Imre Kertesz

THE LAUREATE: Imre Kertesz was born in Budapest in 1929. He was sent to Auschwitz in 1944, then transferred to Buchenwald and freed from there at the end of the war. He wrote fiction for quite a few years, including his most famous novel, Fateless, and then translated German literature and philosophy into Hungarian. In the late 80s, he resumed writing fiction. He says that all of his work is informed by his experience in Auschwitz, but he does not write autobiographical fiction.

WHAT I’M READING: Detective Story.

REVIEW: When I was talking about Miguel Angel Asturias’ novel, I casually mentioned that Latin America had a bit of a dictator problem during the 20th century. Well, on further reflection, I have come to the conclusion that the whole world had a bit of a dictator problem during the 20th century. Imre Kertesz lived through the most horrible and traumatic expression of it. Detective Story appears to show the way a dictator’s grunt would describe his own involvement in oppression. The grunt in question is told that there is some catastrophe in the works. So it is his job, as the new guy in the secret service, to find the person responsible for this. He latches onto the son of a department store owner, who wants to get involved in the resistance. His father sets up some simple, fake espionage stuff by paying one of his clerks to be a pretend spy for a day. The son had also taken his girlfriend to a meeting of the rebels, without managing to get in on their activities. The father and son are both taken in by the secret service and interrogated to death, and everyone else even tangentially involved was also questioned. Turns out that the guy had made the plot up out of panic, and the two men were completely innocent. Oops. The story itself is fairly simple (particularly as poorly as I’ve summarized it), but the style is incredible.

RECOMMENDED: Absolutely.

WHAT’S NEXT: Roger Martin du Gard’s tedious chronicle of a young man’s religious sentiments combined with the story of which Z by Vassilis Vassilikos is a gritty reboot.

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