Sunday, 1 January 2017

Raoul Wallenberg: The Biography by Ingrid Carlberg

Raoul Wallenberg is one of the Second World War's greatest heroes. His courageous actions in Budapest at the height of the Holocaust saved countless lives, and ultimately cost him his own.

In the spring of 1944, during a seven-week period, more than 400,000 Hungarian Jews were deported to certain death, most of them to Auschwitz. Up to 250,000 Jews remained in Budapest, threatened with the same fate. Wallenberg - descendant of a Swedish banking dynasty and Sweden's Special Envoy - displayed astonishing bravery and ingenuity in trying to save them, not least in the dark and bloody final months of 1944. He created a system of protective passports and sheltered thousands of Jews in special houses in the international ghetto. Working with a cohort of equally remarkable collaborators, he used a combination of guile, force and breathtaking chutzpah to fend off the depredation of the Germany and Hungarian Nazis.

As the war drew to a close, Wallenberg voluntarily went to meet with Russian troops in the city to discuss its regeneration. Arrested as a spy, he disappeared into the depths of the Soviet system, never to be see again.

Though he was made an Honorary Citizen of the USA, and designated one of the Righteous Among the Nations by the Israeli government, his achievements remain little known. In this  magisterial biography, Ingrid Carlberg draws on revelatory research to narrate the story of a heroic life, and to navigate with wisdom and sensitivity the truth about his mysterious death.

If truth be told, I am not a big reader of non-fiction. Every year I promise myself that I will read more biographies, memoirs etc. but rarely do so. I am hoping that I will be more resolute in this endeavor in 2017.

This comprehensive biography of Raoul Wallenberg has certainly got me off to a good start. The author has extensively researched and put together an excellent biography of Raoul Wallenberg, a man I had never heard of before I read this. I am actually rather ashamed to say this as his bravery and heroism deserves worldwide recognition.

It is a lengthy read and I did at times find the writing a little dry. However, I think that may be more due to my lack of concentration than any fault with the writing. With hindsight, reading a book such as this over the festivities when there were many other things vying for my attention was probably a mistake.

Overall, I found this an interesting and informative read. I have been thinking alot about this book since I finished and I think that the courage that Raoul Wallenberg demonstrated was inspirational and I am sure that this book will alert readers to appreciate and respect him for his actions.

Well done, Ms Carlberg, for this erudite biography and which I hope many people will read.

ISBN:  978 0857053282

Publisher: Maclehose Press

About the Author:

Ingrid Carlberg is a Swedish author and journalist. Her book about the life and fate of Raoul Wallenberg was awarded the prestigious August Prize for non-fiction, and also the Swedish Academy's Axel Hirsch Prize for a "biography of considerable artistic and cultural merit". Carlberg worked at the Swedish daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter from 1990 to 2010, as an investigative and features journalist. She has an honorary doctorate from Uppsala University, awarded for her book The Pill: A Tale of Doctors and Depression, Freud and Researchers, People and Markets about the history of antidepressants. The Pill won four awards, including the Guldspaden for the best work of investigative journalism, and was nominated for the August Prize.

She has translated works from Swedish by John Ajvide Lindqvist, Kjell Westo and Henning  Mankell. She is Director of Communications in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St Louis.

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