10 October 2002 - This year's Nobel Prize for Literature has been
awarded to the Hungarian writer Imre Kertész.
Swedish Academy in Stockholm honours the writer "for writing that
upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric
arbitrariness of history".
Imre Kertész was born
in Budapest on 9th November 1929. He is of Jewish descent. Kertesz was
deported to the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz in
German-occupied Poland as a teenager in 1944 and then to Buchenwald,
from which he was liberated in 1945. The trauma of the Holocaust
continues to influence the Hungarian novelist's literary oeuvre. "In
his writing Imre Kertész 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, the
Swedish Academy said. "For him Auschwitz is not an exceptional
occurrence that like an alien body subsists outside the normal history
of Western Europe. It is the ultimate truth about human degradation in
Kertészs first novel,
Sorstalanság, 1975 (Fateless, 1992), deals with the
young Köves, who is arrested and taken to a concentration camp
but conforms and survives. The novel uses the alienating device of
taking the reality of the camp completely for granted, an everyday
existence like any other, admittedly with conditions that are
thankless, but not without moments of happiness. Kertész has
himself said, When I am thinking about a new novel, I always
think of Auschwitz. This does not mean, however, that Sorstalanság
is autobiographical in any simple sense: Kertész says himself
that he has used the form of the autobiographical novel but that it is
not an autobiography. Initially Sorstalanság was
refused. When eventually it was published in 1975 it was received with
compact silence. Kertész has written about this experience in
A kudarc (Fiasco), 1988.
In Kaddis a meg
nem születetett gyermekért, 1990 (Kaddish for a
Child not Born, 1997), Kertész presents a consistently
negative picture of childhood and from this pre-history derives the
paradoxical feeling of being at home in the concentration camp.
Kaddish is the name of the Jewish prayer for their dead. His Kaddish
is said for the child which he refuses to beget in a world that
permitted the existence of Auschwitz. According to the Swedish
Academy, the Hungarian writer completes his implacable existential
analysis by depicting love as the highest stage of conformism, total
capitulation to the desire to exist at any cost. For Kertész
the spiritual dimension of man lies in his inability to adapt to life.
In his collection of fragments Gályanapló
(Galley Diary), 1992, Kertész demonstrates his full
intellectual scope. Theoretical justifications are merely
constructions, he writes, but nevertheless conducts an untiring
dialogue with the great tradition of cultural criticism Pascal,
Goethe, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Kafka, Camus, Beckett, Bernhard. "In
essence, Imre Kertész is a minority consisting of one
individual. He regards his kinship with the concept of Jew as a
definition inflicted on him by the enemy, the Swedish Academy said. "But
through its consequences this arbitrary categorisation has
nevertheless been his initiation into the deepest knowledge of
humanity and the age in which he lives".
Nobel Prize is worth the equivalent of 1 million EURO and will be
presented on 10 December in Stockholm.
The prize for
literature was awarded last year to the Trinidadian-born Briton
V.S. Naipaul. In
2000 it went to Gao Zingjian, the Chinese writer living in exile in
France. In 1999, Günter Grass received the prize.