Imre Kertész

1929 (Budapest)


"The form of suicide most suitable for me, it seems, is life."

Imre Kertész was born to a Jewish family in Budapest on 9 November 1929. In the summer of 1944 he had to perform forced labour at the Shell Company in Csepel near Budapest and was committed to the Budakalász Ghetto. His deportation to Auschwitz followed. There he was classified as fit for work and transported to Buchenwald Concentration Camp a few days later. He worked in the Brabag subcamp in Magdeburg, and for a time in Zeitz. When he was no longer able to work, he was sent back to Buchenwald, where fellow prisoners saved his life.

After liberation, Kertész returned to Budapest, earned his A-levels in 1948 and then worked as a journalist for the Világozség and Esti Budapest newspapers until 1950. In 1951 he was employed in the Hungarian Royal State Railroads Machine Factory MÁVAG and also assisted in the press department of the Hungarian ministry of the economy. From 1953 onward, he lived as a free-lance author and translator and worked on processing his camp experiences with literary means. In this period he earned a living above all by writing musicals and comedies. In 1975 his novel Sorstalanság (English: Fateless, 1992 / Fatelessness, 2004) was published, one of the most important books on the Shoah. It describes the deportations and life and death in the concentration camp from the perspective of a marvelling, unknowing child. The reader perceives the story from the ‘knowing’ perspective, and is horrified by the clarity and bluntness with which it is told.

In the 1970s, Kertész also began translating: works by Arthur Schnitzler, Joseph Roth, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Elias Canetti, Siegmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche and Ludwig Wittgenstein. 1977 The Pathseeker (English: 2008). 1988 Fiasco (English: 2011). 1989 Kaddish for an Unborn Child (English: 2004). 1991 The Union Jack (English: 2010). 2003 Liquidation (English: 2004). In 2002 Imre Kertész received the Nobel Prize for Literature.