Fatelessness: Imre Kertész (Hungarian)
Posted by Frank Burns
Imre Kertész spent time in both Auschwitz and Buchenwald in his teens and, unlike most of the internees, survived the ordeal. This novel, published in 1975, is semi-autobiographical, and is the story of a 14 year old Jewish boy who survived the brutal experience of three different camps. His survival was the unwitting result of him lying about his age, which saved him from the gas chamber and consigned him to forced labour for the duration of his internment. His recovery from a near-death illness coincided with the liberation of the camps at the end of the war, and the closing pages cover his return to Budapest and his attempt to pick up the pieces of his shattered life.
By its very nature, this is a story that will touch the heart. It takes us down into the very depths of human tragedy, but all the while there is a sense of approaching catharsis that will release all the pent up emotions and take us back to a world that has seemingly been untouched by the brutality of ethnic discrimination. Kertész’s prose, unfortunately, befuddles the reader with over long sentences, built up on too many dependent clauses, sometimes lasting for half a page. But the effort to stay with the narrative pays dividends as you explore the inhumane world of extermination camps through the innocent eyes of a young teenager.
Imre Kertész was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2002 “for writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history”.