens have made a fetish of their ancestral affiliations, ruminating endlessly about their ethnic identities.

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