Convictions | Granta

  • Published: 03/03/2011
  • ISBN: 9781847083388
  • 135x20mm
  • 208 pages


Jo Langer

Jo Langer and her husband Oscar were committed communists; she Hungarian, he Slovakian. During the Second World War the couple, both Jewish, escaped to America. Most members of their extended family were murdered in the Holocaust. After the war, they returned to Czechoslovakia to help build communism. She worked for state exports in Bratislava; he was an economist working for the Central Committee. In 1951 Oscar Langer was arrested and detained as part of the anti-Semitic purge of the Communist Party that culminated in the infamous Slánkský trials. He was subjected to solitary confinement, threats against his family, unbearable cold and hunger, anti-Semitic abuse and beatings. In the end, he submitted. In a statement dictated by his interrogators he said, ‘I confess that I am an important link in the anti-state conspiracy of Zionists and Jewish bourgeois nationalists’. Jo Langer lost her job, and was exiled to the countryside. In Convictions, she vividly describes trying to her protect her two daughters and scrape a living, surviving the loss of her husband, her place in society and her faith in communism. Oscar Langer died shortly after his release from prison. Jo Langer left Czechoslovakia during the Prague Spring in 1968, and went into exile in Sweden.

Reads like a wonderful cross-breeding of George Eliot, non-fictional Kafka and Edgar Allan Poe ... She is most fluent when describing her own convictions which, paradoxically, is of the utter destructiveness of unquestioning faith ... splendid

Sally Vincent, Observer

Jo Langer's book does not bemoan a shattered life. Well written, with a complex chronological structure worthy of a novel, it provides a testimony, unblinded by ideology, of a capacity to survive inhuman adversities as well as a moving witness of the times

Igor Hajek, Guardian

Impassioned, intimate and fiercely intelligent, Convictions gives us renewed insight into the terrible costs of political repression for individual lives. Jo Langer's memoir is a deeply affecting story of a marriage marred by ideological fervour, an act of historical witnessing, and an example of true moral resistance

Eva Hoffman

The Author

Jo Langer was born in Budapest in 1912. In 1934 she married a young communist militant, Oskar Langer, and they moved to his homeland, Czechoslovakia. In 1938 they escaped the Holocaust by emigrating to the US, returning to their home in Czechoslovakia after the war. Oskar Langer was arrested and imprisoned in 1951, and died not long after his release ten years later. After the Soviet invasion in 1968, Jo Langer emigrated with her family once more, this time to Sweden. She died in 1990.

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