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The Union Jack (The Contemporary Art of the Novella) Paperback – January 19, 2010

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Product Details

  • Series: The Contemporary Art of the Novella
  • Paperback: 76 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House (January 19, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1933633875
  • ISBN-13: 978-1933633879
  • Product Dimensions: 7.1 x 6.9 x 0.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,841,716 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Praise for Imre Kertész

"...An enormous effort to understand and find a language for what the Holocaust says about the human condition."
—George Szirtes, Times Literary Supplement

"...Searching and visionary beyond the usual parameters."
—Sven Birkets, Bookforum

"In explaining something of the weight and importance of Kertesz's subjects and creative achievements, it is hard to convey simultaneously the deftness and vivacity of his writing....There is something quintessentially youthful and life-affirming in this writer's sensibility..."
—Ruth Scurr, The Nation

“Kertész's work is a profound meditation on the great and enduring themes of love, death and the problem of evil, although for Kertész, it's not evil that is the problem but good.”
—John Banville, author of The Sea

About the Author

Born in Budapest in 1929, Imre Kertész was imprisoned at Auschwitz in 1944, and then at Bunchenwald concentration camp. After the war and repatriation, the Soviet seizure of Hungary ended Kertesz's brief career as a journalist. He turned to translation, specializing in German language works, and later emigrated to Berlin. Kertesz was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 2002 for "writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history."

More About the Author

IMRE KERTÉSZ was born in Budapest in 1929. At age fifteen he was deported to Auschwitz, then Buchenwald, and finally to a subcamp at Zeitz, to labor in a factory where Nazi scientists were trying to convert coal into motor fuel. Upon liberation in 1945 he worked as a journalist before being fired for not adhering to the Communist party doctrine. After a brief service in the Hungarian Army, he devoted himself to writing, although as a dissident he was forced to live under Spartan circumstances. Nonetheless he stayed in Hungary after the failed 1956 uprising, continuing to write plays and fiction in near-anonymity and supporting himself by translating from the German writers such as Joseph Roth, Freud, Nietzsche, and Wittgenstein. He remained little-known until 1975, when he published his first book, Fatelesseness, a novel about a teenage boy sent to a concentration camp. It became the first book of a trilogy that eventually included The Failure and Kaddish for an Unborn Child. Subsequent titles include Liquidation, The Pathseeker, Union Jack, and, a memoir, The File on K. In 2002, Kertész was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He lives in Budapest and Berlin.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Roger Brunyate TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 22, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A minor work by a major author, this 1991 novella by Nobel Prizewinner Imre Kertész is very short, a mere 76 pages in small format. But its length is not the point. Its weight is the crushing burden of events to which Kertész bears witness. A Holocaust survivor as a Hungarian Jew (the subject of his first great novel FATELESSNESS), he returned to experience a longer and slower oppression in Hungary under Soviet rule. Written as an old man looking back at the one moment of light in those four decades of darkness, the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, his subject is not those brief three weeks of hope but the thirty years of numbing repression that followed.

But it is an elliptical testament. The book is at once easy to read and difficult to penetrate. It is easy in that the flow of words, as translated by Tim Wilkinson, carries the reader in a kind of trance through its single unbroken paragraph, occasionally illuminated by brilliant images: "that one-time editorial office full of gloomy corridors, dusty crannies, tiny, cigarette-smoked rooms lit by bare bulbs, ringing telephones, yells, the quick-fire staccato of typewriters, full of fleeting excitements, abiding qualms, vacillating moods and, later, the fear, unvacillating and ever less vacillating, which seeped out from every cranny, as it were, to squat over everything." It is difficult, in that the whole book seems a never-ending prelude to a story that gets told only in a single paragraph towards the very end, and that a tiny peripheral event among many tremendous ones, the departure of the British Ambassador from Budapest in a jeep draped with a Union Jack.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Seth H. Rosenzweig on May 18, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed "The Union Jack," but be forewarned: If you're not familiar with 20th Century Hungarian history, particularly the 1956 revolution, this book will probably make no sense to you, and I'd say don't waste your money. But if you are familiar with the subject matter, this short book (it's only about 70 pages) is both poignant and devastating--definitely worth the read.

Kertész manages to write about difficult subjects--Hungary under the communists, the crushing of the 1956 uprising, and the abandonment by the West--in a way that is neither bitter nor angry.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Imre Kertesz is a master of a minimalist writing style. In his very focused way he is able to convey layers of meaning without wasting any words. "The Union Jack" is a brief but rich account of one man's experience of the social and political challenges of life in communist Hungary. Writing in a stream of consciousness style, Kertesz unpacks the bitter realities of political oppression in a matter of fact, but profound way. The Union Jack flutters briefly from a passing diplomatic vehicle during the 1956 Uprising as a symbol of hope and freedom, before the darkness returns and people assume a shadow existence becoming other than themselves in order to survive.
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