1905-26 Budapest & Wien
I was born in Budapest, in the fifth year of this century, the only child of a Hungarian father and a Viennese
mother. My father was a prosperous industrialist until he went bankrupt during the inflation following the First
World War. Up to 1914 we lived in Budapest; during the war years partly, and after the war permanently, in Vienna.
At the age of twenty, one year before I was supposed to graduate from the Polytechnic in Vienna, I abandoned my
studies and became what in present parlance is called a drop-out. The decision was a sudden one, and its motivation,
seen in retrospect, appears to have been not so very different from the seemingly irrational impulsions of the
young in the last couple of decades. The common denominator is a feeling of absurdity, of living in a world which
makes no sense.
My parents were both of Jewish origin, but completely estranged from the Judaic religion and tradition, and I was
brought up in the same assimilated, liberal spirit. Nevertheless, as an undergraduate, I joined a Zionist duelling
fraternity, and became one of the founders of the Austrian branch of Jabotinsky's League of Zionist Activists.
Thus I came to Judaism from outside, as it were; a volunteer, rather, than a victim of persecution.
A few months after I broke off my studies, I set out for the Holy Land to join one of the early Kibbutzim - Heftzeba,
on Mount Gilboa - to till the soil of Utopia.
Koestler at 8