Mihai Grunfeld was born in Cluj, Romania where he lived
with his family until he was eighteen. In January 1969 he and his older
brother traveled to Czechoslovakia and from there escaped to Austria.
This was the beginning of a long journey, which took him to Israel,
Italy, Sweden, and Canada in search of a home in the West. Eventually
he settled in the United States where he is a professor of Spanish and
Latin American Literature at Vassar College.
Leaving — Memories of Romania
recounts the narrator’s childhood and adolescence as the son of
impoverished Holocaust survivors. His parents are unable to talk about
their past, but their lives — and the lives of their two sons — are
utterly shaped by it. As he comes of age, the narrator is increasingly
conscious of his parents’ profound loneliness, the glaring gaps in his
family’s history, and the questions that go unanswered. Gradually the
story of an innocent child’s tender, loving relationship with his
parents evolves into a powerful tale of complex family dynamics shaped
by adolescent experimentation, the daily grind of factory work,
anti-Semitism, and big dreams of escaping the politically restrictive
system in which he lives.