The page of Kertész Imre, English biography

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Kertész Imre
(1929–)
2002

Biography

Imre Kertész was born in Budapest on November 9, 1929. Of Jewish descent, in 1944 he was deported to Auschwitz and from there to Buchenwald, where he was liberated in 1945. On his return to Hungary he worked for a Budapest newspaper, Világosság, but was dismissed in 1951 when it adopted the Communist party line. After two years of military service he began supporting himself as an independent writer and translator of German-language authors such as Nietzsche, Hofmannsthal, Schnitzler, Freud, Roth, Wittgenstein, and Canetti, who have all had a significant influence on his own writing.

Kertész's first novel, Sorstalanság (Eng. Fateless, 1992; see WLT 67:4, p. 863), a work based on his experiences in Auschwitz and Buchenwald, was published in 1975. "When I am thinking about a new novel, I always think of Auschwitz," he has said. This does not mean, however, that Sorstalanság is autobiographical in any simple sense: Kertész says himself that he has used the form of the autobiographical novel but that it is not autobiography. Sorstalanság was initially rejected for publication. When published eventually in 1975, it was received with compact silence. Kertész has written about this experience in A kudarc (1988; Fiasco). This novel is normally regarded as the second volume in a trilogy that begins with Sorstalanság and concludes with Kaddis a meg nem született gyermekért (1990; Eng. Kaddish for a Child Not Born, 1997; see WLT 74:1, p. 205), in a title that refers to the Jewish prayer for the dead. In Kaddis a meg nem született gyermekért, the protagonist of Sorstalanság and A kudarc, György Köves, reappears. His Kaddish is said for the child he refuses to beget in a world that permitted the existence of Auschwitz. Other prose works are A nyomkereso" (1977; The pathfinder) and Az angol labogó (1991; The English flag; see WLT 67:2, p. 412)

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