Under a Cruel Star | Granta

Under a Cruel Star

Heda Kovály

Translated by Franci Epstein, Helen Epstein

The daughter of prosperous Jews, Heda Kovály found her world turned upside down with the German annexation of Czechoslovakia. Deported to Lodz Ghetto in 1941 and then to Auschwitz, where her parents were murdered, in 1944, Kovaly made a miraculous escape from a column of prisoners being marched to Bergen-Belsen in early 1945.

On reuniting with her husband in Prague after the war, things started to look more hopeful. Rudolf Margolius became a deputy minister of foreign trade. But in 1952 he and 13 other government officials were tried and 11 of those hanged in one of the era’s most notorious show trials. Heda Kovály and her four year old son were hounded by the state and shunned by society.

In this powerful and moving memoir, Kovály describes her imprisonment by the Nazis during WWII and her persecution by the Communists in the 1950s – a classic account of life under totalitarianism.

  • Published: 05/01/2012
  • Trade Paperback
  • ISBN: 9781847084767
  • 136x20mm, 192 pages

One does not 'review' a book like this. One weeps, and prays ... Beautiful evocation of lovely Prague

The Sunday Times

A book that puts the urgencies of our times and ourselves in perspective, making us confront the darker realities of human nature

Anthony Lewis, New York Times

This is an extraordinary memoir, so heartbreaking that I have reread it for months, unable to rise to the business of 'reviewing' less a book than a life repeatedly outraged by the worst totalitarians in Europe. Yet it is written with so much quite respect for the minutiae of justice and truth that one does not know where and how to specify Heda Kovály's splendidness as a human being

Alfred Kazin

The Author

Heda Kovaly was born Heda Bloch in Prague in 1919, the daughter of a prosperous Jewish couple. She survived imprisonment and forced labour under the Nazi regime, during which time both her parents were killed. She escaped from a labour camp in 1945 and returned to her native Prague, where she was re-united with her husband, Rudolf Margolius, who was later executed in a communist show-trial. Following the trial Heda and her son left Prague for America, where Heda worked as a translator and later as a librarian at Harvard University School of Law. She returned to Prague in 1996 where she later passed away, aged 91, in 2010.

More about the author →

The Translator

Heda Kovaly was born Heda Bloch in Prague in 1919, the daughter of a prosperous Jewish couple. She survived imprisonment and forced labour under the Nazi regime, during which time both her parents were killed. She escaped from a labour camp in 1945 and returned to her native Prague, where she was re-united with her husband, Rudolf Margolius, who was later executed in a communist show-trial. Following the trial Heda and her son left Prague for America, where Heda worked as a translator and later as a librarian at Harvard University School of Law. She returned to Prague in 1996 where she later passed away, aged 91, in 2010.

More about the translator →

The Translator

Heda Kovaly was born Heda Bloch in Prague in 1919, the daughter of a prosperous Jewish couple. She survived imprisonment and forced labour under the Nazi regime, during which time both her parents were killed. She escaped from a labour camp in 1945 and returned to her native Prague, where she was re-united with her husband, Rudolf Margolius, who was later executed in a communist show-trial. Following the trial Heda and her son left Prague for America, where Heda worked as a translator and later as a librarian at Harvard University School of Law. She returned to Prague in 1996 where she later passed away, aged 91, in 2010.

More about the translator →