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Reviewed by Jon Michael Miller for Readers' Favorite
Opposing Forces: A Memoir by Francis Mont is stated by the author to be “an intellectual autobiography” in which actual events are not as important as the “stages of development” that led to his final disillusionment. He traces these stages from Attila’s youth in communist Hungary through his defection to Canada via Finland and Sweden; through him and his wife Marta’s first exuberant taste of personal freedom; through the vicissitudes of career-building in the capitalist west; through the rude awakenings of professional competition, adoption, divorce, remarriage, job issues in computer engineering; and finally through a philosophical reflection of his life experience and its uncertain conclusion. He writes of his intellectual conflict between the opposing forces in his surreptitious reading of Orwell and Huxley versus the ironic nihilism of Kazohinia: Gulliver’s Travels among the Hins by Szathmári Sándor, a book by a Hungarian author that keeps popping up in the narrative.
Though Francis Mont insists that in his fictional memoir events are subservient to ideas, for me the most engaging parts of this captivating book are Atilla’s time as a youth in Budapest, his and Marta’s defection to the West, and their early years in freedom, relishing their mind-opening experiences in Sweden, Finland, Canada, and the States. Mr. Mont made me feel Atilla’s excitement and unfettered joy of the streets, parks, and neighborhoods of Toronto, the magnificence of Niagara Falls, his first sight of New York City from a helicopter, and his delight at the ease of entry into financial self-support. These descriptions made me feel a quiet satisfaction of having grown up taking such sensations for granted. Of course, the difficulties of adjusting to a new system soon come into play, and it is fascinating to watch Atilla's and Marta’s struggles as their new idealism is inevitably eroded by the challenges of capitalistic competition and its many injustices. I won’t tell you the results of Attila’s processing the opposing forces of Ayn Rand and Noam Chomsky, but this memoir ultimately ends not with communism vs. capitalism, East vs. West, but with the much more cosmic issues of despair vs. hope. For anyone wrestling with ideas of how to view humanity and its future, Opposing Forces: A Memoir by Francis Mont must be required reading.