Twelve-year-old Robi Singer has not yet been circumcised — not an uncommon state of affairs in mid-1950’s Hungary, but now, with his bar mitzvah approaching, the pressure is on. A self-proclaimed Hungarian Communist Jew-for-Christ, Robi lives during the week in a spare, chronically underheated Jewish school located within a state orphanage. On Fridays he returns home to the shabby two-room apartment that he shares with his eccentric, communist grandmother and his agoraphobic, hyper-hypochondriacal mother — seventeen illnesses at last count — whom he accompanies to The Brotherhood of Jews for Christ on Sunday mornings.
Day after day, Mother and Uncle Moric conduct their secret love affair in the bedroom of the small apartment while at her job at the Kerchief Dyers’ Cooperative, Grandmother schemes to make ends meet. Robi himself has started writing love poems for a fourteen-year-old cousin. And always, the circumcision lurks in the background. Plainly, with affection and gentle irony, author Gyorgy Dalos paints a warm comic picture of Jewish life in Budapest during the Stalinist regime of Matyas Rakosi.
Gyorgy Dalos was born in Budapest in 1943 and now lives in Germany. In 1968 he was arrested for “activities against the state” and banned from publication for the next nineteen years. Hungarian-born translator, Judith Sollosy, lives in New York.