“Reading Around the World” Spotlight of the Month: “Fatelessness” by Imre Kertesz (1929-2016)

Imre Kertesz, a Hungarian novelist and a Nazi concentration camp survivor,  died on March 31, 2016, at age 86. In 2002 Kertesz was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature 2002 “for writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history”. He was the first Hungarian writer to receive the award.

In his Nobel lecture Imre Kertesz shared that as he was preparing for the lecture he received a letter the director of the Buchenwald Memorial Center.

“The envelope contained a copy of the original daily report on the camp’s prisoners for February 18, 1945. In the “Abgänge”, that is, the “Decrement” column, I learned about the death of Prisoner #64,921 – Imre Kertész, factory worker, born in 1927. The two false data: the year of my birth and my occupation were entered in the official registry when I was brought to Buchenwald. I had made myself two years older so I wouldn’t be classified as a child, and had said worker rather than student to appear more useful to them.

In short, I died once, so I could live. Perhaps that is my real story.”

UC Libraries’ collection has a number of works by Imre Kertesz in the English translation. Fatelessness (1975) is the author’s best known book. It describes the experience of a teenage boy in three concentration camps. A film based on the novel was released in 2005. The film is available through OhioLINK. Kertesz continued the Holocaust theme in his novels Fiasco (1988) and Kaddish for a Child Not Born (1990).

The book by Imre Kertesz is featured in our online Guide Reading Around the World at UC Libraries. The Guide provides samples of books from various countries of the world in English translations held by UC Libraries and OhioLINK member libraries. You are welcome to suggest books to be included into the Guide and/or be featured on the Guide’s home page.

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