Summary and book reviews of Swimming Across by Andrew Grove

Swimming Across

A Memoir

By Andrew S. Grove

Swimming Across
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  • Hardcover: Nov 2001,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: Nov 2002,
    304 pages.

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Book Summary

"After Passau, the train went at a good clip. I couldn't sleep. I was overwhelmed by the momentousness of what was happening to me. I was truly in the West...heading toward America. After all the years of pretending to believe things that I didn't, of acting a part, maybe I would never have to pretend again."

Set in the cruel years of Hungary's Nazi occupation and subsequent Communist regime, Swimming Across is the stunning childhood memoir of one of the leading thinkers of our time, the legendary Intel chairman.

The story of Andris Grof---later to become Andy Grove---begins in the 1930s, on the banks of the Danube. Here, in Budapest, young Andris lives a middle-class existence with his secular Jewish parents. But he and his family will be faced with a host of staggering obstacles. After Andris nearly loses his life to scarlet fever at the age of four, his family is forced to deal with the Nazi occupation of Hungary. Fleeing the Germans, Andris and his mother find refuge with a Christian family in the outskirts of Budapest and then hide in cellars from Russian bombs. After the nightmare of war ends, the family rebuilds its business and its life, only to face a new trial with a succession of repressive Communist governments. In June 1956, the popular Hungarian uprising is put down at gunpoint. Soviet troops occupy Budapest and randomly round up young people. Two hundred thousand Hungarians follow a tortuous route to escape to the West. Among them is the author...

Combining a child's sense of wonder with an engineer's passion for detail, Grove recreates a Europe that has since disappeared. From the Nazis' youthful victims innocently exulting in a "put the Jews in the ghetto" game...to a May Day march through Budapest under the blaring strains of prerecorded cheers...to the almost surreal scenes of young escapees securing the help of a hunchbacked peasant and his fantastically beautiful, colorfully costumed wife, he paints a vivid and suspenseful, personal and cultural portrait.

Within these pages, an authentic American hero reveals his origins in a very different place during a very different time. He explores the ways in which persecution and struggle, as well as kinship and courage, shaped his life. It is a story of survival---and triumph.

Chapter One
My Third Birthday

THE SEARCHLIGHTS were like white lines being drawn on the cloudy evening sky. They moved back and forth, crossing, uncrossing, and crisscrossing again. People around me had their faces turned up to the sky, their eyes anxiously following the motion of the white lines. My mother said that they were practicing looking for planes.

I paid no attention to them. I was taking my new car out for its first drive.

My car was a tiny version of a real sports car. I could sit in it and drive it around by pushing up and down on foot pedals and steering with a real steering wheel. It looked exactly like my uncle Jozsi's sports car, except that his was white and mine was red. Red was a lot more fun.

Jozsi and I had taken our sports cars to a promenade on the banks of the Danube River. I drove my car up and down, weaving between the legs of the people out for a stroll. It seemed more crowded than usual. Jozsi kept encouraging me to go faster and faster, then ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

The intelligence, dedication and ingenuity that earned him fame and fortune are evident early on. He deftly balances humor e.g., subversive anti-Communist jokes from Hungary with insight into overcoming endless obstacles. Though lacking in drama, Grove's story stands smartly amid inspirational literature by self-made Americans.

Booklist - David Rouse

[A] moving and inspiring memoir .... the story of Andras Grof, a young Hungarian boy who barely survived scarlet fever, hid from Nazis in the Budapest basement of a sympathetic Christian family, suffered anti-Semitic taunts as a youth, fled his homeland as Soviet tanks advanced during the Hungarian uprising of 1956, and sailed off alone at the age of 20 to the U.S.--where Grove's narrative ends as he starts school in New York and begins to make his way in a new country. Grove's account of life in Hungary in the 1950s is a vivid picture of a tumultuous period in world history.

Library Journal - Lawrence R. Maxted

His simple, evenhanded, almost unemotional writing style stands in stark contrast to the events around him, making them seem all the more horrific. While this memoir presents no broad political or historical insights, it is a poignant reminder of the great suffering that took place during the middle part of the last century. This excellent book is recommended for all public libraries.

Kirkus Reviews

.... more than a few readers will find their eyes welling up when Grof's mother asks young Andris, who has zealously hidden his identity during the war, to recite a Jewish prayer to a newly arrived Russian soldier. Grove, though, maintains a steady hand and keeps the tear-jerking to a minimum. The outcome, while not earth-shattering--and possibly self-indulgent on occasion--is a polished, solid portrait of a particular time and place.

Author Blurb Tom Brokaw
Haunting and inspirational. It should be required reading in schools.

Author Blurb George Soros
This honest and riveting account gives a fascinating insight into the man who wrote Only the Paranoid Survive.

Author Blurb Monica Seles
Andy Grove is a tremendous role model, and his book sheds light on his amazing journey. I would choose him as my doubles partner any day!

Author Blurb Richard North Patterson
Combines a unique and often harrowing personal experience with the virtues of fiction at its most engrossing-vivid scenes, sharply delineated characters, and an utterly compelling narrative...a wonderful reading experience.

Author Blurb Elie Wiesel
A poignant tale leading to human courage and hope.

Author Blurb Henry Kissinger
A poignant memoir...a moving reminder of the meaning of America and the grit and courage of a remarkable young man who became one of America's phenomenal success stories.

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