Fatelessness by Imre Kertész (Translated by Tim Wilkinson) - review by John Murray

John Murray

Lost Innocence



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The Nobel Prize winner Imre Kertész bears close comparison to another Holocaust novelist, the Czech Arnošt Lustig. Like Lustig, he endured a number of concentration camps in his mid teens (they both went through Buchenwald and Auschwitz), and both have tried to convey the horror of their experiences through the eyes of their naive heroes. That said, they are very different writers. Put simply, Lustig is strongest at conveying the terrible pathos of those missing years, while Kertész excels at the analysis of a Holocaust victim’s state of mind both during and after the ordeal. The Hungarian writer is an expert at understatement and at shocking us with the candour of his observations. Here is his fourteen-year-old narrator Gyuri describing being herded into some brickyard stables just prior to his deportation to Auschwitz:

In the thick of it I felt a bit like laughing ... a sense of having been dropped in the middle of some crazy play in which I was not entirely acquainted with my role.

The sense of surreal farce never quite leaves Gyuri, not even when he is more dead

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