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133 of 141 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique view of the Holocaust
This is the most shocking book about the Holocaust I know. What makes the book so unique is the narrator, a 15-year-old Hungarian Jew whose language reminded me of Salinger in the beginning. The perspective of this naive boy allows Kertesz to describe the narrator's and his father's deportation without any idea of what's going to happen next. - Kertesz experienced much...
Published on August 17, 2000 by Manuel Haas

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37 of 47 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I don't get it
I first heard of this book some two years ago, and has considered reading it ever since, but have never gotten to it. Now with the award there seemed to be no way of coming up with excuses for delaying it further. Reviewing it, however, I have never had the intention of doing. It is obvious that the most discussed book by the most recent Nobel Laureate is going to get its...
Published on December 6, 2002 by a void


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133 of 141 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique view of the Holocaust, August 17, 2000
This review is from: Fateless (Paperback)
This is the most shocking book about the Holocaust I know. What makes the book so unique is the narrator, a 15-year-old Hungarian Jew whose language reminded me of Salinger in the beginning. The perspective of this naive boy allows Kertesz to describe the narrator's and his father's deportation without any idea of what's going to happen next. - Kertesz experienced much of this in his own life, and yet he had enormous trouble getting the book published. It was regarded as a scandal that the hero says that even in the concentration camps he experienced moments of happiness. This does not mean, however, that Kertesz makes it appear to be fairly harmless in the manner of "Life is Beautiful". No, his perspective, which is free from any hindsight makes us see the Shoa in all its horror for the first time.
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62 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Of Freedom and of Life he Only is Deserving, January 7, 2005
By 
Leonard Fleisig "Len" (Virginia Beach, Virginia) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Fatelessness (Paperback)
Who every day must conquer them anew.

These words of Goethe provide the emotional context within which I experienced Imre Kertész' masterful novel Fateless.

Kertesz was an assimilated Hungarian-Jew living in relative comfort in Budapest. In the summer of 1944 he was picked up and shipped to Auschwitz. He was fourteen years old. He was transferred from Auschwitz to Buchenwald, from Buchenwald to Zeitz (a lesser-known concentration camp) and then back to Buchenwald. He was liberated a year later and returned to Budapest.

The life of György (George) Köves, the protagonist of Fateless, tracks the experiences of Kertesz. The novel is written in George's voice and we see the world through his recollection of events. (Kertesz has indicated in interviews that although Fateless takes the form of an autobiographical novel it is not an autobiography but a work of fiction.) George is a relatively care free, naive 14 year old leading a middle class life with his family. As the story opens, the family is preparing to say goodbye to George's father who is being sent to a labor camp. I was struck immediately by George's detachment as these early events unfold. George obtains a job at a factory. This provides him with a pass out of his neighborhood although he is still required to wear a yellow star identifying him as Jewish. One morning, on the way to work, he is swept up along with thousands of others and is sent on his journey into the seven layers of hell known as concentration camps. The rest of novel details George's experiences in the camps, his gradual physical deterioration that leaves him near death, the chain of events that kept him alive, his liberation and his eventual return to Budapest.

I expected that any book that had the Holocaust as a central theme would be filled with vivid descriptions of the horrors found there and the emotional turmoil that any prisoner experienced. In fact, the opposite was the case. George's narrative is, until the very end, devoid of emotion. It consists of a spare, narrative recitation of events. I think the book was all the more chilling and had a greater emotional impact as a result. No words can adequately describe the horrors and misery and Kertesz does not really try. Rather, the emotion is inferred from the factual context. At one point, George finds a mirror and looks at his image. He sees in himself the gaunt vision of shuffling prisoners that met him on his arrival at the camps. He doesn't complain, he simply observes. The observation is stunning not for its emotional content but for the very fact of it.

I was also struck by the irony expressed in many of Kertesz' passages. George, like Kertesz, was not particularly religious nor did he speak the lingua franca of many European Jews, Yiddish. Despite his presence in the camp he was rejected by many of his fellow prisoners because he was not, in their eyes, sufficiently Jewish. He didn't know Yiddish nor did he know enough Hebrew to recite the Kaddish, a prayer for the dead. George's camp experience was one of double isolation.

George's emotions only rise to the surface upon his return to Budapest after liberation. He is on a trolley, filthy and malnourished. He can feel the scorn and snickering of his fellow passengers and seethes with anger, an emotion seemingly permitted to enter into his life now that his freedom is assured. He returns to his family apartment only to find that it has been appropriated by another family. His family and friends tell him to put the camps into his past, but he can't, it is an experience that will never be `in the past'. Kertesz, in his Nobel Prize lecture sums it up thusly: "By which I mean that nothing has happened since Auschwitz that could reverse or refute Auschwitz. In my writings the Holocaust could never be present in the past tense."

The novel ends with George pondering the meaning of life and fate. He posits that those that accept fate can never be free and those seeking freedom cannot do so if the live by the axiom "it is written". The closing puts George's whole camp experience in a new perspective. Some struggle outwardly for freedom. George's struggle was completely internalized. His struggle for life itself was a struggle to be free. As the Russian novelist Vasily Grossman asserted in his book Forever Flowing, "there remained alive and growing one genuine force alone, consisting of one element only - freedom. To live meant to be a free human being."

The story of George Koves is the story of a young boy who struggled every Day for freedom and for life and conquered them anew. It is a powerful book and one that I cannot recommend too highly.
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43 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A different perspective, October 11, 2002
By 
This review is from: Fateless (Paperback)
This year's Nobel prize winner Imre Kertesz's book about the Holocaust is one of the most powerful and touching books ever writen about this theme. Kertesz was a surprise Nobel-prize winner but after reading this book you'll probably see it was a well-earned prize for a very talented and gifted writer.
At the time the story is going on, it is 1944 and a Jewish boy is departed to a Nazi concentration camp along with his father. The book gives a different perspective of the horror, because it is written in an "I" form. As a reviewer mentioned before, this is not a "Life Is Beautiful" story. This is a "Life Is Horrible" story and it is a shocking experience you will never forget. Though the book is not about the writer himself, Kertesz experienced much of the story.
The book is never boring and makes you going on with the things to come - most of them unexpected and even more horrible than the ones before. Imre Kertesz survived this mayhem and he is the living proof of fate, even though this book's title is Fateless. It could only be fate that saved him and the survivors of the darkest times of the 20th century.
The only shame: he is not well known in his home country. Many Hungarian writers say: Hungary is a "language island" with a language barrier that can't be put down. I hope Kertesz's success shows every writer in the world that language can't be a barrier. Good stories make a writer. And if they're true - as this is case with Fateless - they can make very good writers. I recommend this book everyone with a heart and soul.
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47 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fateless is a Must Read, January 9, 2003
By 
Chuck J. Johnson (Roscoe, IL United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Fateless (Paperback)
I admit to knowing nothing about this book until reading that Kertesz won the Nobel prize for writing it. I am probably one of the least informed people to read this book, and just having finished an MBA curriculum, I wanted to read something that actually looked interesting. Before I began this book, about all I knew about it was that it was a first-hand accounting of the Holocaust. I really didn't know what to expect, but once I started reading this book, I could not put it down. Fatelss is the fascinating story of a 15 year old Hungarian Jewish boy's journey through the Nazi concentration camps. It is told in the first person, and Kertesz makes the most mundane detail seem vivid and worthy of all the reader's thought and attention.
The story is told through the eyes of a 15 year old. He enters the camps not knowing what to expect, and he has no idea that an organized extermination is taking place. He never seems to take too much personally, but instead simply treats each new situation as something to be dealt with and survived. His journey through the camps becomes part of his childhood that he does not want to forget, because doing so would mean forgetting part of his life. It is as if he is thinking that other people get to remember their childhoods, so why can't I.
After returning from the camps after being liberated, Kertesz recalls a conversation with a relative who keeps talking about 'the fate of the Jews'. I think this conversation is the main point of the book. Kertesz feels that if fate is a reality, then life is not worth living, because of the implied predetermination. Kertesz rejects any notion of 'fate', preferring to live each day, even in the camps, as though tomorrow will bring a new day to be lived.
Kertesz presents an amazing perspective of life as a Jew and life in the Holocaust. This book will capture you from the very beginning. You will put yourself in the main character's shoes and ponder how you would have handled every situation, however, you will be doing it from the perspective of someone who knows the historical outcome and circumstance of the Holocaust. You will not be experiencing it as the story is told, through the eyes of a youngster who is experiencing a historical event that has not yet been defined or named. My opinion is that everyone should read this book.
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45 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book, but don't read the English version yet, October 16, 2002
By 
Marton T Sass (Budapest, Hungary) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Fateless (Paperback)
Due to my close personal ties to the author, I am unable to provide an objective review of this book. However, readers should be warned that the English translation of Kertesz's book does not live up to the standards worthy of a Nobel Prize. The poor translation is one of the reasons why Kertesz has remained obscure in the world of English literature. Anyone truly interested should refer to the original language (Hungarian), or to the German version (Kertesz is fluent in German and was able to proofread the translation). The Swedish version was translated by a close friend and is also true to the original text (if I am correct, this is the version reviewed by the Nobel committee). I do not have any information about any of the other languages. For those locked into English, do not despair: a new translation will be released hopefully within the next year.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deserving winner of the Nobel prize, January 10, 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Fateless (Paperback)
I never heard of Kertesz until I read a Swedish newspaper article about him in July, 2002. It was mentioned that he was a contender for the Nobel prize and I tried in vain to get hold of anything he had written from then until October. No one had ever heard of him here in Norway. I bought the Swedish translation of 'Fateless' immediately after it was announced that he indeed had won the Nobel prize, when it was all over the place, including the airport newsstand I found myself at that week. It was hard to keep reading in the beginning because the naive style of the first person protagonist was so vulnerable that it was almost painful. He keeps his vulnerability for a very long time, and his matter-of-fact narrative about such incomprehensible events is what gives the book its character and strength. Last night I watched an interview with Kertesz, done in connection with the award ceremony, and I was so relieved to see the warm smile on his face.
This book is about the determining event in Kertesz' life. He says himself that it is not possible for him to write about anything except holocaust. He does not seem obsessive and somehow he manages to be totally in your face with appalling detail from life in a concentration camp, and still low-key, like a well-brought up, thoughtful boy from Hungary in the nineteen forties. It is not primarily an autobiography, nor a book about the persecution of the Jews. It is a book about totalitarianism, and about adaptation and survival. Kertesz said in the interview that the protagonist is a child because people are made into children in totalitarian systems. This is a good book, by a good man. I can't wait to read everything else he has ever produced.
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23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Holocaust through the eyes of an adolescent boy, November 13, 2004
By 
Ian Muldoon (Coffs Harbour, NSW Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Fateless (Paperback)
One of the most remarkable first person singular novels I have read. Remarkable because the subject, a 14 year old Hungarian boy, speaks his experiential truth about being shepherded and transported into the concentration camps of Nazi Germany but still responds to the beauty and advantages of life as it is lived - colours, order, friends. For example, the benefit of getting on the train to Auschwitz early as the early trains have "only" 60 people to a boxcar whereas the later ones are expected to have 80. At the destination station under his feet "was the customary crushed stone; and then an immaculate white asphalt road (which) disappeared into infinity."(p61) And the observation that nowhere is a kind of ordered life-style, a kind of exemplary behaviour, even an ethic, as important as in captivity.(p100) And then the experience of freedom where the old lady on a tram turns away from him in apparent disgust at his appearance, but old Mr Steiner "gave me a hug just as I was, in my hat, striped prisoner's coat, and all sweaty." p 184. SHOW me a more heartbreaking sentence in literature! There is also the questioning of his experience - did you SEE with your own eyes the gassing? No. So you're basing your statement on rumour and gossip? Yes.

I have never understood REAL hunger until I read this novel. Our young hero is upset on the day of his liberation because he misses out on his scheduled soup ration!

A remarkable and memorable read, that is at once gripping, involving, and emotionally powerful.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Huck Finn in Buchenwald, January 22, 2003
By 
Randy Keehn (Williston, ND United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Fateless (Paperback)
I like to use the Nobel Prize for Laterature as a means of discovering new authors. I have had a number of disappointments (Claude Simon and Nadine Gordimer come quickly to mind). I have also had a number of welcome surprizes (Isaac B. Singer, Franz Sillanpaa, and Grazia DeLadda are a few). I checked out Irme Kertesz as soon as I heard of his award last October. I understand that "Fateless" is his best work and it is indeed a good one. It is a Holocaust tale as told through the eyes of a 14 year old boy. Given the author's similar experiences at that age, this would seem to be an autobiographical novel.
This book works well because of the very detached way that all of this shocking story is presented. We get a helpful preview of this detachment as the story teller relates about events and conversations involving his mother and father (who are divorced). His father is going to be "sent away" by the authorities and there is what the boy perceives to be a going away party. His total lack of concern regarding the possible fate awaiting his father and his apparent indifference to whether he is to live with mother or step-mother sets that tone for his discriptions of increasingly macabre scenes. His focus tends to avoid the brutal and center on the entertaining. We, of course, see what he seems to miss but he presents things we would never conceive of. His non-judgemental approach contrasts with our very judgemental perspective challenging us to try and understand his point of view. The author is not attempting to be funny but some may read this book with a sense that it is all in very bad taste. This would be a mistake. This is a story of survival by adaptation. We know the scope of the tragedy but have not lived it. The narrator knows how to live it without understanding the scope of the tragedy. When it is all over, he knows something bad has happened but he prefers to go on surviving.
I have found that the best Holocaust literature is that which leaves us confused; there are no simple explanations to what has happened. This book is a unique approach that leaves us wondering what has happened.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Attention: Only read the new translation by Tim Wilkinson, October 14, 2005
By 
This review is from: Fatelessness (Paperback)
Anyone who reads the poor first translation of Fateless and the shamefully bad translation of Kaddish cannot even get close to the true spirit of the original works.

Thanks to Tim Wilkinson English speakers can finally enjoy these excellent books.

Look for the titles "Fatelessness" and "Kaddish for an Unborn Child", both translated by Wilkinson. These new editions are at last worthy of the originals and the Nobel Prize.

(See also October 16, 2002 review by Marton Sass)

A movie based on the novel Fateless is also out with English subtitles; don't miss it, if you have a chance. Beautiful work.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Powerful and Extraordinary Book, May 12, 2003
By 
Barbara Cohen (CA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Fateless (Paperback)
This book about the Holocaust is unique in so many ways. First of all, it is written from the personal perspective of a l5 year old and it is entirely in the first person. Second, the book focuses on the the meaning of these experiences to him in a most unusual way. Trying to cope with the day to day moments of life in a concentration camp, the boy sees his captors in human, sometimes sympathetic terms and views his surroundings in bright, respledant colors which would oridnarily not ever be associated with such an ordeal or experience. This small book is intelligent, beautifully written and surely worthy of the Nobel prize that it won. I could not put this book down once I started it, and came away thinking about this boy's ordeal in an entirely different way. The writing is powerful and pointed, almost even poetic at times. This book is definitely one of the top ten novels that I have ever read, and I have been reading for a long time.
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Fatelessness
Fatelessness by Imre Kertesz (Paperback - December 7, 2004)
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