The Passport as Home
Comfort in Rootlessness
This is the story of an illustrious Romanian-born, Hungarian-speaking, Vienna-schooled, Columbia-educated and Harvard-formed, middle-class Jewish professor of politics and other subjects. Markovits revels in a rootlessness that offers him comfort, succor, and the inspiration for his life's work. As we follow his quest to find a home, we encounter his engagement with the important political, social, and cultural developments of five decades on two continents. We also learn about his musical preferences, from classical to rock; his love of team sports such as soccer, baseball, basketball, and American football; and his devotion to dogs and their rescue. Above all, the book analyzes the travails of emigration the author experienced twice, moving from Romania to Vienna and then from Vienna to New York.
Markovits's Candide-like travels through the ups and downs of post-1945 Europe and America offer a panoramic view of key currents that shaped the second half of the twentieth century. By shedding light on the cultural similarities and differences between both continents, the book shows why America fascinated Europeans like Markovits and offered them a home that Europe never did: academic excellence, intellectual openness, cultural diversity and religious tolerance. America for Markovits was indeed the "beacon on the hill," despite the ugliness of its racism, the prominence of its everyday bigotry, the severity of its growing economic inequality, and the presence of other aspects that mar this worthy experiment's daily existence.
About the Authors
"Perhaps the best that one may hope for sometimes is the richness of a life lived without such a destructive set of emotions, the worth of work that is grounded on logic and evidence, the support of people (as the author generously attests to in this memoir) from whom one can learn and with whom one can share insight and understanding. It is this record and these experiences, perhaps above all, which shine brightest out of this evocative memoir."—Philip Spencer, Fathom
"Markovits says his passport is his home. Yet there is an unmistakable warmth with which he describes the various academic institutions that have welcomed and supported him. He also describes the pleasures of discovering a new form of Jewish identity and learning to express that identity in ways that were unavailable in the Timişoara of his childhood. The 'un-belonging' he values does not seem to be the right description for his adult condition. Nor perhaps is 'rootlessness,' which suggests the lack of something life-giving and generative. Maybe we should see his story as one of gaining a new grounding in institutions and social bonds that could afford him the very independence and agency—in short, the freedom—he had long prized."—Steven Lukes, Dissent
"This evocative memoir takes us from boyhood in a multicultural neighborhood in communist Timioara and adolescence in Vienna to the tumult of '1968' at Columbia and thence to the magical margins of Harvard and finally the leafy streets of Ann Arbor, with many more transatlantic crossings and serendipitous chance encounters in between. A comparativist political sociologist unique in his attunement to cultural dynamics both high and low, Andrei Markovits lays unabashed claim to the identity of 'rootless cosmopolitan.' The book pays moving tribute to remarkable mentors, and captures with special sensitivity the distinctive perspectives of those extraordinary interlinked cohorts of intellectuals hailing from Central Europe who were either survivors themselves or had lost—as Markovits has—entire branches of family trees to the maws of Auschwitz. Most powerful, however, is Markovits' emphatic, infectiously joyous argument for the values of open-heartedness, empathy, curiosity, and compassion."—Dagmar Herzog
"This book offers a substantial and decisive contribution to the study of the social, political, and cultural developments of the second half of the twentieth century in the vein of similar biographical works such as Tony Judt's Thinking the Twentieth Century (2012) and George L. Mosse's Confronting History: A Memoir (2000). By telling the story of his life Andrei Markovits not only describes under which circumstances he achieved the role of a popular transatlantic intellectual and successful academic, but he gives us a personal yet also analytical insight into the theoretical and emotional complexity of events of both Jewish and universal history after Auschwitz. Additionally, the text provides a fine comparative study of America and Europe by being a fundamentally transatlantic endeavor which sheds light on the cultural similarities and differences between both continents."—Heiko Beyer
|Central European University Press|
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