Imre Kertész

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Imre Kertész
Imre Kertész (1929-) Hungarian writer II. by Csaba Segesvári.JPG
Imre Kertész in Szeged (2007)
Born (1929-11-09) 9 November 1929 (age 92)
Budapest, Hungary
Occupation Novelist
Ethnicity Hungarian Jewish
Notable works Fatelessness
Kaddish for an Unborn Child
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Literature

Imre Kertész (Hungarian: [ˈimrɛ ˈkɛrteːs]; born 9 November 1929) is a Hungarian author, Holocaust concentration camp survivor, and recipient of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Literature, "for writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history".[1]


During World War II, Kertész was deported at the age of 14 with other Hungarian Jews to the Auschwitz concentration camp, and was later sent to Buchenwald.[2] His best-known work, Fatelessness (Sorstalanság), describes the experience of 15-year-old György (George) Köves in the concentration camps of Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Zeitz. Some have interpreted the book as quasi-autobiographical, but the author disavows a strong biographical connection. In 2005, a film based on the novel, for which he wrote the script, was made in Hungary.[3] Although sharing the same title, the film is more autobiographical than the book: it was released internationally at various dates in 2005 and 2006.

Kertész's writings translated into English include Kaddish for a Child Not Born (Kaddis a meg nem született gyermekért) and Liquidation (Felszámolás). Kertész initially found little appreciation for his writing in Hungary[2] and moved to Germany. Kertész started translating German works into Hungarian[2] — such as The Birth of Tragedy by Nietzsche, the plays of Dürrenmatt, Schnitzler and Tankred Dorst, the thoughts of Wittgenstein — and he did not publish another novel until the late 1980s.[3] He continues to write in Hungarian and submits his works to publishers in Hungary.

He criticized Steven Spielberg's depiction of the Holocaust in the 1993 film Schindler's List as kitsch, saying: "I regard as kitsch any representation of the Holocaust that is incapable of understanding or unwilling to understand the organic connection between our own deformed mode of life and the very possibility of the Holocaust."[4]


Kertész is a controversial figure within Hungary, especially because even though he is Hungary's first and only Nobel Laureate in Literature, he lives in Germany. This tension was exacerbated by a 2009 interview with Die Welt, in which Kertész vowed himself a "Berliner" and called Budapest "completely balkanized."[5] Many Hungarian newspapers reacted negatively to this statement, claiming it to be hypocritical. Other critics viewed the Budapest comment ironically, saying it represented "a grudge policy that is painfully and unmistakably, characteristically Hungarian."[6]

Kertész later clarified in a Duna TV interview that he had intended his comment to be "constructive" and called Hungary "his homeland."[6]

In November 2014 Kertész gave an interview for The New York Times. Kertész claimed the reporter was expecting him to question Hungary's democratic values and was shocked to hear Kertész say that "the situation in Hungary is nice, I'm having a great time". According to Kertész, "he didn't like my answer. His purpose must have been to make me call Hungary a dictatorship which it isn't. In the end the interview was never published".[6]

List of works

Hungarian works

  • Fateless (Sorstalanság) (1975). English Translations:
  • A nyomkereső (The Pathseeker) (1977)
  • Detektívtörténet (A Detective Story) (1977)
  • A kudarc (The Failure) (1988)
  • Kaddish for an Unborn Child (translated by Tim Wilkinson), 2004, ISBN 1-4000-7862-8
  • Kaddish for a Child Not Born (translated by Christopher C. Wilson and Katharina M. Wilson), 1999, ISBN 0-8101-1161-6
  • 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

Awards and honors

International prizes

Hungarian prizes

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 "The Nobel Prize in Literature 2002 – Imre Kertész". Retrieved 9 February 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 "Imre Kertész". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 9 February 2008. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |publisher= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. 3.0 3.1 Riding, Alan (3 January 2006). "The Holocaust, From a Teenage View". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 February 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Holocaust Reflections". Retrieved 31 January 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Kertészkedés". Retrieved 11 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Kertész birthday interview causes controversy". Hungarian Literature Online. Retrieved 11 May 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Hungarian_Literature_Online" defined multiple times with different content
  7. "WELT-Literaturpreis an Imre Kertész in Berlin verliehen". Buch Markt (in German). 10 November 2000. Retrieved 11 November 2012.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

  • Molnár, Sára. "Nobel in Literature 2002 Imre Kertész's Aesthetics of the Holocaust," CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 5.1 (2003)[1]
  • Tötösy de Zepetnek, Steven. "And the 2002 Nobel Prize for Literature Goes to Imre Kertész, Jew and Hungarian," CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 5.1 (2003)[2]
  • Tötösy de Zepetnek, Steven. "Imre Kertész's Nobel Prize, Public Discourse, and the Media," CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 7.4 (2005)[3]
  • Vasvári, Louise O., and Tötösy de Zepetnek, Steven, eds. Imre Kertész and Holocaust Literature. West Lafayette: Purdue UP, 2005.[4]
  • Vasvári, Louise O., and Tötösy de Zepetnek, Steven, eds. Comparative Central European Holocaust Studies. West Lafayette: Purdue UP, 2009.[5]

External links

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