Imre Kertész

Imre Kertész

Born: November 9, 1929, Budapest, Hungary
Died: March 31, 2016, Budapest, Hungary

Imre Kertész is a Nobel Prize winning author “for writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history.” (source)

Among his main themes is explaining accurately from the experience and reality of the Holocaust. When he was 14, he, along with other Hungarian Jews, was sent to the concentration camps Auschwitz and then to Buchenwald. This informs his books, most notable Fateless, which was later turned into an award-winning movie.

As the recipient of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Literature, Kertész has helped remind the world of the brilliant writing which comes from Hungary.

Hungarian works
Fateless (Sorstalanság) (1975).
A nyomkereső (The Pathseeker) (1977)
Detektívtörténet (A Detective Story) (1977)
A kudarc (The Failure) (1988)
Fiasco, 2011 (ISBN 1-9355-5429-8)
Kaddis a meg nem született gyermekért (1990).
Az angol lobogó (The Union Jack) (1991)
Gályanapló (Galley Boat-Log) (1992)
A holocaust mint kultúra: három előadás (The Holocaust as Culture: Three Lectures) (1993)
Jegyzőkönyv (The Minutes of Meeting) (1993)
Valaki más : a változás krónikája (Someone Other: The Cronicle of the Changing) (1997)
A gondolatnyi csend, amíg a kivégzőosztag újratölt (A Breath-long Silence, While the Firing Squad Reloads) (1998)
A száműzött nyelv (A Language in Exile) (2001)
Felszámolás (Liquidation) (2003)
K. dosszié (File “K.”) (2006)
Európa nyomasztó öröksége (Europe’s Depressing Heritage) (2008)
Mentés másként (2011)

English translations
Fatelessness (translated by Tim Wilkinson), New York: Knopf, 2004.
Fateless (translated by Christopher C. Wilson and Katharina M. Wilson), Northwestern University Press, 1992
Kaddish for an Unborn Child (translated by Tim Wilkinson), Vintage, 2004.
Kaddish for a Child Not Born (translated by Christopher C. Wilson and Katharina M. Wilson), Evanston, Illinois: Hydra Books, 1997.
Liquidation (translated by Tim Wilkinson), Knopf, 2004
Detective Story (translated by Tim Wilkinson), Harvill Secker, 2008.
The Pathseeker (translated by Tim Wilkinson), Melville House Publishing, 2008.
The Union Jack (translated by Tim Wilkinson), Melville House Publishing, 2010.
Fiasco (translated by Tim Wilkinson), Melville House Publishing, 2011.
Dossier K (translated by Tim Wilkinson), Melville House Publishing, 2013.

International prizes
2011: Grande Médaille de Vermeil de la ville de Paris
2009: Jean Améry Prize
2004: Corine Prize

photo credit: Frankl Aliona


Imre Kertész Biography

Imre Kertész was a Hungarian author and Holocaust survivor who was widely acclaimed for his profound and introspective literary works. He was born on November 9, 1929, in Budapest, Hungary.

Kertész’s early life was marked by the turbulent events of the 20th century. In 1944, at the age of 14, he and his family were deported to Auschwitz during the Holocaust. He later survived internment in Buchenwald concentration camp until liberation in 1945. These harrowing experiences had a profound impact on his worldview and would shape his literary career.

After World War II, Kertész returned to Hungary and worked as a journalist and translator. However, it was through his writing that he found his true calling. He began to explore the themes of personal identity, memory, and the individual’s relationship with history, often drawing from his own experiences during the Holocaust.

Kertész’s breakthrough came in 1975 when he published his semi-autobiographical novel, “Fatelessness” (“Sorstalanság” in Hungarian). The book, based on his experiences in Auschwitz, received critical acclaim both in Hungary and internationally. It provided a unique and introspective perspective on the Holocaust, delving into the psychological and existential struggles faced by its victims. “Fatelessness” is considered a classic of Holocaust literature and is widely regarded as Kertész’s masterpiece.

Following the success of “Fatelessness,” Kertész dedicated himself to writing full-time. His subsequent works, including “Kaddish for an Unborn Child” and “Liquidation,” continued to explore themes of trauma, memory, and the burdens of history. Kertész’s writing style was characterized by its concise and introspective prose, often reflecting the fragmented nature of memory and the complexities of human existence.

In 2002, Kertész was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for his “writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history.” The Nobel Committee recognized him as an author who, in the wake of the Holocaust, “with great linguistic resourcefulness, has explored the abyss and confronted the most inhuman aspects of history.”

Despite his international recognition, Kertész remained a somewhat enigmatic figure in Hungarian literature. His works were often met with controversy in his home country, where some critics accused him of being too critical of Hungarian society. Nevertheless, his impact on the literary world and his unwavering commitment to confronting the difficult truths of history were widely acknowledged.

Imre Kertész passed away on March 31, 2016, in Budapest, leaving behind a profound literary legacy. His works continue to resonate with readers around the world, challenging them to confront the complexities of the human condition and the enduring effects of historical trauma.

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