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Fatelessness (1975)

by Imre Kertész

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Fatelessness (book 1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,023666,497 (4.08)201
"Fourteen-year-old Gyuri is let off going to school for 'family reasons'. His father has been called up for labour service. Arriving at the family timber store he witneses with nonchalance and boredom his father sign over the business to the firm's book-keeper. Two months later, after saying goodbye to his father he finds himself assigned to a 'permanent workplace'." "Within a fortnight Gyuri is unexpectedly pulled off the bus and detained without explanation This is the start of his journey to and subsequent imprisonment in Auschwitz. On arrival he finds he is unable to identify with other Jews, and in turn is rejected by them. An outsider among his own people, his estrangement makes him a preternaturally acute observer." "Fatelessness' power lies in its refusal to mitigate the unfathomable alienness of the Holocaust, the strangeness is compounded by Gyuri's dogmatic insistence on making sense of everything he witnesses."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved… (more)
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» See also 201 mentions

English (45)  Swedish (4)  French (3)  Italian (3)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (2)  German (2)  Danish (1)  Finnish (1)  Catalan (1)  Hungarian (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (66)
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
A worthwhile book, and illuminating about the WWII concentration camp experience, but the writing (or at least the translation) isn't very graceful or compelling, and the story has a plain, straightforward arc. Glad I read it, but it didn't pull me through for the literary quality. ( )
  wordloversf | Aug 14, 2021 |
Kertesz has written a semi-autobiographical novel about a fourteen year-old boy who gets mysteriously deported from Hungary to a Jewish concentration camp. The protagonist (George Koves) spends a mere three days in Auschwitz, which he recalled as rather pleasant, before being forwarded to work camps at Buchenwald and Zeitz. I am not sure George Koves ever recovered from his shock at being grabbed, and he spends all of his time trying to rationalize the senseless acts he saw around him while he was incarcerated. I found the book became confusing in synchronization with George himself as he was ground down by back-breaking work and the hatred he faced continuously. He becomes depressed and kind of crazy in the end. Perhaps this book is better in Hungarian, and could be better translated to English? ( )
  skipstern | Jul 11, 2021 |
On the 31st March 2016 Imre Kertész died. I hadn't heard of him before I saw the post on Metafilter marking his passing, but in the thread his first book, Fatelessness was mentioned. It is a fictionalised account of Kertész's own experiences as a teenager in Hungary and then Auschwitz and Buchenwald. He was fourteen when he was sent to the concentration camps.
It is a fascinating book. It deals with the horrifying events and details of the Holocaust in an almost dispassionate way. Georg, our narrator, starts out as almost any other, slightly awkward teenager. His parents have divorced, he is learning to live between them, as well as discovering girls. And at the same time he is in a special class at school, he has to wear a yellow star, he expects to be cheated and hated simply because he is a Jew. But all this is almost normal for him.
I think that it is precisely that everyday, normal feeling that makes the events so real to the reader. The true horror comes across all the more because Georg does not know any different, but also, he doesn't know what is to come. He, and many others, almost volunteer to go to Auschwitz. They believe they will be forced in any case, so they may as well go along and maybe they'll be treated slightly better. And when they arrive and the "criminals" warn them to never be sick. To say they are sixteen... it is just heartbreaking. Georg believes the other Jews are criminals because their heads are shaved, and they are wearing criminals' uniforms. Even when he is one of them there is a sort of disbelief, but also a weird acceptance of the fact.
Georg is so naive, so innocent that you almost look at the Holocaust with fresh eyes. I think that we are almost used to it today. We know all about the millions murdered, and the horror, that I think maybe we gloss over what it actually was. That is impossible in this book. The very ordinariness of Georg's narration emphasises the true horror of it all. He never really protests or rails at the injustice of his life; it simply is how it is.
And one of the truly gut-wrenching things is that on his return to his hometown one of the first people Georg comes across is a Holocaust denier. Words fail, they really do. ( )
  Fence | Jan 5, 2021 |
My mechanics are likely skewed, it happens. The passing of Hitchens has pressed me terribly. This remarkable novel represented a current of oxygen amidst the stifle. Fateless maintains an ironic stance towards the Shoah. It should be embraced. By "embrace", I mean to cherish. By "It" I mean both the irony and the novel. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
What a wonderful book!
Sad, interesting, impressive, thought provoking. What took me most was, that there was hardly any emotion, just description of what was happening, through the eyes of a young boy.
Because emotion was quite absent, the book was very emotional.
It really got to me and I will carry this one with me for a long time. ( )
1 vote BoekenTrol71 | Aug 6, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 45 (next | show all)
added by nagel175 | editNederlands Dagblad, Maurice Hoogendoorn (pay site) (Aug 23, 2019)
 

» 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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Dedication
First words
I didn’t go to school today.
Quotations
Yes, the next time I am asked, I ought to speak about that, the happiness of the concentration camps.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (3)

"Fourteen-year-old Gyuri is let off going to school for 'family reasons'. His father has been called up for labour service. Arriving at the family timber store he witneses with nonchalance and boredom his father sign over the business to the firm's book-keeper. Two months later, after saying goodbye to his father he finds himself assigned to a 'permanent workplace'." "Within a fortnight Gyuri is unexpectedly pulled off the bus and detained without explanation This is the start of his journey to and subsequent imprisonment in Auschwitz. On arrival he finds he is unable to identify with other Jews, and in turn is rejected by them. An outsider among his own people, his estrangement makes him a preternaturally acute observer." "Fatelessness' power lies in its refusal to mitigate the unfathomable alienness of the Holocaust, the strangeness is compounded by Gyuri's dogmatic insistence on making sense of everything he witnesses."--BOOK JACKET.Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

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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!

(Sinetrig)

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