Tuesday, 10 April 2018

No Live Files Remain by András Forgách

No Live Files Remain by András Forgách
English language translation by Paul Olchvary published in the UK by Scribner on the 5th April 2018.

Where to buy this book:

The Book Depository : from £11.09 (PB)
Wordery : from £10.93 (HB)
Waterstones : from £14.99 (HB)
Amazon : from £7.50 (used HB)
Prices and availability may have changed since this post was written

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

For readers of The Lives of Others and The Reader, and based on a true story, No Live Files Remain is a beautiful and moving novel of family, lies, betrayal and forgiveness.

He wanted to understand the past.
Now he must live with the truth.

Thirty years after the fall of communism in Hungary, as acclaimed writer, translator, dramatist and visual artist Andras Forgach investigated his family's past he uncovered a horrifying truth. His mother, whom he deeply loved, had been an informant for the Kadar regime. She had informed not only on acquaintances but on family, friends and even her children.

In the eagerly anticipated No Live Files Remain, with rights sold around the world, Forgach gives voice to his deceased mother, holding her responsible for her deeds while defending the memories he cherished of her as a son.

A novel in the sense that some scenes have been fleshed out with imagined detail and dialogue, No Live Files Remain reads as a nonfiction memoir or history book through which Hungarian writer András Forgách works out his shock from discovering his mother's double life. Her meetings with her handlers are interspersed with the actual reports written by 'Mrs Papai' (Bruria), Forgách's father (also an informant and spy), and higher members of the Kadar regime. I found this switching of viewpoints quite difficult to follow at first although the use of clearly different fonts helps a lot. The writing, however, gives an atmospheric impression of Budapest at the time and of the paranoia within the family and Hungary itself. The Forgáchs are Jews, Hebrew-speaking Bruria having been born and raised in Palestine, so the regime is keen for insights in Israel and Zionism. Political and ideological clashes swirl all through this book in a way that is particularly evocative of the era.

I was a little bemused by a poetry interlude in the middle of No Live Files Remain. Following this, András Forgách speaks directly of his memories of childhood incidents that he now sees in a different light and how he feels about the way his mother was treated during her decade of informing. In its presentation, this is certainly an unusual book and it didn't all completely work for me. I did enjoy being transported back to 1970s and 1980s Budapest, especially having visited the city just last autumn, and learning about Jewish families split between Hungary, Palestine and Israel. Bruria's bemoaning her being stranded between two homelands, neither of which really feel like home, is particularly poignant and the discussions of Israel's annexation of Palestinian land was interesting considering that this is still ongoing over three decades later.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Andras Forgach / History books / Books from Hungary


  1. This is interesting from a historical point of view but on the other hand... I find it a bit tasteless to make money by airing your own parents' dirty laundry. XD

    Ronnie @ Paradise Found

    1. It's not really that sort of a book. András doesn't judge or denigrate his mother for what she did, but rather shows how her political beliefs and family circumstances led both parents to work as they did.

  2. Wow, this book sounds like something else. If I found out my mother had a double life that I never knew about I am sure I would similarly be realigning everything I ever knew about her and all my memories too. It's intriguing that there is a poetry interlude as well. You've got me interested!

    My recent post: http://oliviascatastrophe.com/2018/04/sunflowers-in-february-book-review/

    1. I hope you get to try this one. It fascinated me to read András' story and to understand how this discovery must have felt for him

  3. This sounds like a great book from the blurb. I usually don;t read much non-fiction I would be a bit confused if I had to deal with a poetry interlude mid-book.
    Tori @ In Tori Lex

    1. I guess the poetry worked as a division between the two halves of the book but, not expecting it, it threw me completely