East Bay View (a blog about several things)

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Saturday, April 22, 2006

"Everybody can only write about Auschwitz"

The Guardian Review has an interesting interview with Imre Kertész. Recently I read Fatelessness in preparation for the movie (released in S.F. yesterday); if the material carries over a fraction of the charge it has on the page on to the screen, it'll be a must-see. The novel would seem to be challenging to adapt: it relies on small shifts in the psyche of the narrator -- nominally Gyuri, though he soon becomes Number 64921 (Kertész's own camp number). Each chapter is written as if recounted very soon after the events described, so that while his voice seems perplexingly untroubled, we can discern his mindstate decaying. Without revealing the ending, let me just say that I find it more disturbing, in a psychological sense, than any of the atrocities described previously, as the narrator, more than ever before, finds himself in the condition named in the title.

"What I have discovered is that Auschwitz was an absolute moment in the history of Europe, intellectually. Maybe it sounds strange that I call this awful atrocity which killed millions of people part of an intellectual activity, but allow me to be a cynic ... The traditional values have burnt out, have been emptied, and I cannot yet see the creativity which could create new values." I can't share Kertész's pessimism: there are value systems that function today; the difficulty is they're neither universal nor absolute. But his case is unsettlingly persuasive.


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