What are the main themes in the book, and how does it relate to culture and literacy?

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Fatelessness is a novel written by Imre Kertész and set in Hungary during the Holocaust. The narrative centers around the harrowing tale of the fourteen-year-old protagonist, Gyuri, as he spends a year in three different concentration camps.

One of the major themes in the novel is the paradoxical theme...

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Fatelessness is a novel written by Imre Kertész and set in Hungary during the Holocaust. The narrative centers around the harrowing tale of the fourteen-year-old protagonist, Gyuri, as he spends a year in three different concentration camps.

One of the major themes in the novel is the paradoxical theme of enlightenment and happiness. One assumes that in order to be happy, one must be enlightened and have knowledge about themselves and their surroundings. However, as Gyuri comes to find out in many different instances, it’s often the uneducated and unaware who are most able to experience happiness.

In the labor camp, Gyuri carries bags of concrete and experiences frequent beatings. He is an athletic and youthful young man, but he feels like an old man and close to death. This paradox helps set up the subsequent paradoxes. This work eventually leads to so many injuries that he must go to the hospital. Ironically, his time in the hospital and his proximity to death actually helps him feel more alive. As he is nursed back to health and realizes he will soon be back to work, he feels like he wants to die.

After finally being set free, he meets a journalist who asks him if people were beat in the camps. Gyuri responds, “naturally”—an answer the journalist cannot comprehend because it seems so unnatural.

At the end of the novel, when Gyuri is walking to his mother’s home, he sees the color of the sky which was the color of the sky at this favorite time of the day in the concentration camps. He is confused by the nostalgia he feels for the camps.

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