Born of Jewish ancestry, Imre Kertész (KUR-teez) was raised in Budapest, Hungary. For his tenth birthday, his parents gave him a diary that served as a launching pad for his future writing endeavors. When the Germans began exterminating Jews in Hungary in 1944, Kertész was deported at the age of fourteen to the Auschwitz concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. A short time later, he was sent to the Buchenwald camp in Germany. In spite of the dire conditions in both camps, he survived. Kertész was liberated by the Allied forces in 1945.
During the years between 1949 and 1951, Kertész was a journalist for the Világosság newspaper in Budapest. When the paper adopted the Communist point of view in 1951, he lost his job. After serving in the Hungarian army from 1951 to 1953, Kertész devoted his life to writing. Unable to write freely in a Communist-ruled country, he translated the works of many German authors, notably Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Elias Canetti, Joseph Roth, Arthur Schnitzler, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, in order to support himself. Kertész also wrote musicals for the theater. For approximately thirty-five years, he and his wife lived in a one-room dwelling in Budapest, where he continued to write with little hope of having anything published.
Kertész completed his first novel, Fateless, in 1965. Although he said that it was not an autobiography, it provided a detailed account of a teenage Jewish boy who lived through experiences similar to those of Kertész himself, surviving within German concentration camps during World War II. The novel was...
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