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November 01, 2002 - Image 81

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-11-01

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

A
h:

Universal Perspective

; O.
co u pon.
Expi res

,

•■•■

For Nobel-winning writer, identity as a Jew
was imposed, not chosen.

AGNES BOHM
Jewish Telegraphic Agency

la

ends
e

selection identified him as a Holocaust
survivor, without mentioning that he is
Jewish. Kertesz said being Jewish is not
something he chose, but something
that was "forced" on him.
"It doesn't mean that I don't have
Jewish solidarity," he said.
Recently criticized in Hungary for
writing a pro-Israel article after attend-
ing a conference for Holocaust sur-
vivors in Jerusalem, Kertesz classified
several types of Jews.

e is the first Hungarian
writer to win the Nobel
Prize for Literature, but —
as a Jew and a Holocaust
survivor — Imre Kertesz feels his writ-
ing reflects a more universal perspec-
tive.
The author, whose prize was
announced Oct. 10, calls himself "a Jew
who writes in Hungarian
about the Holocaust and
dictatorships."
On Oct. 17, Mayor
Gabor Demszky of
Budapest made Kertesz an
honorary citizen of the city.
The event was held at city
hall, where the 72-year-old
author once worked as a
journalist. And it was from
Budapest that Kertesz was
deported to Auschwitz.
From there, he was sent
to Buchenwald, where he
Imre Kertesz, right, and his wife in Budapest
was liberated in 1945.
"I understood Auschwitz
really and deeply only during the
"The Israeli Jew is part of a nation,
Hungarian Communist era, when I
the Orthodox Jew belongs to an
comprehended how people behave in a
ancient and mystical religion, and there
machinery like that," said Kertesz,
also is the Jew who doesn't like to be a
whose works are especially popular in
Jew and to be identified that way, and
Germany.
tries to assimilate into the surrounding
Fateless, Kertesz's first novel, is one of society," he said.
only two among his many works to be
"I belong to the type of Jew who
translated into English. An autobio-
understood his Jewishness only after
graphical account of his experiences
Auschwitz, who lacks Jewish culture
during the Holocaust, it was published
and the Hebrew language. I am afraid
in the United States in 1992, 17 years
that this type may disappear."
after it appeared in Hungary. ,
Though the intensity of anti-
Dissatisfied with the quality of the
Semitism today doesn't rival that of the
English translation, Kertesz hopes the
Nazi era, Kertesz sees hatred of Jews on
book will be retranslated, as was the
the rise again in Europe.
case with the German edition.
"The right-wing populist political
The other Kertesz novel translated
parties have gained popularity with
into English, Kaddish for a Child Not
their xenophobia and opposition to
Born, is a condemnation of a world
immigration," he said. "Again the Jews
that permitted the Holocaust.
are blamed, as if they caused all the
problems."
Kertesz, who is occasionally corn-
pared to Primo Levi or Elie Wiesel,
'Anti-Semitism is not a problem only
does not want to be pigeonholed as a
for the Jews, but for all of Europe," he
Holocaust writer.
continued. "Unfortunately, in Hungary
"I hope that this prize didn't go only
the Holocaust has not yet been digest-
to the subject [of the Holocaust], for I
ed, neither by Jews nor by the nation. I
write about the dictatorships of the
do hope that this will come however,
20th century in a wider sense," he said.
and maybe this Nobel Prize will con-
Initial news stories after Kertesz's
tribute to that." ❑

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