During the early 1980s, when Tom Weidlinger, author of The Restless Hungarian: Modernism, Madness, and the American Dream (SparkPress), set out to plumb his father’s life, he already possessed a sheaf of astonishing stories. First and foremost, he knew that Paul Weidlinger counted among the towering figures in twentieth-century engineering, a man whose colleagues had included Le Corbusier and Saarinen; Picasso and Noguchi.
Tom knew, as well, about the close calls that masqueraded as adventures: Paul’s dalliances with Communism, and his shipboard escape from Europe as it fell to the Nazis. Like many intellectuals of his ilk, Paul was mischievous yet full of conviction. This combination attracted the attention of Tom’s mother, Madeleine, an artistic French romantic who would remain devoted to Paul even as she developed schizophrenia and their happiness waned.
As the story unfolds, Paul and Madeline flee to Bolivia and then to the U.S., where Paul plays a major part in the construction of postwar buildings, including the Manhattan headquarters for Seagram and CBS (also known as “Black Rock”). Two children are born: a girl named Michele, and Tom. Paul conducts the family like an orchestra, hoping that everything will stick despite his own emotional ineptitude. Sadly, that does not happen.
For Paul kept a secret: he was Jewish, and so was his “other” family – the father, stepmother, half-siblings, and cousins who stayed in Hungary and somehow survived the war. It is this revelation about Paul’s religion that drives the author’s reflections about Paul’s success, his parents’ marriage, and Michele’s alienation.
There are no answers in this book. It sweeps through the twentieth century with Paul leading the way, concealing his Jewish identity even as he reaches the pinnacle of success in his profession. Yet that story has given us this magnificent, if tragic, book. In shock and frustration, Tom Weidlinger has peeled back the layers but would like so much more from his father – explanations, understanding, and love.
The Restless Hungarian is now available.
About Tom Weidlinger
Tom Weidlinger is a writer and filmmaker who has been writing, directing and producing documentaries for 35 years. He began work on the manuscript and documentary, The Restless Hungarian, in late 2013.
In 1987 he founded Moira Productions and made the transition from working as a director for hire to independent filmmaker, developing and raising funding for Moira’s own films. He produced his first two archival documentaries for the PBS flagship series The American Experience. The Great San Francisco Earthquake premiered the first season.Twenty-one of his films have been broadcast on public television. Many have won festival and industry awards and all remain in distribution. For detailed information, including trailers, please visit http://moiraproductions.com/.