Imre Kertesz

The native form of this personal name is Kertész Imre. This article uses the Western name order.
Imre Kertész
Born November 9 1929 (1929-11-09) (age 89)
Budapest, Hungary
Occupation Novelist
Notable award(s) Nobel Prize in Literature
Kertész (right) with a friend

Imre Kertész (IPA: [imrɛ ˈkɛrteːs]) (born November 9, 1929, Budapest) is a Hungarian Jewish author, Holocaust concentration camp survivor, and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature[1] in 2002 "for writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history."


The Holocaust was a defining moment not only for Jewish people but for Western civilization in general. The history of Jews in Europe was problematic, from the Spanish Inquisition to the Russian pogroms, creating conflict within the Jewish community over remaining separate or assimilating as a strategy to deal with anti-semitic hostilities. However, the incomprehensibility over the horrific nature of the Holocaust both shook the faith of many, while also giving impetus to the creation of the state of Israel.


He was born on November 9, 1929 in Budapest, Hungary[2]. At age 14 he was deported with other Hungarian Jews during World War II to the Auschwitz concentration camp[2].

"In his youth Kertész experienced the horrors of the Nazi system. Germans occupied Hungary in 1944 and began exterminating Jews and Gypsies. Kertész was deported together with 7,000 Hungarian Jews from Budapest to Auschwitz and from there to Buchenwald. "I am a nonbelieving Jew," Kertész has said in an interview. "Yet as a Jew I was taken to Auschwitz." In the factory of death Kertész suddenly realized that he could be killed anywhere at any time. This existentialist moment became crucial for him as a writer.

In 1945 Kertész was liberated by the Allied forces. After returning to Hungary, he worked as a journalist for Világosság, a Budapest newspaper. When the newspaper adopted orthodox Communist ideology, Kertész was dismissed. Between 1951 and 1953 Kertész served in the army, and then devoted himself entirely to writing.

During the Hungarian uprising of 1956, some 200,000 people fled to the West. Literary life did not return to normality until 1963."[3]

"On his return to Hungary he worked for a Budapest newspaper, Világosság, but was dismissed in 1951 when it adopted the Communist party line. After two years of military service he began supporting himself as an independent writer and translator of German-language authors such as Nietzsche, Hofmannsthal, Schnitzler, Freud, Roth, Wittgenstein, and Canetti, who have all had a significant influence on his own writing."[4]

Kertész' best-known work, Fatelessness (Sorstalanság), describes the experience of 15-year-old György (George) Köves in the concentration camps of Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Zeitz. Some have interpreted the book as quasi-autobiographical, but the author disavows a strong biographical connection. His writings translated into English include Kaddish for a Child Not Born (Kaddis a meg nem született gyermekért) and Liquidation (Felszámolás). Kertész initially found little appreciation for his writing in Hungary[2] and moved to Germany. Mr. Kertész started translating German works into Hungarian[2] and did not publish another novel until the late 1980s. He continues to write in Hungarian and submits his works to publishers in Hungary.

A film based on his novel Fatelessness was made in Hungary in 2005 for which he wrote the script[5]. Although sharing the same title, the movie is more autobiographical than the book. The film was released at various dates throughout the world in 2005 and 2006.

Political views on the Magyar minority in Romania

In a petition addressed to European and Romanian leaders, Kertész requested the opening of a separate Hungarian-language (Magyar) university to serve the 1.5 million-strong Hungarian minority in Romania. In an article published on 22 February, 2006 by the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, "Ceauşescu's Institute," Kertész launched a virulent attack against the Babeş-Bolyai University in the city Cluj-Napoca in the Transylvanian region of Romania, calling the university "a relic of the national-socialist era."



Hungarian edition of Fateless

Author Imre Kertész
Original title Sorstalanság
Country Hungary
Language Hungarian
Genre(s) Autobiographical novel
Publisher Vintage
Released 1975
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback)
ISBN ISBN 9631423883

Fateless or Fatelessness (Hungarian: Sorstalanság, lit. "Fatelessness") is a novel by Kertész written between 1960 and 1973 and first published in 1975.

The novel is a semi-autobiographical story about a 15-year-old Hungarian Jew's experiences in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps. The book is the first part of a trilogy, which continues in A kudarc ("Fiasco" ISBN 0810111616) and Kaddis a meg nem született gyermekért ("Kaddish for an Unborn Child" ISBN 1400078628).

The book was first published in English in 1992 as Fateless, while in 2004 a second translation appeared under the title Fatelessness.

Plot summary

The novel is about a young Hungarian boy, György "Gyuri" Köves, living in Budapest. The book opens as Georg's father is being sent to a labor camp. Soon afterwards, Georg receives working papers and travels to work outside of the Jewish quarter. One day all of the Jews are pulled off of the buses leaving the Jewish quarter, and are sent to Auschwitz on a train without water. Arriving there, Georg lies about his age, unknowingly saving his own life, and tells us of camp life and the conditions he faces. Eventually he is sent to Buchenwald, and continues on describing his life in a concentration camp, before being finally sent to another camp in Zeitz. Georg falls ill and nears death, however, he remains alive and is eventually sent to a hospital facility in a concentration camp until the war ends. Returning to Budapest, he is confronted with those who were not sent to camps and had just recently began to hear of the terrible injustices and suffering.


Strong lines can also be drawn to Franz Kafka's writings, especially his famous novel, The Trial. Georg's justifications of all that is happening around him bears a striking resemblance of Josef K.'s eventual acceptance of his own fate. They both document the fragile life of an individual caught up in a system that is beyond their control, a system which is irrational and inhospitable to the human spirit, but which requires the individual to try to make some sense of in order to avoiding descending into total madness.


"Imre Kertész was awarded the Brandenburger Literaturpreis in 1995, the Leipziger Buchpreis zur Europäischen Verständigung in 1997, the Herder- Preis and the WELT-Literaturpreis in 2000, the Ehrenpreis der Robert-Bosch-Stiftung in 2001, and the Hans Sahl-Preis in 2002. His works have been translated into numerous languages, including German, Spanish, French, English, Czech, Russian, Swedish, and Hebrew." Kertész won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2002, "for writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history." [6]


  • Fateless (Sorstalanság) 1975. English Translations:
  • A nyomkereső 1977.
  • Detektívtörténet 1977.
  • A kudarc (1988)
  • Kaddis a meg nem született gyermekért 1990. English Translations:
  • Kaddish for an Unborn Child, tr. Tim Wilkinson, 2004, ISBN 1400078628
  • Kaddish for a Child Not Born, tr. Christopher C. Wilson and Katharina M. Wilson, 1999. ISBN 0810111616
  • Az angol lobogó 1991.
  • Gályanapló (1992.
  • A holocaust mint kultúra : három előadás 1993.
  • Jegyzőkönyv / Imre Kertész ; Élet és Irodalom / Esterházy Péter 1993.
  • Valaki más: a változás krónikája 1997.
  • A gondolatnyi csend, amíg a kivégzőosztag újratölt 1998.
  • A száműzött nyelv 2001.
  • Felszámolás {Liquidation) 2003.

Works of Imre Kertész in English

  • Fatelessness. translated by Tim Wilkinson. New York: Knopf, 2004.
  • Fateless. translated by Christopher C. Wilson and Katharina M. Wilson: Northwestern University Press, 1992. ISBN 0810110490
  • Kaddish for an Unborn Child. translated by Tim Wilkinson: Vintage, 2004. ISBN 1400078628
  • Kaddish for a child not born. translated by Christopher C. Wilson and Katharina M. Wilson. Evanston, IL: Hydra Books, 1997. ISBN 0810111616
  • Liquidation. translated by Tim Wilkinson: Knopf, 2004. ISBN 1400041538
  • Detective Story. translated by Tim Wilkinson: Harvill Secker, 2008. ISBN 1846551838
  • The Pathseeker. translated by Tim Wilkinson: Melville House, 2008. ISBN 9781933633534


  1. The Nobel Prize in Literature 2002 - Imre Kertész The Nobel Foundation[1] accessdate October 19, 2008
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 "Imre Kertész" Encyclopædia Britannica [2]. accessdate 2008-02-09
  3. Imre Kertész kirjasto. Retrieved October 19, 2008.
  4. Imre Kertész Biography Retrieved October 19, 2008.
  5. Alan Riding, January 3, 2006, The Holocaust, From a Teenage View. The New York Times Film Forum: a Reader's view: [3]. accessdate 2008-02-08
  6. Imre Kertész Biography Retrieved October 19, 2008.


All links Retrieved October 19, 2008.

  • Molnár, Sára. "Nobel in Literature 2002 Imre Kertész's Aesthetics of the Holocaust." CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 5.1 (2003) [4] ISSN 1481-4374
  • Tötösy de Zepetnek, Steven. "And the 2002 Nobel Prize for Literature Goes to Imre Kertész, Jew and Hungarian." CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 5.1 (2003) [5] ISSN 1481-4374
  • Tötösy de Zepetnek, Steven. "Imre Kertész's Nobel Prize, Public Discourse, and the Media." CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 7.4 (2005) [6] ISSN 1481-4374
  • Vasvári, Louise O. and Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek. eds. Imre Kertész and Holocaust Literature. West Lafayette: Purdue University Press, 2005. ISBN 9781557533968 (Purdue Books in Comparative Cultural Studies 8.) The first English-language volume on Kertész including papers by scholars in Canada, Croatia, France, Germany, Hungary, New Zealand, and the United States. It also includes the first English edition of a text by Imre Kertész, "Galley Boat-Log (Gályanapló): Excerpt(s)" translated by Tim Wilkinson, a review article about books on Jewish Identity and anti-Semitism in Central Europe by Barbara Breysach, and a bibliography of Imre Kertész's works. [7][8].

External links

All links retrieved February 27, 2018.


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