In his novels and diaries testified Nobel laureate Imre Kertész on totalitarianism and the Holocaust-black absurdity. As the Hungarians, he had experienced both Nazism and Communism, but he was dismayed even by today’s growing nationalism.
The author Imre Kertész was born in Budapest in 1929. In the end of the war in 1944 was deported 800,000 Hungarian Jews to the extermination camps; 15-year-old Imre Kertesz was one of them. As raised in a secular jew family, he often testified that the Nazis made him a Jew.
“1961st It is a year since I started writing the novel. Everything has to be thrown away. “So begins” Galärdagbok “by Imre Kertész; the book was published in Sweden in 2002, the same year as the Hungarian writer won the Nobel Prize in Literature. It is typical self-critical, but also ironic lines of Kertész, meaning the debut novel that would eventually make him famous: “Fatelessness” from 1975. A young boy tells of the deportation in 1944, the selection, the meager food rations, fellow prisoners, the labor camp Buchenwald and the unlikely liberation. “Fatelessness” is a linear story about how a person gradually breaks down ( “Step by Step” was the congenial title of “Fatelessness” when the novel was first published in Sweden in 1985).
in a radio interview, Imre Kertész declared that he wanted to talk about themselves, and therefore he stripped away most of autobiography in the novel; he would rather talk about what happens to a human in a totalitarian system. The process itself – the gradual breakdown of the individual, explaining the minor, förbarnsligandet. They do not understand what is happening. To survive you have to adapt. One day suddenly stops this dictatorship; from one day to the other one is exempt. Life is absurd, it is no wonder that you as readers sometimes think that you are in a novel by Kafka during the reading of Kertész’s books, incidentally, his household gods.
Imre Kertész takes with him from Auschwitz is a view of life which he will return to the book after book. Kertész can not see Auschwitz as something defined, an exception. Auschwitz was only a logical consequence of the then European society, an authoritarian, militaristic, patriarchal system; somewhere in his writings associate Kertész paternity of Auschwitz; in the author’s view of a father, he is an oppressor. Auschwitz is not a turning point, the way to treat fellow human beings as means to achieve a particular purpose, including al-Qaeda used when they attacked the World Trade Center September 11, 2001, says Kertész in the radio interview.
After Buchenwald return Kertész to Budapest, he will earn a living as a journalist, translator and writer revue. 15 years after the liberation, in 1960, he begins the novel “The Man Without a fate.” In 13 years he collects facts and background to be able to recover Auschwitz. When the book comes out in Hungary in 1975 it passes almost unnoticed. The subject fiasco will be toured in every possible way in the meandering novel “Fiasco” (2000), about a middle-aged man – with the experience of deportation during the war – who writes a novel about these experiences, which will be refused in a country – Hungary – which stands unsympathetic to the book’s content. The protagonist Köves even use the word failure to describe the fact that he did not like 15-year-old died in the extermination camp; He should have died, as it says in the novel, because society sanctioned his death.
The name Köves can be derived from the Hungarian word requirements and obligations; he is one of the survivors of the Holocaust and he is obliged to write: it is his joyless duty, because he was not good at anything else. There is only an excuse for his miserable existence: writing. Just this theme recurs Kertész to book after book, but the view of writing is not necessarily “joyless duty”. In an interview, he says that everyone asks him about Auschwitz, when it would be better “ask him to tell you about the secret joy of writing”.
Auschwitz experience and perception of Imre Kertész giving the datum that characterizes all the books; The third novel – “Kaddish for an unborn child” (1996) – could never have occurred without the Auschwitz because the middle-aged Jewish man in the book do not want to turn their survival to triumph by bringing children into the world. Rather continue executioners work by “killing” her unborn child; in a winding, at times sarcastic, at times self-deprecating or self-contradictory monologue utslungar he’s NO! No to bringing children into the world, no to fatherhood – a father uprising that means that he never wants to be the “father, fate, god of another human being.”
During the reading of “Galärdagbok”, that the diary as Imre Kertész writes alongside his other books for 30 years, it becomes clear that Kertész treats the imprint that the totalitarian systems has left in him. “Galärdagbok” reminiscent in many ways of the novels that make up the debut novel by birth, that is, “Fiasco,” “Kaddish for an unborn child,” but also “Liquidation” which is another tournament of the author’s complicated relationship with survival. I will return to the novel.
“Fatelessness” is a straight narrated the story of a boy’s deportation and camp stay, a story that never deviates from 15-year-old dazed and startled perspective, other books by Kertész far more multi-layered; they seem to be several pages of the author who constantly resonate with each other.
The models for the often dystopian, yet comical, expositions are not hard to find in the “Galärdagbok”, in which he often returns to Kafka but also Beckett and Camus. Man is ejected in an absurd, godless existence. The starting point is the experience of totalitarian systems in which people’s life choices are dictated by the dictatorship; Kertész’ve experienced both Nazism and Soviet Communism.
In his Nobeltal describes Imre Kertész that he chose to remain in Hungary after the crushing of the 1956 uprising for linguistic reasons. “This time I could then observe, not as a child but as an adult, how a dictatorship functions. I saw how capable a people denying their ideals, I saw the first signs of adaptation, I understood that hope is an instrument of evil service, and that the Kantian categorical imperative, an ethical approach, only self-preservation complaisant servant. ”
Next diary project, begun after 1991, called “another” (2003) and the struggling writer incessantly with their identity, both Jewish and Hungarian. The diary describes a post-communist Europe. At no time should Kertész attend an author reading and accessed by the message that the Hungarian Government does not consider him representative of Hungarian intellectuals because he only has a subject, that is Auschwitz. Not only did the author recalls how the Nazis made him a Jew, now he remembers well the silence that surrounded him at the date of the earlier books, he is also not Hungarians; He is a stranger in his own country. The only identity, with any degree of sustainability, he finds are writing.
Kertész is in the diary to terms with Hungary in its lack of history does not seem to want to admit his involvement in the Holocaust, the fact that the Hungarian Arrow Cross was assisting with collecting the 800,000 Hungarian Jews for forwarding to the death camps; just because one is inclined to repeat the patterns that allowed Nazism. He writes, for example, about the xenophobia that again rears its ugly head in Hungary.
The novel “Liquidation” (2004) can be said to end the suite of Auschwitz / Holocaust. For once, it is not a middle-aged jew writer as for the word, but a ditto publishing editor and lecturer. The author as such (there must always be a writer in Kertész’s novels) is absent, it turns out that he has taken his life. In a way, pointedly, he may personalize the subject Auschwitz. It turns out to be is born in Auschwitz and he hit adulthood Judith, who also has Jewish ancestry, the mother has died of an illness she suffered in Auschwitz and his father is one of the survivors.
varied once again the theme of “Kaddish for an unborn child” because Bé Judith deny a child the same reasons as the middle man in the earlier novel: it must not transform the survival of victory and triumph by bringing children into the world. The author also goes in the “Liquidation” a step further by letting the protagonist, the author of Be, tricking the extermination machinery that allowed him to run by taking his own life. “Liquidation” also includes the hunt for a missing manuscript that it proves that the fire / flames – at the author’s request to Judith – “liquidated”, for the novel “by the fire /…/ get there where it should be …” .
Thanks to the eminent translator Ervin Rosenberg’s diligence, there are several books by Imre Kertész available in Swedish. The space will allow me just to mention one more pair. “The English Flag” (2008) describes the short, intense, hopeful period between the two disasters in Hungary, the protests against the authoritarian Stalinist regime grew into a popular uprising in 1956, which, however, after a week was crushed by the Soviet army. In “The Exiled Language” (2007) notes Kertész with dismay how his countrymen manages their newfound freedom: it is the same old stale nationalism again rises from the colossus ruins, he said.
There is no doubt Imre Kertész came to belong to our time’s strongest and most important central European voices, he was – in spite of the Hungarian government’s deception – an obvious representative of the Hungarian intellectual elite. Through its consistent, relentlessly challenging writing has Kertész problemised some of the 1900s main topics: totalitarianism, Auschwitz, the Holocaust and the complex issue of human existence and identity.
Erik Löfvendahl is the author.