Kertész and auschwitz


Nobel laureate Imre Kertész is certainly no stranger to controversy. His radical reconceptualization of the term “Holocaust” — in whose “unscrupulous employment” he locates “a cowardly and unimaginative glibness” — to extend beyond the scope of the concentration camps and those who perished therein, rhetorically privileges the survivors over the dead: “the word [Holocaust] actually only relates to those who were incarcerated: the dead, but not the survivors… The survivor is an exception.” And his fictional portrayals of Auschwitz and its repercussions in autobiographical novels like Fatelessness, Kaddish for an Unborn Child and Fiasco have been misread as “betray[ing] the Holocaust” — in spite of Kertész having himself been held at Auschwitz, and later Buchenwald, from the age of fourteen — just as they critique the totalitarian dictatorships that ensued in his native Hungary after the end of the Second World War, regimes that Kertész believes were related to the Holocaust at the level of power: “after Auschwitz the virtuality of Auschwitz inheres in every dictatorship.”

more from K. Thomas Kahn at berfrois here.