The Nobel Prize in Literature 2002
Born: 9 November 1929, Budapest, Hungary
Died: 31 March 2016, Budapest, Hungary
Residence at the time of the award: Hungary
Prize motivation: “for writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history”
Prize share: 1/1
Imre Kertész was born in Budapest in 1929. He was 14 years old during the Holocaust, when he was taken to the concentration camp in Auschwitz, and later Buchenwald. This trauma is at the heart of Kertész’s writing, and experiences in the camps serve as the basis of both his debut novel Fateless and his later works. He was rescued in 1945 and then returned to Budapest, where he worked as a journalist, a translator of German literature and later as a writer. During the 1990s Kertész moved to Berlin.
Imre Kertész’s work on his debut novel Fateless continued for many years before it was published in 1975. The book is about young György Köves, who is arrested and deported to concentration camps but survives. In his writing, Imre Kertész explored what it means for a person to live under an ideological death sentence, and how one can handle surviving when so many other people died. With his novels, Kertész associates himself with the literary concept called “witness literature” in which the author describes a trauma from personal experience.
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