The May Beetles by Baba Schwartz | Black Inc.

The May Beetles: My First Twenty Years

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About the author

Baba Schwartz

Baba Schwartz was born in Hungary in December 1927. A survivor of the Holocaust, she migrated to Australia in the 1950s with her family, settling in Melbourne. The author of the memoir The May Beetles, she was also a born baker, renowned for …

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Praise for The May Beetles

‘Put down whatever you are reading and read this book. Baba, a charming, gifted and lively young companion, will take you back to a luminous childhood in Hungary before the war, will show you the darkening, and finally lead you to the gates of Hell. The human perversity on the other side of those gates remains incomprehensible, impenetrable to reason. But what Baba and her family embody – their antidote – is the durability of ordinary love.’ —Robyn Davidson

‘Baba Swartz is a storyteller whose voice is so natural you swear you are hearing it. When it tells of her joyful discovery of the wonders of the natural world, of human creativity and of human beings as the come, in all sorts, into her life as a child in Hungary, it’s a voice of strong, but delicate, vitality. Soon she was to suffer and witness the worst crimes known to human kind. Yet the voice that tells of those crimes is recognisably the same one that tells of the wonders of her childhood. She will not renounce her fidelity to those wonders and to the gift of happiness later in her marriage and children. That is the miracle of this book. It would not have been possible were it not for Baba's mother and sisters who suffered all with her, but especially her mother. As much as anything, May Beetles is an elegy to her.’ —Raimond Gaita

‘Told with the tempered calm of a born writer, Baba Schwartz’s memoir evokes the world of a Jewish Hungarian childhood, and brings us one of the great survival stories of the Second World War.’ —Joan London

‘A calmly personal account of a mighty cataclysm; astonishing in its dignity and composure, unforgettable in its sweetness of tone’ —Helen Garner

‘This book is testament to two miracles. First, of Baba’s survival. And second, of the survival within her of the girl - now an old woman -  who nevertheless perceives the world, utterly without sentiment, as a place of "inexhaustible sources of delight”. An important document of witness, survival and the quiet triumph of loving life despite what it has shown you.’ —Anna Funder

‘“Never again” was the promise. But are parents, politicians and teachers making sure this promise is kept? Reading and discussing The May Beetles and other equally fine and compelling recollections of the Holocaust, are powerful and immediate ways of honouring this promise.’ —Agnes Nieuwenhuizen, Weekend Australian

‘Her memory is astonishing and from the point of a reader, in its nuance and recall of detail, this makes the story utterly trustworthy throughout … Baba’s love of life shines through at every moment.’ —Robert Manne

‘This story is full of genuinely heart-stopping moments – compulsive reading, especially towards the end’ —Australian Book Review

‘Despite the suffering, Baba writes about this period with the same directness, freshness and honesty as she writes about her childhood, which was full of love and hope.’ —Australian Jewish News

‘Baba Schwartz’s clean, classical style – she is a natural – is matched by the poise with which she relates her tale: almost in the way a novelist observes a character - A superior memoir.’ —Pick of the Week, the Age

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