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Restoring His Father's History

Restoring His Father's HistoryA new book by Tufts' Joseph Hurka preserves the story of his father's life after it was erased nearly 60 years earlier.

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [08.09.01] An underground freedom fighter in the Czech Republic, Josef Hurka was erased from the history of his country by the Communist controlled Czech government in the late 1940s. Nearly 60 years later, Hurka's son Joseph completed a critically acclaimed memoir of Josef's life that not only told his story, but reclaimed his place in Czech history.

"The communists essentially erased my father from history," Joseph Hurka, a professor in Tufts' English Department, told the Lawrence Eagle Tribune. "I had the ability to write him back into history."

The book, entitled "Fields of Light," originally began as a freelance article for a national magazine, but transformed over an eight year period into the award-winning memoir.

According to The Boston Globe, Hurka "went through five full drafts -- and 17 partial rewrites -- before he felt the book was done."

His dedication to the project paid off.

The memoir won the prestigious Pushcart Press Editors' Book Award and earned praise from many critics.

"Part travelogue, part memoir, Joseph Hurka's 'Fields of Light' is a powerful and lovingly told tale of a son searching for his father's secrets in post-communist Prague," reported the Globe.

The newspaper, which published its review this week, also praised the book as simple, clear and riveting.

"It's deeply poetic," said Andre Dubus III, a fellow Tufts colleague and critically acclaimed author. "I think the prose is beautiful. And I think it's an honest, rigorous and thorough examination of just what his family went through in Czechoslovakia."

That may have been the most important part of the project for Hurka.

"I met a lot of people who had known my father, and they would says things like 'He was really something. All the things he did, (changed period to comma)'" Hurka told the Eagle Tribune. "And I'm thinking to myself, 'Well, I don't really know what he did.'"

So the author plunged into his father's past through a series of interviews and trips to the Czech Republic.

The result was "Fields of Light," which Publishers Weekly called poignant and gripping.

"In this era of memoirs that trace family dysfunction and the wounds children suffered at the hands of their parents, Hurka's tribute to his father is a welcome change," reported the literary magazine.

The finished project made both father and son proud.

"I would think people will see that somebody -- not only me -- but many others -- were involved in the underground fight against communism," Josef Hurka told the Globe. "Very many people paid with their lives ... But at the end they all would agree the sacrifice was worth it because today there is freedom."

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