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Kaddish for an Unborn Child Paperback – November 9, 2004

4.0 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Condenses a lifetime into a story told in a single night . . . exhilarating for [its] creative energy.” —World Literature

“In his writing Imre Kertesz explores the possibility of continuing to live and think as an individual in an era in which the subjection of human beings to social forces has become increasingly complete. upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history.” --The Swedish Academy, awarding the Nobel Prize in Literature 2002

“Disturbing yet lyrical . . . a seamless burst of introspection that is painful in its intensity and despair.” --Library Journal (starred review)

“Stunning . . . resembles such other memorably declamatory fictions as Camus’ The Fall and Dostoyevsky’s Notes from Underground.” —Kirkus Reviews

From the Inside Flap

The first word in this mesmerizing novel by the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature is "No." It is how the novel's narrator, a middle-aged Hungarian-Jewish writer, answers an acquaintance who asks him if he has a child. It is the answer he gave his wife (now ex-wife) years earlier when she told him that she wanted one. The loss, longing and regret that haunt the years between those two "no"s give rise to one of the most eloquent meditations ever written on the Holocaust.
As Kertesz's narrator addresses the child he couldn't bear to bring into the world he ushers readers into the labyrinth of his consciousness, dramatizing the paradoxes attendant on surviving the catastrophe of Auschwitz. Kaddish for the Unborn Child is a work of staggering power, lit by flashes of perverse wit and fueled by the energy of its wholly original voice.
Translated by Tim Wilkinson
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 132 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (November 9, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400078628
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400078622
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #153,871 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By E. Borvendeg on October 14, 2005
Format: 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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As a childless, second-generation descendant of Polish Jews who barely made it out of Europe in time to escape the gas chambers, I had heard that certain "psychological symptoms" of Holocaust survivors often appeared in later generations. I didn't know what this meant until I read Kaddish for an Unborn Child.

Kertesz puts in writing emotions and beliefs that I had never been able to articulate or make sense of, but which I recognized as a big part of who I am.

This book is not easy to read, but it's worth the effort and the tears.
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Imre Kertesz won the Nobel Prize. Having survived the Holocaust, he has original observations about it, but this book is repetitive, mostly uninteresting, and disappointing. Kertesz perhaps pursues the ineffable a bit too far, leaving his meaning excessively elusive. There is little plot, little detail. It opens with the word, "No," that, as gradually becomes clear, is a rejection of the idea of bearing a child, apparently because the world is such a forbidding place. The narrator relates scenes from his childhood that seem horrible enough but certainly not on the scale of Auschwitz. "Later on, Auschwitz, I said to my wife, seemed to me to be just an exaggeration of the very virtues to which I have been educated since early childhood. Yes, childhood and education were the start of that inexcusable process of breaking me, the survival that I never survived, I said to my wife." This and other such observations are, as I say, original, but I am uncertain of their profundity.
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Imre Kertesz makes no effort to test that premise, that it's impossible to write about happiness, in this dense and dark little book. Writing, he declares often enough, is his necessary act to stay alive long enough to die: "...for my ballpoint pen is my spade," he repeats several times, "and if I look ahead, it is solely to look backwards." Don't suppose, dear reader, that this is another 'life-affirming' memoir by another Shoah survivor. Kertesz's only affirmation is of the necessity of understanding one's life as long as one is stuck with it. "One's religious duty," he writes, "totally independently of the crippling religions of the crippling churches, is therefore understanding the world; yes, that when all is said and done, it is in this, in understanding the world and my situation, and in this alone, that I may seek ... my salvation." Oh, the likelihood of any such salvation is slim indeed, according to Kertesz, but "we must at least have the will to fail."

That last quotation is second-hand; Kertesz quotes it from a book by the Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard. If you know Bernhard's work, you'll recognize the influence it must have had on Imre Kertesz. At least in this volume, their styles are nearly identical: the same endlessly extended and qualified sentences, the same throbbing repetitions, the same parenthetical avoidance of any chronological narrative. If you don't like Bernhard at all, you'll probably hate Kertesz. On the other hand, if you can handle Bernhard's tyrannical mannerisms, you may well find Kertesz blessedly accessible and affective, though every bit as difficult.
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By Steiner on September 14, 2012
Format: Paperback
Kertesz' prose is a mordantly brilliant, penetrating exercise in self-interrogation. It is the singularity and power of a voice--a voice that carries with it a lifetime of suffering and tragedy. It is an active consciousness reflecting in on itself the reasons why, its speaker could not bring a child into the world. Although we only ever see patches of the speaker's story, an entire history presses on us with the weight and density of the entire event that is the Holocaust. Drawing on the inspired prose style of Thomas Bernhard, Kertesz brings his own particular temperament and intellectual itinerary. This is little book will take you deep into the crevices of nothingness quickly, and without any hesitation.
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