My Life with a Good Communist

Jo Langer

Published: 3 March 2011
Trade Paperback, Demy PB
135x216mm, 208 pages
ISBN: 9781847083388


Jo Langer and her husband Oscar were committed communists; she Hungarian, he Slovakian. During the Second World War the couple, both Jewish, escaped to America. Most members of their extended family were murdered in the Holocaust. After the war, they returned to Czechoslovakia to help build communism. She worked for state exports in Bratislava; he was an economist working for the Central Committee. In 1951 Oscar Langer was arrested and detained as part of the anti-Semitic purge of the Communist Party that culminated in the infamous Slánkský trials. He was subjected to solitary confinement, threats against his family, unbearable cold and hunger, anti-Semitic abuse and beatings. In the end, he submitted. In a statement dictated by his interrogators he said, 'I confess that I am an important link in the anti-state conspiracy of Zionists and Jewish bourgeois nationalists'. Jo Langer lost her job, and was exiled to the countryside. In Convictions, she vividly describes trying to her protect her two daughters and scrape a living, surviving the loss of her husband, her place in society and her faith in communism. Oscar Langer died shortly after his release from prison. Jo Langer left Czechoslovakia during the Prague Spring in 1968, and went into exile in Sweden.

About the author

Image of Jo Langer

Jo Langer was born in Budapest in 1912. In 1934 she married a young communist militant, Oskar Langer, and they moved to his homeland, Czechoslovakia. In 1938 they escaped the Holocaust by emigrating to the US, returning to their home in Czechoslovakia after the war. Oskar Langer was arrested and imprisoned in 1951, and died not long after his release ten years later. After the Soviet invasion in 1968, Jo Langer emigrated with her family once more, this time to Sweden. She died in 1990. More about the author


‘A lost classic, long out of print, this is one woman's remarkable story of eking out a life for herself and her daughters in the totalitarian state of 1950s Communist Czechoslovakia’



‘A remarkable document of ordinary life, during the "real socialism" ... and on the generosity of those who, without wanting to pose as mankind's saviours, are brave enough to take risks and help others’

‘A story admirable for its modesty and violence, which, while recounting a terrible political adventure, never stops speaking to us of life, of men and women, their meetings and their wounds ... It seems to me that in the period we live in, only a few books still have the power to affect us and persuade us to discuss the ways and faces of socialism’

‘Impassioned, intimate and fiercely intelligent, Convictions gives us renewed insight into the terrible costs of political repression for individual lives. Jo Langer's memoir is a deeply affecting story of a marriage marred by ideological fervour, an act of historical witnessing, and an example of true moral resistance’ Eva Hoffman

‘Jo Langer's book does not bemoan a shattered life. Well written, with a complex chronological structure worthy of a novel, it provides a testimony, unblinded by ideology, of a capacity to survive inhuman adversities as well as a moving witness of the times’ Igor Hajek

‘Langer is excellent on the culture shock of working for the Party ... Langer's story is shocking, yet her tone is surprisingly calm. She knows only too well the importance of clarity when telling a story like this’

‘Langer's writing is heartfelt, fiercely intelligent and witty, and it, importantly, manages to completely avoid sensationalism ... An unquestionable classic’ Rebecca Isherwood

‘Rarely have I read a characterisation filled with so much trouble and misery, carried off by such stubbornness, warm-hearted humour and an almost irrepressible vitality’

‘Reads like a wonderful cross-breeding of George Eliot, non-fictional Kafka and Edgar Allan Poe ... She is most fluent when describing her own convictions which, paradoxically, is of the utter destructiveness of unquestioning faith ... splendid’ Sally Vincent

‘This book is more than a record of bravery, humour and resilience in the face of a brutal regime, and certainly not a paean to an innocent man unjustly imprisoned. It is an angry riposte to the simplifications and absolutism of the convictions her husband held and never relinquished, and a vigorous repudiation of the erasure of the individual under the forms of totalitarian Communism that she knew... This book is in part a continuation of a long and entrenched marital argument. It is also a valuable witness both to the struggles of life in the first twenty years of Czechoslovak Communism, and to the difficulty of living by, and with, strong convictions’ Kathryn Murphy

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