Critical Evaluation

Although Fateless is narrated from the first-person point of view of a teenage boy, a more sophisticated philosophical consciousness develops as the boy puts together all the details of his experience to build a larger and more comprehensive meaning. He understands that everything that happens in the camps is the result of remote executive decisions, as on a corporate board. He begins to realize that his arrest and imprisonment go according to a plan and are the natural outcome of a totalitarian power structure, which requires efficiency and compliance. None of this is accidental or deviant. On the contrary, the brutality and degradation of the camps are part of the normal workings of dictatorship. George’s deployment of the words “of course” and “naturally” point to the way in which what happens to him is a natural consequence of an entire social system; death camps and work camps, in fact, will always emerge as a consequence of a modern totalitarian system. The camps are then the natural outcome of a deep disturbance in European civilization that must be recognized and mended.

In order to explain the existence of the camps to himself, George uses the analogy of a group getting together to play a practical joke; for the joke to work, everything has to be taken into consideration, everything must be perfectly planned. This attention to administration produces a nearly mechanistic efficiency, so the imposition of order masks its lethal purposes. The power of this system is such that individuals are manipulated into acceptance and cooperation, losing the will to question or resist, as if the system had created the equivalent of fate. This means that what happens to George is not a consequence of some mystical and mysterious destiny. The title of George’s story, Fateless, underlines Imre Kertész’s conclusion, namely that Jews are not metaphysically fated to become victims. George and his parents, for instance, saw themselves before the war as assimilated...

(The entire section is 820 words.)