Fatelessness by Imre Kertesz

Imre Kertész

Author I geb.1929 (Hungary) First edition l 1975

Publisher I Szépirodalmi Könyvkiadó Oorspr. title Fatelessness

Kertész’ novel was first rejected, but was published in 1975 in communist Hungary. When it was published, the book came up against complete silence. This is undoubtedly due to the main theme of Kertész’ work, which deals with the struggle of an individual confronted with the anonymous cruelty of the past. György Köves, a fifteen-year-old Jewish boy, is first sent to Auschwitz and then to Buchenwald. Upon arrival at the camp, Köves lies about his age and thus unconsciously escapes the gas chamber. This novel in the self-shape describes the survival mechanism of mankind. Kertész, who survived the Holocaust, called the novel autobiographical in form, but not autobiography. The linear narrative and the use of the present time place the reader in daily life in a concentration camp, with the boredom, the suffering and, like Köves after the war, shockingly determines, the “happiness. In this way, Unsullied by fate avoids objectivity and moral judgment. This novel asks questions in the aftermath of Auschwitz that must be answered in the present. As Kertész emphasizes, you can’t write about the Holocaust in the past tense. What does it mean to be Jewish? How do we free ourselves? Auschwitz is the zero point of European culture: it marks the death of God, the beginning of loneliness in a camps togetherness, and, surprisingly, the ability to fulfill a promise of salvation.