Fever at Dawn
Written by Péter Gárdos
Translated by Elizabeth Szász
Publication Date April 30, 2016
Twenty-five-year-old Holocaust survivor Miklós is being shipped from the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp to Gotland, Sweden, to receive treatment at the Larbro Hospital. Here he is sentenced to death again: he is diagnosed with tuberculosis and his doctors inform him that he has six months to live. But Miklós decides to wage war on his own fate: he writes 117 letters to 117 Hungarian girls, all of whom are being treated in the Swedish camps, with the aim of eventually choosing a wife from among them.
Two hundred kilometres away, in another Swedish rehabilitation camp, nineteen-year-old Lili receives Miklós’s letter. Since she is bedridden for three weeks due to a serious kidney problem, out of boredom — and curiosity — she decides to write back.
The slightly formal exchange of letters becomes increasingly intimate. When the two finally manage to meet, they fall in love and are determined to marry, despite the odds that are against them.
Based on the original letters written by Miklós and Lili (ninety-six altogether), Fever at Dawn is a tale of passion, striving, and betrayal; true and false friendships; doubt and faith; and the redeeming power of love.
PÉTER GÁRDOS was born in Budapest in 1948. He is a multiple-award-winning film and theatre director. As a director he has received more than twenty international awards at major film festivals, among them the Jury’s Special Award at the Montreal Film Festival and the Golden Hugo at the Chicago Film Festival. Based on the true story of his parents, Fever at Dawn is his first novel.
Elizabeth Szász is a freelance translator living in Budapest.
"A magnificent novel, tonally flawless, its humour defiant in the face of vast tragedy." Author of Gilgamesh, The Good Parents, and The Golden Age
"Fever at Dawn belongs to the canon of extraordinary true stories about love and war and the power of letters. Dramatic, compassionate, and deeply moving, this unforgettable story reminds us that the Holocaust is not only history, it’s a warning." Author of Prayer for the Stolen and Widow Basquiat: A Love Story
"Fever at Dawn is a riveting and high-spirited journey from the brink of death toward life, a novel that asserts the power of love in a world newly devastated by unspeakable hate. With courage, humour, and unfailing emotional honesty, Péter Gárdos illuminates the incredible power of the human will — the drive not just to stay alive, but to fight for a life worth celebrating." Julie Orringer, author of The Invisible Bridge
"Péter Gárdos gives us the extraordinary tale of his parents’ courage, faith and love in the aftermath of the Holocaust . . . This book is a testament to the power of good to heal broken spirits, of love to empower hope, and of faith to sustain a celebration of life that could be shared down the generations . . . Gárdos shows that we survive together. It is not the past but the sharing of our humanity that enables individuals and societies to build new futures. It is the decision to trust life’s goodness and to act from it that enables us to thrive collectively. This is a powerful story for all of us, for today." Dr. Edith Eva Eger, Clinical Psychologist, Auschwitz Survivor, and author of The Choice
"Books don’t make me cry. Fever At Dawn did. Drawing you in with pathos and playful wit,it squeezes the heart with sorrow and leaves it expanded with joy and love." Gabor Maté M.D.Author, In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters With Addiction
"The impossibly moving story of two damaged youths who forge from their amour fou a love that will light the decades ahead. With playfulness and charm, with iron conviction, Fever at Dawn will convince you that it’s possible not only to survive the worst of human hell, but to transcend it." Francisco Goldman, author of Say Her Name
"Like other writers of fictionalised memoir — Karl Ove Knausgaard and Elena Ferrante come to mind — Gardos’s novel gains an extra dimension when the narrative reverts into the present tense, and he movingly considers the words his parents don’t write to each other in their letters . . . There is a timeless quality to Fever at Dawn, a kind of classical romanticism. Trite as it sounds, bromides such as “love conquers all” carry real weight when written in the context of Lili and Miklos’s story. Gardos’s fascinating novel is sure to become a staple in book clubs." The Australian
"Deeply moving . . . There is little in this story of the horrors of Belsen and forced labour on starvation rations, and much of friendship, determined persistence, and transcendent love." Otago Daily Times
"[Fever at Dawn] has the sweetness of The Rosie Project and the pathos of The Fault in Our Stars . . . A book to fall in love with." The Herald Sun
"A poignant, ultimately uplifting story of how the longing for love and family can defy tragedy and terror." Sunday Express
"…for Peter Gardos, love wins. After everything that Miklos and Lili went through during the war, their optimism never died. There is the kind of nostalgia that has you yearning for your own younger days. Then there’s the kind that has you imagining the lives of your parents and grandparents, long before you were born. This book has that feeling of longing." Bookends, Newstalk 1010
"an epistolary love affair" National Post
"Both heartwarming and heart-wrenching, Gárdos’s first novel is a beautiful testament to his parents’ story of falling in love after impossible tragedy…. a tender and inspiring true story. Gárdos is a master here, telling his parents’ story with incredible delicacy and care…. A book best read with a box of tissues on hand, Fever at Dawn reminds us that there is always hope, and always something to live for, even in the darkest of days." Winnipeg Free Press
"heart-swelling novel…Though its context may seem grim, Fever at Dawn is full of joy, whimsy and gentle humour it’s Life is Beautiful, not Schindler’s List" Readers Digest Canada