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Tim Wilkinson on Imre Kertesz

Hungarian Literature Online has a great article by Tim Wilkinson on the short prose of Nobel-winner Imre Kertesz.

Wilkinson has translated several Kertesz books, including Fatelessness, Kaddish for an Unborn Child, Liquidation, Detective Story, The Pathseeker: Searching for Traces, and The Union Jack, or The British Standard. (The last three are coming out in 2008—Knopf is bringing out Detective Story this month and Melville House is doing Pathseeker and The Union Jack later this year.)

The article is quite interesting, providing a great overview of Kertesz’s work and tying it into Beckett:

Galley-Boat Log indicates that Kertész was aware of Beckett’s work (despite official disapproval of it on the part of the Soviet bloc’s cultural tsars). Malone Dies evidently made a profound impression, because one can find several references to this in 1987. In mid-year he quotes: “I began again, to try and live . . . But little by little with a different aim, no longer in order to succeed, but in order to fail”; then, at the very end of that year, “I was born grave as others syphilitic,” and ”. . . he who has waited long enough will wait for ever. And there comes the hour when nothing more can happen and nobody more can come and all is ended but the waiting that knows itself in vain. Perhaps he had come to that.” There is another explicit reference to Malone Dies in Kaddish for an Unborn Child (“I began again, to try and live . . . But little by little with a different aim, no longer in order to succeed, but in order to fail”), and possibly also to Molloy (“It was a larch tree. It is the only tree I can identify with certainty…”), but maybe the most poignant is: “We have got rid of our rights” (Waiting for Godot). There are other references, such as the epigraph to Liquidation, which is again from Molloy: “Then I went back into the house and wrote, It is midnight. The rain is beating on the windows. It was not midnight. It was not raining.”

Sara Kramer from NYRB told me 2008 was going to be the “Year of the Hungarians,” and after reading this—and realizing Kertesz has three books coming out this year—I’m starting to believe her . . .



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