Yudit Kiss: The Summer My Father Died

George Szirtes

28/02/2013
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Yudit Kiss left Hungary as an adult. Her poignant memoir The Summer My Father Died captures her awakening to her own Jewish origins and the shortcomings of Communism as her father, a party official, is dying in Budapest. Kiss and translator George Szirtes discuss the lives and common values of their parents’ generation, Jewish Hungarians who clung to Communist ideology in the face of changing times.

The father is a Jewish Holocaust survivor determined to write a great work that will establish the merits of Communism for good, the mother from a family of landless servants. Theirs is an intellectual household filled with books. As her father succumbs to illness, Kiss is confronted with the contradictions and lies that form part of her country’s and family’s life.

Kiss and Szirtes discussed the common identity, memories and heritage that brought them together to work on her book, from the objects they lived with and the words their parents used to answer their questions.

George Szirtes


A child refugee from Hungary in 1956, George Szirtes lives in the UK and published his first book of poems, The Slant Door, in 1979. It won the Faber Prize. He has published many since then, his collection, Reel, winning the T S Eliot Prize in 2004 for which he has been twice shortlisted since. His latest book is Mapping the Delta (Bloodaxe 2016). Beside his English prizes he has been awarded various international ones for his own poetry and for his translations of Hungarian poetry and fiction, including The European Poetry Translation Prize, the Best Translated Book Prize in the USA and the Man Booker International Translation Prize for his work on the novels of László Krasznahorkai. His second book for children, In the Land of the Giants won the CLPE Prize for the best book of poems for children in 2012. He has written reviews and articles for major newspapers, programmes for the BBC and has edited a variety of books. His recent work with composers and performers includes poems for The Voice Project and the carol set by Richard Causton for the BBC broadcast Service of Carols at King’s College Chapel in 2015. His memoir of his mother, The Photographer at Sixteen, was published in February 2019.