Fatelessness is a novel written by Imre Kertész and is set in Hungary during the Holocaust. The narrative centers around the harrowing tale of 14-year-old protagonist Gyuri as he spends a year in three difference concentration camps.
Overall, this novel is highly successful in showcasing the paradoxical feeling and ideas by people who have been put through harrowing life experiences, which is why I have a very high opinion of it.
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 knowledgeable about oneself and one's 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 endures 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 other paradoxes. Gyuri's work eventually leads to so many injuries that he must go to the hospital. Paradoxically, his time in the hospital and his proximity to death actually help 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.” The journalist cannot comprehend the answer 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 day in the concentration camps. He is confused by the nostalgia he feels for the camps.