Imre Kertész Analysis

Discussion Topics

In Fateless, is it credible that the routines of daily life, such as the kind of soup that would be available on a particular day, would be more important than the constant possibility of death in the concentration camp?

In awarding Imre Kertész the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2002, the Swedish Academy stated that Kertész received the award “for writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history.” Is that a good description of Kertész’s view of the Holocaust?

How can one explain the indifference, even hostility, of the Hungarian people in the street at the sight of György Köves, the narrator of Fateless, in his striped prison garb, hungry and unkempt, having just returned from a concentration camp? Could it be a sense of guilt or shame, or, as Kertész suggests, continuing, unexpressed, latent anti-Semitism?

Do you agree or disagree with Kertész’s opinion that there will be other Auschwitzes in the future? On what grounds do you do so?

Is it credible that the adolescent narrator in Fateless should have experienced moments of happiness in concentration camps or that he should even have felt nostalgic for the camps?

Kertész is one of the dwindling number of survivors of the Holocaust, many dying a natural death and a few committing suicide. With the passage of time and the reduction in firsthand accounts, such as those of Kertész, will the impact of the Holocaust on public awareness and public memory fade?


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Basa, Enikö Molnár, ed. Hungarian Literature. New York: Griffon House, 1993. Includes insights into the novels of Kertész and the influence of conditions in Hungary on his writings.

Czigány, Lóránt. The Oxford History of Hungarian Literature from the Earliest Times to the Present. New York: Oxford University Press, 1984. Documents the style and contributions of Kertész to novel writing in Hungary.

Nagy, Moses M., ed. A Journey into History: Essays on Hungarian Literature. New York: Peter Lang, 1990. Explores some of the contributions and impact of Kertész through his writings about conditions and circumstances associated with the Holocaust.

Vasvári, Louise O. and Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek, eds. Imre Kertész and Holocaust Literature. West Lafayette, Ind.: Purdue University Press, 2005. A collection of essays that analyze Kertesz’s works and examine the impact the Holocaust had on forming his cultural and ethnic identity.