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People in Spite of History

Stories Found in an Attorney Archive in the Banat Region

Three generations of a family of lawyers have run a firm founded in 1893 in the small city of Becskerek (today in Serbian Zrenjanin), first part of the Austro-Hungarian Habsburg monarchy, then Hungary, then Yugoslavia, then for a while under German occupation, then again part of Yugoslavia and finally Serbia. In the Banat district of the province of Vojvodina, the multiplicity of languages and religions and changes of place-names was a matter of course.

What is practically unprecedented, all files, folders and documents of the law office have survived. They concern marriages, divorces, births and testaments, as well as expulsions, emigrations, incarcerations and releases of these largely rural and small-town dwellers. Mundane cases reflect times through war, peace, revolution and counter-revolution, through serfdom and freedom, through comfort and poverty. The files also show everyday lives shaped in spite of history. Tibor Várady transforms them into affecting and vivid vignettes, selecting and commenting without sentimentality but with empathy. The law office of the three generations of the Várady family demonstrates that the legal profession permits and in difficult times even requires its members to defend the ordinary men and women against the powers of state and society.

About the Authors

Tibor Várady is professor emeritus at Emory University, and professor emeritus at the Central European University. Parallel with his scholarly work, he published prose works and essays in several languages including fourteen literary books.

Reviews

"Várady earlier published accounts of some of these case files, first in Hungarian in 2013, then in Serbian in 2015, and then in German in 2016. Anglophones are fortunate now to have access. For a social historian, interest lies in what the cases reveal about the life of a multi-ethnic community living through difficult times. A lawyer reading the book will wonder how s/he would have dealt with the situations that confronted the Várady law firm. An introduction by Professor Richard Buxbaum, former editor of the American Journal of Comparative Law, notes the book's broader importance. It could well serve as a model for writers on law and social history, even those who do not have elders who practiced law through two world wars and one social revolution."—John Quigley, Law and History Review

Endorsements

"I have savoured every page and every incident, every detour, every aside and reflection, every analogy, every citation, every hesitation, doubt, backtrack,
correction, scruple, every judgment and absence of judgment. I share professionally (as a historical anthropologist), the attempt to bring back and understand people and places and circumstances. But what I especially appreciate is your profound and tender awareness of what you do not know, what we cannot know."—William A. Christian Jr.
Central European University Press

9789633864074 : people-in-spite-of-history-varady-buxbaum-boris
Hardback
342 Pages
$85.00 USD
9789633864593 : people-in-spite-of-history-varady-buxbaum-boris
Paperback / softback
342 Pages
$29.99 USD

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