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Drehbuch Zum 'Roman Eines Schicksalslosen' ♕ At the age ofGeorg Koves is plucked from his home in a Jewish section of Budapest and without any particular malice, placed on a train to Auschwitz He does not understand the reason for his fate He doesn t particularly think of himself as Jewish And his fellow prisoners, who decry his lack of Yiddish, keep telling him, You are no Jew In the lowest circle of the Holocaust, Georg remains an outsiderThe genius of Imre Kertesz s unblinking novel lies in its refusal to mitigate the strangeness of its events, not least of which is Georg s dogmatic insistence on making sense of what he witnesses or pretending that what he witnesses makes sense Haunting, evocative, and all the horrifying for its rigorous avoidance of sentiment, Fatelessness is a masterpiece in the traditions of Primo Levi, Elie Wiesel, and Tadeusz Borowski Kertesz won the Nobel prize for literature for this book and it is really not surprising, hence the five stars I would also advocate that the book be called Timeless as well for it is one of those books which has an aura of being beyond time It could have been written immediately after the end of World War II, or it could have been written yesterday, and there is little way of knowing at least through the text when this story was made its way onto paper because it is a single voice in the Kertesz won the Nobel prize for literature for this book and it is really not surprising, hence the five stars I would also advocate that the book be called Timeless as well for it is one of those books which has an aura of being beyond time It could have been written immediately after the end of World War II, or it could have been written yesterday, and there is little way of knowing at least through the text when this story was made its way onto paper because it is a single voice in the immense, faceless march of European history where annonymity became the fate of so many individuals While not written as an autobiographical exercise, Fateless is partly an examination of Kertesz s own experiences in both Auschwitz and Buchenwald The introductory chapters highlight how quickly and easily Gyuri accepted the plight of the local Jewish community and while it is not upbeat it is surprisingly sanguine, and perhaps even optomistic in places Once Gyuri arrives at the gates of Auschwitz Birkenau however, it is easy to anticipate that the tone of the book will shift dramatically I did not expect much happiness from there on in.The brilliance of this book is its clarity and tone and the fact that it ascribes a voice and emotions to a series of events which are widely documented but little understood on the level of the individual The sheer scope of the atrocity frequently annhilates the notion of I and replaces it with them or all.The narrator Gyuri presents an astounding first hand account of his existance in the labour camps Gyuri rarely mentions his family or considers the likely fate of his fellow Jews beyond the walls of whichever labour camp he is interred in at the time This makes his experience all theprofoundly personal, showing how all his energies are focused on making sense of his own plight and ensuring that he stays alive The last chapter of the book also highlights in a startling way how those who were not subjected to time in the labour camps could never grasp the full scope of the horror At a time when everything in their own world had carried on almost as before, lightly dressed in a thin veneer of normality, how could they believe that such death and suffering had found a common place just beyond the fringes of their community Cynically, this could be recommended as a handbook for survival should you find yourself arrested one fine morning thanks to your offensive identity or favoriting a thousand resist related tweets in a single week I don t think expert knowledge eg, it s best to be toward the end of the soup line so the ladle is filled with weightier chunks of veggies and maybe some meat will really come in handy any time soon, but this does have an important function now, the same as it always has, in that it Cynically, this could be recommended as a handbook for survival should you find yourself arrested one fine morning thanks to your offensive identity or favoriting a thousand resist related tweets in a single week I don t think expert knowledge eg, it s best to be toward the end of the soup line so the ladle is filled with weightier chunks of veggies and maybe some meat will really come in handy any time soon, but this does have an important function now, the same as it always has, in that it shows how things can escalate step by step and all along the way human nature acclimates to whatever happens, gets used to regulates whatever horror comes next, makes it so you become accustomed to seeing carts filled with body parts or even seeing three Latvian escapees caught and displayed as a lesson not to run, for example and all of it somehow doesn t blot out the ability of the sun as it sets to memorably illuminate the world, even when that bit of the world is Buchenwald The image of the Auschwitz crematorium chimneys at first they thought the nasty smell was coming from a nearby leather factory stretching into the distance made me say aloud on the subway something like whoa dude fuck For the first few chapters it functions like a suspense thriller in that the reader knowsabout the horrors up ahead than the narrator, but after a while rumors start to circulate and they have a better idea about what s going on, not that such knowledge changes anything for them really All the minor instances of luck and goodwill that kept the narrator alive All the facial features distorted by time spent as a prisoner Lager means camp in German didn t know that and will remember it forever after and associate it with this book whenever I drink that style of beer Loved isn t the right word but I laughed out loud when he made it back to Budapest and someone asked what he felt and he said hatred and when asked who he hated he said everyone Loved the last parts where he s trying to describe what it was really like, how it wasn t all horror all the time, or hell, as everyone wants him to say, but that it was boring everyday life, a twisted cousin of freedom in that he was living a fate imposed on him, as though he had no fate hence the title , and now that he was actually free he felt homesick for when he had no choices to make Note that this is about FATELESS, the original translation published by Northwestern University Press, not FATELESSNESS, the newer translation published by Vintage I bought both and A B d them before choosing which one to read after the first paragraph it was clear that I preferred FATELESS I just tried to read FATELESSNESS, thinking I d read it again in a different translation but I couldn t make it very far the new translation seems maybe too loyal to the original Hungarian, too often it offers up awkward English phrases and switches tenses oddly The first translation may have regulated the text a bit and, to me, it reads better, without a doubt Anyway, this is the third Kert sz novel I ve read Detective Story a few years ago by the translator of FATELESSNESS and Kaddish for a Child Not Bornrecently by the couple who translated FATELESS and this one is clearly the strongest and most significant of these three, although the other two are definitely worth it If you re interested in giving this writer a try, this his first novel is probably the one to start with.For interesting takes on Kert sz related translation issues, see this review by Joshua Cohen and scroll down about midway This is when I found out that you could be bored even in Auschwitz provided you were choosy We waited and we waited, and as I come to think of it, we waited for nothing to happen This boredom, combined with this strange waiting, was, I think, approximately what Auschwitz meant to me, but of course I am only speaking for myself As he said, he s only speaking for himself Here, I am speaking for myself, as is the case for any and all fiction, and even some of the non What I speak involves This is when I found out that you could be bored even in Auschwitz provided you were choosy We waited and we waited, and as I come to think of it, we waited for nothing to happen This boredom, combined with this strange waiting, was, I think, approximately what Auschwitz meant to me, but of course I am only speaking for myself As he said, he s only speaking for himself Here, I am speaking for myself, as is the case for any and all fiction, and even some of the non What I speak involves my understanding, not my knowledge, my general aversion to gnosticism grown to unpronounceable proportions Such as it should be with regards to the Shoah, yes First the horror, then the silence.Despite that, let s talk If Kert sz is willing, how are we to forbear With a cracking voice, she desperately shouted something to the effect that if our distinctiveness was unimportant, than all this was mere chance, and that if there was the possibility of her being someone other than whom she was fated to be, then all of this was utterly without reason, and to her that idea was totally unbearableIf you are punished, and have committed a crime, you are guilty If you are punished, and have committed , ranging from birth to creed to whatever the reason one condemns another wholesale and complete, each on either side simply one of a many millions, you are innocent A horror, the horror, your horror, or so they say They, the bystanders, millions compounded and compounded again muttering in the stands, still capable of wanting, needing, crafting a story They need their catharsis, especially the diffuse of responsibilities and unwitting maybe perhaps they claim victimhood as well and don t want to think about it accomplices You will provide.You You lived That length of time of your life, that skein of events and your reactions to such, the ideas and emotions filling in ever faster as all those gift baskets of audience prescribed sensibilities of disbelief, rage, terror, tears, fall by the wayside You, a human being, lived, and made full use of your human capacity for feeling Happiness, annoyance, puzzlement The finding of beauty in a concentration camp All of this, as I said, I noticed, but not in the same way as later, when I started to fit the pieces together and could sum up and recall the events step by step I had become used to every new step gradually, and this hadn t given me the detachment I needed to actually notice what was happening Was there a story in there somewhere, one a littleentertaining than the fact you managed to live to this day, and all the turns and twists and often boring banalities involved in such a happenstance That would imply a reason behind it all, when everyone knows the capriciousness of life Far deeper down than I would have thought, this knowledge, considering how they keep insisting on the climax, the tragedy, the entertainment And this is only one genocide out of many, only one part of one genocide if one thinks only of the six million What of the rest of the voices Do they not fit within the parameters of what deserves to be heard If those who still live on refuse the title of victim , contemplate the multifarious of their experiences within the full range of feeling and thought, grasp their memories of such a time of their life as anyone else would, are they worth the time Then, that day I also experienced that very same tenseness, that same itchy feeling and clumsiness that came over me when I was with them, that I had occasionally felt at home as if I weren t entirely okay, as if I didn t entirely conform to the ideal in other words, somehow as if I were Jewish That was a rather strange feeling, because, after all, I was among Jews and in a concentration camp He speaks of his lack of faith while the blood bound heritage of it couples him to a baffled mind and moldering body Only slowly, and not without some humorous puzzlement and wonder, did the idea dawn on me this situation, this state of imprisonment, had to be what was causing his agony I was almost tempted to say to him Don t be sad After all, it s not important But I was afraid to be so bold, and then I also remembered that I didn t know any French He puzzles at the monotone view of his day to day life by others, one restricted to pity, pity, pity As if his effort to see the worth in living had time for that, when there were so many other things to think upon But who can judge what is possible or believable in a concentration camp Who could explore, exhaust all those countless ideas, inventions, games, jokes, and ponderable theories, which are easily accessible and transferable from a make believe world of fantasy into a concentration camp reality You couldn t, even if you mustered the totality of your knowledge The horror, the horror, the horror What else I read Fatelessness for the first time not long after Kert sz won the Nobel Prize, and without knowing much about Hungarian history or Hungarian writers I will admit, I was mystified by its tone, which veered back and forth between a disarming intimacy where the reader is invited to share the naive perspective of the 15 year old narrator, Gyorgy, on his experiences in the lagers and the ironic detachment of the narrator s adult self It waslayered than a work of witness testimony, such I read Fatelessness for the first time not long after Kert sz won the Nobel Prize, and without knowing much about Hungarian history or Hungarian writers I will admit, I was mystified by its tone, which veered back and forth between a disarming intimacy where the reader is invited to share the naive perspective of the 15 year old narrator, Gyorgy, on his experiences in the lagers and the ironic detachment of the narrator s adult self It waslayered than a work of witness testimony, such as Primo Levi s first book, If This Is a Man, yet less literary than Elie Wiesel s Night.The book left a bitter taste in my mouth, reminding me of how I felt after reading Tadeusz Borowski s This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen or some of the essays in Jean Am ry s unsettling collection, At the Mind s Limits Behind Gyorgy s naivet is quite a bit of rage not unwarranted, mind you but it s directed everywhere, almost at random Have you come from Germany, son Yes From the concentration camps Naturally Which one Buchenwald Yes, he had heard of it he knew it was one of the pits of the Nazi hell, as he put it Where did they carry you off from From Budapest How long were you there A year in total You must have seen a lot, young fellow, a lot of terrible things, he rejoined, but I said nothing Still, he continued, the main thing is that it s over, in the past, and, his face brightening, he gestured to the houses that we happened to be rumbling past and inquired what I was feeling now, back home again and seeing the city that I had left Hatred, I told him.Now I know , and it strikes me that Kert sz is in dialogue with all the writers I ve mentioned He s picking up Levi s statement about Auschwitz Here there is no why, but Kert sz doesn t leave it there Gyorgy insists on trying to see things from the point of view of his persecutors He is too weak to work, which understandably irritates the guards He must smell disgusting, having diarrhea The lice must eat too, how can he blame them for feasting on him Naturally he had been starved and beaten.At one point Gyorgy describes Buchenwald as if he were writing a tourist brochure Buchenwald lies on the crest of one of the elevations in a region of hills and dales Its air is clear, the countryside varied, with woods all around and the red tiled roofs of the village houses in the valleys down below delightful to the eye The bathhouse is situated off to the left The prisoners are mostly friendly, though somehow in a different way than in Auschwitz Heavily ironic, to be sure, but the reader understands that the fifteen year old narrator wants desperately to believe that he has come to a better place and, strange as it sounds, he has a favorite moment, dusk, when he is at peace with his surroundings.I also see Kert sz in dialogue with Sartre, who claimed, in Anti Semite and Jew that the Jew is wholly defined by others Although he wore the yellow star and was persecuted on account of his supposed race, Gyorgy does not feel Jewish The devout, Yiddish speaking Jews in the lager consider him a goy, he thinks of himself as a Hungarian And yet, he will not deny his Jewish heritage now that he has been punished for it Another statement by Levi comes to mind They the Nazis sewed the Star of David on me, and not only onto my clothes But the underlying dialogue in Fatelessness is with Communism The Stalinist regime under which Kert sz came of age, with its torturers, its secret prisons and work camps, its network of informers and the pervasive atmosphere of fear, resembled the world into which Kert sz himself was thrust at age fifteen It revived the tastes of Auschwitz, he said in an interview in Haaretz, allowing him to understand as an adult what he experienced as a child.I m still pondering this book, and will haveto say about it when I review the film version Kert sz wrote the screenplay in my monthly column for 3 Quarks Daily But I ve read so many wonderful reviews by my friends here lately that I wanted to offer something in return even in Auschwitz, it seems, it is possible to be bored assuming one is privilegedIK was in concentration camp himself for a year at an age of around 15 and this novel is semi autobiographical Instead of usual double quotation marks, the protagonist is using reported speech which seems to make the whole thing readlike a confession than a novel Such things might seem as defects at first sight but, as in case of The Bell Jar , they just serve to show how difficult it is for a suffeeven in Auschwitz, it seems, it is possible to be bored assuming one is privilegedIK was in concentration camp himself for a year at an age of around 15 and this novel is semi autobiographical Instead of usual double quotation marks, the protagonist is using reported speech which seems to make the whole thing readlike a confession than a novel Such things might seem as defects at first sight but, as in case of The Bell Jar , they just serve to show how difficult it is for a suffering soul to give their experience a popular form May be novel as an art is still developing The author also discussed the difficulty faced in this transition in his Nobel prize accepting speech too Another thing worth noticing in the speech was that IK used the pronoun we while discussing what brought Holocausts He refused to think of it as something brought down on people by some outlandish demons that probably won t happen again And let us face it we are still very much the same people who gave power to Nazis, we still love psychopaths, we still vote according to whom we hate and we still need scapegoats and easily learn to hate first the things we wish to harmSomehow, from his angry look and his deft sleight of hand, I suddenly understood why his train of thought would make it impossible to abide Jews, for otherwise he might have had the unpleasant feeling that he was cheating themWhat makes this book stand out is that it is not the big atrocities like ones showed in Schindler s Camp that are described in detail but rather the general experience not only boredom but amid never ending hunger constantly stocking his consciousness, injuries, suicidal thoughts camps there were still happy momentsI would like to live a little bit longer in this beautiful concentration campAnother thing, and one that I like to see in protagonists, is the kafkaesque efforts made by the fifteen year old protagonist to understand the world around him and to speculate how it come out to be such how they must have come up with all those ideas to make such a brilliant camp His position is further worsened and made absurd by his lack of significant desire to identify himself as a Jew He isn t very religiousI yearnedfor sleep than prayersand doesn t know Hebrew this attracts disgust from some of his fellow prisoners who claim that he is no Jew At one point, he retorts by calling one of them lousy Jew And yet, it is because he is a Jew, he is forced to suffer The whole novel is about his coming to terms with his fate In the very beginning, he gives an impression as if he is an outsider like those Kafka characters who is suddenly made to accept a role he doesn t understandYou too, he said, are now a part of the shared Jewish fate,In the end, he does come to terms with it and, no it didn t mean to forget the whole thing as a bad incidence in his life a whole yearwe can never start a new life, only ever carry on the old oneNor he would be pittied, but still he is sure he will find happinnessI already know there will be happiness For even there, next to the chimneys, in the intervals between the torments, there was something that resembled happiness Everyone asks only about the hardships and the atrocities, whereas for me perhaps it is that experience which will remain the most memorable Yes, the next time I am asked, I ought to speak about that, the happiness of the concentration camps For me, all works by a Nobel Prize in Literature winner should be gems Methinks that getting this prize is the highest honor that any writer on this earth can dream about So, since I have turned into a voracious reader, I have been sampling a work or so of the past Nobel laureates So far, I ve read Sienkiewicz 1905 Hamsum 1920 Mann 1929 Hesse 1946 Faulkner 1949 Hemingway 1954 Jimenez 1956 Camus 1957 Checkhov 1958 Pasternak 1958 Neruda 1971 Bellow 1976 Ca For me, all works by a Nobel Prize in Literature winner should be gems Methinks that getting this prize is the highest honor that any writer on this earth can dream about So, since I have turned into a voracious reader, I have been sampling a work or so of the past Nobel laureates So far, I ve read Sienkiewicz 1905 Hamsum 1920 Mann 1929 Hesse 1946 Faulkner 1949 Hemingway 1954 Jimenez 1956 Camus 1957 Checkhov 1958 Pasternak 1958 Neruda 1971 Bellow 1976 Caneti 1981 Marquez 1982 Golding 1983 Gordimer 1991 Morrison 1993 Saramago 1998 Grass 1999 Naipaul 2000 Coetzee 2003 Jelinek 2004 Lessing 2007 Llosa 2010 I did not know that I ve already read at least 23 books by Nobel laureates It sure made my life richer not in monetary amount but by the wisdom their books impart to their readers After all, the Prize is now awarded both for lasting literary merit and for evidence of consistent idealism on some significant level In recent years, this means a kind of idealism championing human rights on a broad scale Hence the award is now arguablypolitical according to Wiki Thus, unless Murakami and Coelho write something on politics, they may not have a chance for a Nobel trophy soon.Here comes my 24th Nobel author Imre Kertesz Boy, he sure is political Fatelessness is about his experience in the concentration camps during Hitler s reign Holocaust He was a young boy, at 17, when he was asked to go to Auschwitz He lied about his age unknowingly saving his own life Children less than 18 were killed as they were deemed unfit to work In this book, he narrated in present tense and this made a lot of difference compared to the early Holocaust autobiographical books that I read Anne Frank and Victor Klemperer I had that feeling of being right there in the camp seeing what the boy Gyorgy Koves, 15, was witnessing The other things that made this different were 1 that Kertesz described the experience in a detached way, as if he was experiencing something ordinary Something that happens in everyday life Factual No ranting No philosophical musings No tearful revelations His trip to Auschwitz was just like a trip to his work place 2 having said that, Kertesz even felt happiness while in the camps as he ended the book withYes, the next time I am asked, I ought to speak about that, the happiness of the concentration campsAlthough all works, at one point in time, suck, we sometimes also get happiness from them, right Nevertheless, this is a chilling read Those harrowing descriptions of Auschwitz still sent chills to my bones and I caught my hand bracing onto my mouth as if preventing myself from shouting while reading 4 stars to you Mr Kertesz Looking forward to reading the other books I have in my tbr by the other Nobel laureates Kipling 1907 Tagore 1913 Lewis 1930 Galsworthy 1932 Buck 1938 Gide 1947 Eliot 1948 Pound 1949 Satre 1964 Kawabata 1968 Beckett 1969 Boll 1972 White 1973 Singer 1978 Mafouz 1987 Paz 1990 Oe 1994 Pinter 2005 Pamuk 2006 and Le Clezio 2008 How well do you know the Nobel laureates I included two writers who literary critics think should not be there Can you tell me who they are Some people say they aredeserving but they were caught in the political sentiments during the time that they were supposed to win Kertesz has written a semi autobiographical novel about a fourteen year old boy who gets mysteriously deported from Hungary to a Jewish concentration camp The protagonist George Koves spends a mere three days in Auschwitz, which he recalled as rather pleasant, before being forwarded to work camps at Buchenwald and Zeitz I am not sure George Koves ever recovered from his shock at being grabbed, and he spends all of his time trying to rationalize the senseless acts he saw around him while he w Kertesz has written a semi autobiographical novel about a fourteen year old boy who gets mysteriously deported from Hungary to a Jewish concentration camp The protagonist George Koves spends a mere three days in Auschwitz, which he recalled as rather pleasant, before being forwarded to work camps at Buchenwald and Zeitz I am not sure George Koves ever recovered from his shock at being grabbed, and he spends all of his time trying to rationalize the senseless acts he saw around him while he was incarcerated I found the book became confusing in synchronization with George himself as he was ground down by back breaking work and the hatred he faced continuously He becomes depressed and kind of crazy in the end Perhaps this book is better in Hungarian, and could be better translated to English Nobel prize winner Imre Kert sz survived stays in both the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps While he was there, I have no doubt that he suffered a great deal both physically and psychologically so I was understandably, I think hesitant to dislike his semi autobiographical Holocaust novel Fatelessness It seems at the very least very inconsiderate of me to criticize his book for failing to entertain me Entertainment is a strange, nebulous word Are we entertained in whatever Nobel prize winner Imre Kert sz survived stays in both the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps While he was there, I have no doubt that he suffered a great deal both physically and psychologically so I was understandably, I think hesitant to dislike his semi autobiographical Holocaust novel Fatelessness It seems at the very least very inconsiderate of me to criticize his book for failing to entertain me Entertainment is a strange, nebulous word Are we entertained in whatever sense when we watch The Sorrow and the Pity How about when we read Elie Wiesel s Night I would argue that, yes, we are Admittedly this is an entertainment only dimly related to that alleged enjoyment afforded by a rerun of The King of Queens, but it is a diversion that intends to please its audience Now don t only think of pleasing as giving an audience what it asks for, but also think of it as giving an audience what it didn t even know it wanted to begin with.When we think about the Holocaust, unless we are aberrant or sadistic, we are unlikely to be pleased by it, in and of itself, but when we read a text in the postmodern sense of texts, including films and art, etc concerning the Holocaust, if it is well done, we will be pleased by it Why Because it gives us insight into human experience even of the horrific kind or it helps us to understand our world in some small way or, alternately, it helps us to experience what is incomprehensible about our world or it offers a critique or diagnosis of the systems in our culture which enable things like Holocausts which may inform our future actions or behavior And of course there are other possibilities of pleasures we might derive from unpleasant subjects some certainly less honorable It isn t without an acute awareness of how it sounds that I claim that Imre Kert sz s Fatelessness didn t please me It sounds terrible, doesn t it As if I asked for the monkey to dance for me and it failed to dance But don t confuse these pleasures with the baser forms Fatelessness is unsuccessful because it has nothing much to say, but it manages nevertheless to say it at great length It s littlethan a neutered story of a boy spending time in concentration camps There s no insight there s no emotional weight there s no humanity besides which, stylistically speaking, the Wilkinson translation of Kert sz is a mess The sentences are long, dissected by countless clauses, phrases, and parenthetical asides, and often pointless They accumulate detail but not purpose Perhaps this is a commentary on life an existential grammar but if so, how trite Our suffering is long and meaningless At only 260 pages, this book feels long and meaningless itself An efficacious art I m not often proud of my brother Much of the time, and in most circumstances, our personalities and values are very different However, some time ago a friend of his tried to get him to watch one of those execution videos, in which some poor sod gets his head lopped off And he refused, quite aggressively so, he told me he wanted nothing to do with it It occurred to me then that one thing my brother and I do have in common is an aversion to violence and suffering Hold on, you ll say, doesn I m not often proud of my brother Much of the time, and in most circumstances, our personalities and values are very different However, some time ago a friend of his tried to get him to watch one of those execution videos, in which some poor sod gets his head lopped off And he refused, quite aggressively so, he told me he wanted nothing to do with it It occurred to me then that one thing my brother and I do have in common is an aversion to violence and suffering Hold on, you ll say, doesn t everyone No, I don t think they do Or certainly only an aversion to that which is directed at themselves I believe that many normally functioning people by which I mean people who are not dangerous criminals are drawn to violence and other people s suffering, they seek them out, at least at a safe distance I m sure there are complex reasons for why this is the case most of which are, in my opinion, based around power and sex I can imagine many of you shaking your head as you read this I accept that this is not a popular view yet to me it is undeniable one only needs to look at the popularity of certain kinds of TV programmes, or films or books Take the recent torture porn craze, films that amount to nothingthan 90 mins of people being butchered And why dopeople tune into the news thehorrific, the bigger the tragedy Who, likewise, is watching all those murder documentaries Murderers Maniacs I don t think so Who is reading all those brutal crime novels The evidence is overwhelming, despite how uncomfortable the reality of it makes people feel We human beings haven t changed since large crowds gathered to watch public hangings, we just get our kicks insubtle ways these days.I think that this attraction to violence and suffering accounts for why many people appear to find Imre Kertesz s Fateless or Fatelessness, in another translation boring or disappointing Very few people will admit it, of course, but, in a number of the reviews I have read, there is a very real sense of expectations not having been met, without anyone actually truly giving voice to what these expectations were I can tell you these people expected grand horror Fateless is a book about the holocaust, it is a partially autobiographical account of a young man s experiences in some of the worst concentration camps These disappointed readers wanted, perhaps sub consciously, to read about the boy s suffering, they wanted him to be severely psychologically and physically oppressed Yet the book lacks these things, in large part, and therefore it is, I believe, for a certain kind of reader, a huge let down.For me, however, Fateless is one of the most extraordinary books I have ever read Indeed, one of the things I like about it is how novel it is, how, in essence, it does not conform to expectations The horror is there, of course, because the holocaust was absolutely, undeniably horrific, so to side step it completely is impossible, but it is nearly always in the background, is not lingered over The book is a first person narrative, and the boy s voice is detached, relentlessly ironic, and this creates a weird form of tension, because you know precisely what kind of awful things are happening around him, and to him, but he seems, at least for the first two thirds of the book, unable to see them himself The boy isn t stupid, nor particularly na ve, he just appears to take everything in his stride, to see the common sense in, the rationale behind, everything For example, one of the most powerful, poignant and moving scenes takes place as Gyorgy and his friends arrive at Auschwitz and are seen by a doctor who divides the inmates into two groups on the basis of who is fit for work and who isn t The reader knows what this process is really about, of course, we know what the outcome will be for those unable to work, but Gyorgy, who at this stage does not, mentally joins in the selection process, justifying to himself or questioning the doctor s decisions to pass or condemn his fellow man Even when confronted by officers with whips he feels littlethan discomforted or wary and when he finally comes to understand what the crematoriums are for he takes this in his stride too.Kertesz apparently once said that it was important to him that he did not present the holocaust as something in retrospect, as something that has already happened and is being commented on, but rather as something happening, as something being revealed bit by bit to the people involved by which I mean the victims However, while I think that is both an interesting approach and one the author makes good use of, I don t believe that it explains why this book is special It suggests that Gyorgy would behave as expected i.e wringing his hands, beating his chest and wailing at the stars once he understands what is happening, but he doesn t It is the boy s voice, his take on events, that makes Fateless something of a masterpiece for me Until I read the book I thought it impossible that anyone could bring a freshness to a subject I already knew a great deal about, but Kertesz does exactly that Fateless is, it is worth pointing out, also strangely funny I have seen it compared to Candide by Voltaire, in which a character attempts to keep a sunny, positive outlook in the face of every kind of disaster, and while I can see some of that in Kertesz s novel, the humour is less slap stick, is darker,subtle and sophisticated indeed, in tone it reminded meof Gulliver s Travels, or Kafka, it is similarly deadpan, so that one isn t sure, at certain moments, whether one is meant to laugh or not For example, when Gyorgy is moved to Buchenwald he sets off on a long description of the place, which sounds eerily like a holiday brochure or the script used by an estate agent who is showing you around a property you may wish to purchase, a property that isn t of the highest calibre, of course It would be possible to read this description and be slightly bewildered, because it is absurd, yet there is no doubt in my mind that the author is playing for laughs, albeit bitter laughs There are, however,obviously comedic moments, although these too are shot through with bitterness and a kind of searing irony, like when Gyorgy s father is taken away All the same, I thought, at least we were able to send him off to the labor camp, poor man, with memories of a nice day Or when the boy describes one of the concentration camps as golden days indeed, or when he states, perhaps most movingly of all I would like to live a little bit longer in this beautiful concentration camp In terms of style the novel is written in Kertesz s recognisably overly precise manner He is a fan of clauses, that s for sure, some of which do not make a great deal of sense to me, although you could put this down to a translation issue The narrator is also, as with the author s other work, pedantic, and partly because of this the sentences are inelegant, ugly even Further, Kertesz, much like Dostovesky, uses repeated words or phrases, such as so to say and somehow, which can make reading him laborious However, lyrical is certainly not what the writer was gunning for here, so none of this is intended critically One thing I would like to say, before I finish, is in response to the review by the usually excellent The Complete Review, which called Fateless something like the autobiography before the art the art being Kertesz s later novels I don t agree with that at all In fact, i think the opposite Kertesz s other novels including Fiasco and Kaddish for an Unborn Child despite many qualities to recommend them, are the imitation after the art Fiasco is one part Beckett, one part Kafka and one part Bernhard Kaddish is Beckett and Bernhard Fateless, on the other hand, is all Kertesz, it is a singular vision