So Then the Book
First, we found this photo among my grandfather's things in the US, where he had emigrated from Hungary in 1931:
Three of the faces were familiar. Who was the fourth? A brother who had died? A cousin?
And then, in the very detailed diaries my grandfather kept, an unknown name appeared: Árpád.
Who was Árpád? Why did his name appear so regularly, but without explanations?
The only relative still alive who could answer our questions was János (pronounced YA-noash), my grandfather's youngest brother, who had immigrated to Argentina from Transylvania in 1949. The questions seemed rather innocent. But János had made it clear he did not want us to ask.
In 1994, at the age of 20, I traveled to Argentina from the US to ask János these questions in person. At the time, János was 84 and his health was precarious. I felt I had nothing to lose by trying one last time.
The first time I knocked on János’ door, I only held the hope that he would at least agree to meet with me. I did not dare imagine he would converse about our family’s history. Despite his temper, I was willing to risk the questions.János opened his door to me. He stared me down with his menacing ice colored eyes. He grumbled quite a bit. He led me into his den. He listened to my first stuttered questions. And he decided to answer. From that moment on, János unfolded our family’s history from a shroud we never knew existed. By revealing the truth of Árpád, who was, in fact, a fourth brother, János revealed all that my grandfather hid once he stepped foot in America—our heritage, our identity.
After years of investigation, I not only had a very rich bit of history to relate—enthralling and unbelievable, as only true stories are—but I also had an immense accumulation of original letters, photographs, maps, memorabilia, and art work that illustrated our past. All this material converted itself into the clear way of sharing the story: When I decided to combine my preferred form of expression (collage) with our history and János's telling of it, the book in its current format was born. When János saw the very first collage book I made in English, he said:
"It is a lovely book. We must burn it."
But no. That's not what happened in the end.
As I never could have imagined, the book's most powerful enemy (Janos's wife) turned into its savior. In 2006, the book came to life as a limited edition artist's book in English, in the USA, entitled The János Book. In this format, the book has been purchased by a number of institutions, universities, libraries and private collectors in North America.
Now, eighteen years after I knocked on Janos's door for the first time, the circumstances are correct for the book to come to life in Spanish, in the country where it was investigated and created, in the country where its main character lived.
The story is told through 31 full color collages that integrate testimonies, photographs, original letters, paintings and memorabilia. By telling the story in this format, the reader becomes intimately involved with the interpretation of the characters and their decisions. While this unique format is engrossing, it is also very expensive to print.
Your support will make possible the printing of this full color book in Spanish in Argentina.
Your colaboration in spreading the word about this project will help heal something that János always repeated: "What happened to our family happened to millions of families all over the world."
And still happens.
"To rebel is to remember."
So then the book.
Entonces el libro:
20 x 30 cms, soft back cover
72 full color pages
Non-fiction, history, collage.
Translated by Gastón Sironi
See proposed cover design in photo gallery at the top of the page.