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Kohtalottomuus by Imre Kertész

Kohtalottomuus (original 1975; edition 2003)

by Imre Kertész, Outi Hassi

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1,585564,599 (4.08)163
Authors:Imre Kertész
Other authors:Outi Hassi
Info:Helsingissä Otava 2003.
Collections:Your library, Luetut

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Fatelessness by Imre Kertész (1975)


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English (39)  Swedish (4)  French (3)  Italian (2)  Dutch (2)  Spanish (1)  Danish (1)  German (1)  Hebrew (1)  Catalan (1)  Finnish (1)  All (56)
Showing 1-5 of 39 (next | show all)
This extraordinary book, written by a man who experienced Buchenwald Concentration Camp first hand at 14 years of age, illuminates why so many Jews accepted their fate so passively. He describes getting caught up in a round-up of men and boys and as you see it through his eyes you can appreciate the awfulness but understand why he might never imagine just where it was leading. As in Les Bienveillantes, I again saw inside the bureaucratic machine that sweeps the oppressor along as relentlessly as the oppressed. It seems to me that, rather than simple evil, there is an innate indifference in people to the suffering of others when there is a profit to be made or a risk to be avoided. The oppressed are zealous about alleviating their own suffering at the cost of their fellow oppressed.

The book is remarkable for its detached almost journalistic tone which allocates blame but without bitterness. For instance, having made his way through the Auschwitz induction routine, he marvels at the creative way the people have been deceived into unquestioningly following along and imagines the meeting where German officers constructed the deception:

After all, people would have had to meet to discuss this, put their heads together so to say … One of them comes up with the gas, another immediately follows with the bathhouse, a third with the soap, then a fourth adds the flower beds, and so on. Some of the ideas may have provoked more prolonged discussion and amendment, whereas others would have been immediately hailed with delight.

The whole business is so detached and impersonal, not unlike the present day taking of a decision to say, relocate a factory to Asia and cast a lot of people out of their jobs. The executives are so pleased at their own cleverness and (almost) oblivious to the human cost. I’ve observed management in my workplace take important decisions about peoples lives, carelessly and indeed ignorant of their prejudices. The Holocaust may have been facilitated by the same universal mentality.

A portion of the book, describing the period in the infirmary which was probably responsible for his survival, is very strange. It remined me of the Twilight Zone and I had the eerie feeling of seeing his world in black and white only. Again you see that the oppressed is ready to turn oppressor at the drop of a hat to save his skin. I wonder did the author wait so many years to write his story because the fundamental message is so disturbing. This is an uncomfortable book because you read it with a growing fear that you are no stronger than them and could easily have participated in the persecution. ( )
  tchelyzt | Jul 15, 2017 |
'Even there, next to the chimneys, in the intervals between the torments, there was something that resembled happiness'
By sally tarbox on 25 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback
An account of the author's teenage year spent in a concentration camp: yet written in a passive, unemotional way, reminiscent of Camus' "L'Etranger".
From the first chapter, when the family are still together in Budapest, preparing for the father's departure for a labour camp next day, we witness young Gyuri's detachment - or perhaps innocence, not realising what a labour camp actually means.
"After that he sent me off to bed. By then I was dead tired anyway. All the same, I thought, at least we were able to send him off to the labour camp, poor man, with memories of a nice day."
Shortly afterwards Gyuri too is sent off to a camp. Yet here too he has benign recollections: the youths being hauled off the bus - laughing and enjoying the sunny morning. The subsequent lies of the Germans that prompt the boys to accept the 'adventure' of going to work abroad...and the beginnings of his new life in a camp.
Gyuri doesn't dwell on the atrocities; so much so that it comes as even more horrific when he first mentions what this new life has done to him and his comrades - the fact they can hardly recognise one another in this regime of filth and hunger.
Yet as Gyuri observes, "one's imagination remains unfettered even in captivity. I contrived ,for instance, that while my hands were busy with a spade or mattock...I myself was simply absent."
When he is finally freed, Gyuri argues that "if there is such a thing as fate, then freedom is not possible...if there is such a thing as freedom, then there is no fate...we ourselves are fate."
Very moving and readable account, very different to other works on this subject. ( )
  starbox | Jul 10, 2016 |
Fatelessness Imre Kertesz

This is a fictional account of the authors real life experience as a Hungarian Jew it covers one year when the 14 year old boy is taken from his home without his family's knowledge and sent to various Nazi concentration camps until his eventual return home.

Gyorgy Koves lives with his father and stepmother in Budapest while the family dont consider themselves Jewish, the do not speak Yiddish, they accept that they need to wear a yellow star and that some things are now beyond there reach.

Gyorgy is detailed to work and given a special pass along with several of his friends however one day on their way to work they are ordered from the bus and rounded up by a not unfriendly policeman, eventually they are marched to a train station and put on a train to Poland and the German concentration camps.

The reader with the benefit of history knows what awaits Gyorgy and any fear/ tension in the story comes from within the reader as his entire description of life in the camps is told unemotionally and matter of factly.

In fact Gyorgy does not show any emotion until he is released and arrives home when he is overcome by anger not only at the perpetrators but at those who did nothing and by doing so allowed the Holocaust to happen.

I was stunned by how much emotional impact this almost completely detached story had on me and I appreciated a new perspective of concentration camps away from the headline grabbing gas chambers, this is a human story that shows even in such an extreme place as a concentration camp it is possible for a level of "happiness" to be found, the narrator also refers to "this beautiful concentration camp" it shows how strong the human desire to survive at all costs can be.

I would highly recommend this book

( )
  BookWormM | Jan 15, 2016 |
I can't say I 'liked' this novel but it will certainly stay with me. Autobiographical in content, this is a novel about how a 14 year old boy ends up in a series of concentration camps towards the end of the Second World War. Written in a pragmatic, detached tone this account tells of the horrors, the knowledge of what happened to those who were sick or elderly, the starvation, lack of hygiene and barbaric conditions in which prisoners survived. But because it is written from an almost unemotional point of view, we actually learn more about what life in the camps was like. Very worth reading but not an easy read. ( )
  sashinka | Jan 14, 2016 |
I don't ever really know what to say about books set during the Holocaust. This one is about a rather naive and initially thoughtless, unobservant boy who gets packed off first to Auschwitz, then Buchenwald, then a smaller labor camp, then back to Buchenwald. He becomes, for lack of a better word, institutionalized during this time, isolated from his captors (of course) but also from his fellow prisoners who either don't see him as sufficiently Jewish (neither does he see himself so) or who dislike Hungarians (a view the boy claims to agree with). He is, throughout the book, unemotional, with his thoughts expressed with an increasing stiltedness verging on a hesitant formality. The best (that is, most horrific and well-crafted) thing about the book is the slow creep of realization on the boy's part--he thought he was going to a better life; but of course the reader knows better and waits for the details of extermination camps to slowly coalesce before the boy's eyes. The worst thing about the book is that I felt little connection to the character, which surprises me, but is likely due to the function of the prose and the distance the boy has even from himself, as well as the pure chance of his survival--there is nothing heroic or even particularly sympathetic about him (although there is much sympathetic about his condition naturally), there are in fact deficiencies (he expresses no real fear or concern for his parents or step-mother). This is hyper-realistic I suppose, much like the chimneys of Auschwitz were solid, real, genuine--a point that kept coming back to me as I compared this boy to Holden Caulfield (since I read The Catcher in the Rye recently), who would have found all the non-phoniness he could handle in the Germans' camps. I recommend it, and actually give it 4.5 stars, but there's little to nothing in it to counter the horror of the subject matter, even as that horror is muted by the boy's detachment. ( )
  Michael.Xolotl | Nov 11, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (29 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Kertész, Imreprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ertl, IstvanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Griffini, B.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kammer, HenryTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Klein, EvaForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Klein, GeorgForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ortman, MariaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pošová, KateřinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Wilkinson, TimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I didn’t go to school today.
Yes, the next time I am asked, I ought to speak about that, the happiness of the concentration camps.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (3)

Book description
At the age of 14 Georg Koves is plucked from his home in a Jewish section of Budapest and without any particular malice, placed on a train to Auschwitz. He does not understand the reason for his fate. He doesn’t particularly think of himself as Jewish. And his fellow prisoners, who decry his lack of Yiddish, keep telling him, “You are no Jew.” In the lowest circle of the Holocaust, Georg remains an outsider.

The genius of Imre Kertesz’s unblinking novel lies in its refusal to mitigate the strangeness of its events, not least of which is Georg’s dogmatic insistence on making sense of what he witnesses–or pretending that what he witnesses makes sense. Haunting, evocative, and all the more horrifying for its rigorous avoidance of sentiment, Fatelessness is a masterpiece in the traditions of Primo Levi, Elie Wiesel, and Tadeusz Borowski.
Haiku summary
Painting a "picture"
To see the real-life effects
When wrong-doers reign!


Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0810110490, Paperback)

One of Publishers Weekly's Fifty Best Books of 1992

Fateless is a moving and disturbing novel about a Hungarian Jewish boy’s experiences in German concentration camps and his attempts to reconcile himself to those experiences after the war. Upon his return to his native Budapest still clad in his striped prison clothes, fourteen-year-old George Koves senses the indifference, even hostility, of people on the street. His former neighbors and friends urge him to put the ordeal out of his mind, while a sympathetic journalist refers to the camps as "the lowest circle of hell." The boy can relate to neither cliche and is left to ponder the meaning of his experience alone.

George's response to his experience is curiously ambivalent. In the camps he tries to adjust to his ever-worsening situation by imputing human motives to his inhumane captors. By imposing his logic--that of a bright, sensitive, though in many ways ordinary teenager - he maintains a precarious semblance of normalcy. Once freed, he must contend with the "banality of evil" to which he has become accustomed: when asked why he uses words like "naturally," "undeniably," and "without question" to describe the most horrendous of experiences, he responds, "In the concentration camp it was natural." Without emotional or spiritual ties to his Jewish heritage and rejected by his country, he ultimately comes to the conclusion that neither his Hungarianness nor his Jewishness was really at the heart of his fate: rather, there are only "given situations, and within these, further givens."

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:46 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Relates the daily life of prisoners at a Nazi concentration camp as seen through the eyes of Georg Koves, a fourteen-year-old boy who is deported from his home in Budapest to Auschwitz with his father, in a new translation of the acclaimed novel by the Nobel laureate.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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