Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Fatelessness” as Want to Read:
Fatelessness
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Fatelessness

(The Holocaust series)

by
4.06  ·  Rating details ·  7,237 ratings  ·  603 reviews
At the age of 14 Georg 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 H ...more
Paperback, 262 pages
Published December 7th 2004 by Vintage International (first published 1975)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Fatelessness, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Orsi it can easily be lost in translation from hungarian, but the original title translated literally would definitely be "fatelessness", i just think it…moreit can easily be lost in translation from hungarian, but the original title translated literally would definitely be "fatelessness", i just think it looks and sounds a bit weird, the original hungarian word has punch to it, it is a really strong word, and the way fatelessness sounds doesn't really convey the original title i think? i worded that strangely but ygm(less)
Griesgundel van Feldenfloeven Looking at the author's biography it is clear that this novel is based on his life.

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
4.06  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,237 ratings  ·  603 reviews


More filters
 | 
Sort order
Steven Godin
Fatelessness, the quasi-autobiographical novel and reworking of Kertesz's own experiences at Auschwitz and other camps during WW2 is narrated by Gyuri, an awkward, and I have to say not fully likeable 14-year-old Jewish boy from Budapest, who suffers from the usual teenage sensations of estrangement and diffidence, and is at a highly sensitive age to endure such tyranny and his response is to rationalise everything. His tone is formal, dispassionate, his story peppered with evasions and disclaim ...more
David
Jul 01, 2012 rated it it was ok
Nobel prize-winner Imre Kertész 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
...more
Hadrian
Jul 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, hungary
Fatelessness is a profound, deeply unsettling book.

Georg Koves is a Hungarian boy, about 14 or 15. His father was already taken away to a forced labor camp. He thinks about Jewishness, his own identity, the star on his coat, and girls. After a stint of his own forced labor and a betrayal from his neighbors, he is sent to Auschwitz. He is told to lie about his age, and he does. This spares him from gas and incineration. After some time there, he is then sent to Buchenwald, then to a 'provincial'
...more
Lee
Apr 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Aubrey
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 m
...more
Shovelmonkey1
Oct 31, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in modern european history
Recommended to Shovelmonkey1 by: 1001 books list
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 ...more
Sidharth Vardhan
"even in Auschwitz, it seems, it is possible to be bored—assuming one is privileged."


IK 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 read more like 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 sufferi
...more
Lisa Lieberman
Apr 06, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: jewish-interest
I read Fatelessness for the first time not long after Kertész 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 was more layered than a work of witness testimony, such ...more
K.D. Absolutely
May 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2010)
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). Cane
...more
Skip
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: historical
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 ...more
[P]
Mar 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
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’ ...more
Nancy Oakes
This novel is truly one of the best examples of Holocaust fiction, largely due to the power of Kertesz's writing, proving that you don't need to get into the horrific details in order to glimpse an individual's experience during this time period or the trauma of his survival upon his return home.

I'm not going to go into detail about plot here, (if you want to read about that then by all means drop in and take a look at my reading journal), but rather leave you with my impressions of this book.
...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly

I probably read a bad translation and maybe not one of the two that I have is any good. Funny that from a single Hungarian original more than one English translation can emerge. They couldn't even agree on the title: one has Fateless, and the other has Fatelessness. In one, there'll be three paragraphs which in the other are lumped into a long singularity. A mere phrase in one would be an independent sentence in another; a direct quote, just a simple declarative sentence in the other version; a
...more
Nate D
Apr 14, 2011 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: the inadequate and unprocessable
Recommended to Nate D by: those who do not remember history...
After reading so many books lately, including Kertesz's own Liquidation, that profess the inability of words to render or address the Holocaust, it's somewhat unfamiliar to find it being dealt with here directly. But Kertesz was born in 1929 and really was sent to Auschwitz, so regardless of how autobiographical this may be, he seems more, uh... qualified ... to deal with this era than most. What an inadequate word, qualified. As above, words are not enough, and even though this is a direct firs ...more
Jonfaith
Dec 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: shoah
My mechanics are likely skewed, it happens. The passing of Hitchens has pressed me terribly. This remarkable novel represented a current of oxygen amidst the stifle. Fateless maintains an ironic stance towards the Shoah. It should be embraced. By "embrace", I mean to cherish. By "It" I mean both the irony and the novel.
David
Nov 11, 2007 rated it really liked it
Fatelessness tells the story of 15-year-old Georg Koves, a highly assimilated Hungarian Jew, who one day finds himself on a train to Auschwitz. He is only in Auschwitz for three days before being transferred to Buchenwald, and finally to a labor camp in Zeitz. The novel narrates his experiences in all three places. While he may have been whisked off to Auschwitz, as the book jacket puts it, “without any special malice,” he encounters plenty of cruelty along the way. But what’s weird and striking ...more
Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
I think I was, oh, about fourteen when I first saw Schindler’s List, a movie that made such an impact on me that I followed it up by reading as much Holocaust literature as I could find, including the novel upon which the movie is based. To date I’ve read- aside from Keneally -Tadeusz Borowski’s This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen, Primo Levis’ If This is a Man, Elie Wiesel’s Night, and Wielsaw Kielar’s Anus Mundi. The work that made the greatest impact on me, in simple emotional terms, w ...more
Vladislav
Jun 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: other-novels
I have to confess, when I first started reading this masterpiece (because it is in fact a masterpiece) I was not impressed. The absolute lack of any emotional attachment a reader usually experiences during the dive into the horrors of Holocaust was masterfully eliminated by Kertész and - as I soon discovered - with good purpose. I read Fatelessness/Sortalanság (oh, how inappropriate it sounds in English!) in its original language, Hungarian. Unfortunately, most of the readers here are probably n ...more
Kathrina
May 13, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: hungarian
There are plenty of books out there that are more than happy to lead a reader through a vicarious experience of Nazi concentration camps of WWII. There is a kind of riveting thrill for these readers in stories of such unimaginable horror. But this book is not for them. No doubt, horrors abound, but our narrator is immune to them, or, more aptly, unsurprised by them, as these horrors are no more likely than comfort and happiness, in any given situation. The philosophy this young man learns throug ...more
Andrew
A Holocaust book that doesn't seem especially frequently read, especially given that Nobel Kertesz won. The protagonist is a young teenager who's frankly kind of a schlub, and never really understands the fact "oh, I'm being sent to my fate, along with everyone I know." Even when he gets back home after the liberation, he's all "hey, still smells like home, but why are these gentiles living here?" I've heard comparisons to Borowski, but this is far better, simply because of the pure, unadulterat ...more
Cemil
Jul 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
The holocaust and specifically the concentration camps is a topic that has been well covered in many films, books and different forms of art. This one differs from those with its detached, cold, matter of fact style. Even though the story is a firsthand experience, there is a very objective no-nonsense third person view which magnifies the effect of atrocities gone through.
The contrast between the unreal circumstances and everyday needs and human pettiness is appalling;
-The introspective observ
...more
Annabeth
Sep 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
I 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.

This quote alone should suffice to let you know that this book is not your average Holocaust
...more
James
Jan 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
Nominally this is a story about a young boy who is sent to the Nazi concentration camps from his home in Budapest in the last year of World War II. Narrated in the first person by young Gyorgy Koves, the novel is the story of an outsider -- one who does not belong to any group or anyone even as he is brutally incarcerated and his life is severely restricted almost to the point of death.
Gyorgy is an outsider in several senses. The week before he leaves home his Father is sent away to a "labor ca
...more
Mike
Oct 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
I don't ever really know what to say about books set during the Holocaust. This one is about a rather naive and initially thoughtless, unobservant boy who gets packed off first to Auschwitz, then Buchenwald, then a smaller labor camp, then back to Buchenwald. He becomes, for lack of a better word, institutionalized during this time, isolated from his captors (of course) but also from his fellow prisoners who either don't see him as sufficiently Jewish (neither does he see himself so) or who disl ...more
Daniel Simmons
Mar 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This novel is written in such a dispassionate tone that when the narrator does slip out of the analytical confines of his head and allows himself to FEEL, it is all the more startling and moving. It's just such a moment that provides, for me, the most vivid and horrifying moment of the book, when the narrator in his convalescence is sent back to Buchenwald for a second stay there and sniffs a familiar smell: "...from far off I recognized, there could be no doubting it, a whiff of turnip soup in ...more
Philippe Malzieu
Feb 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Short sentences, a certain distance from the narrator compared to theaction. An influence of Camus asserted. But this style was essential to describe the indescribable. I remember Budapest. My hotel was close to the old synagogue. It is not visited but the engraved stones are visible behind the grids. In this beautiful city I felt an infinite unhappiness.
To be 15 years old with Auschwitz, to escape death, then to undergo vexations of the Communists because he wanted to perpetuate the memory of S
...more
Paul Shirley
May 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I asked a girl at a cafe in Budapest to recommend to me some Hungarian authors. It rained the next day, so I went to a bookstore and asked for Hungarian books that had been translated to English. And then, because why not start with the Nobel prize winner, I bought Fateless (or Fatelessness, as it was once called).

Fateless is an extraordinary book that is built for the skeptic in all of us. Kertesz does a fantastic job of putting the reader in the shoes of his protagonist, the mostly-nameless te
...more
Phil
Dec 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I often try to avoid works about the holocaust, because at this point, they often feel predictable and easy. I know that must sound like a terrible thing to say. I know the holocaust was a tragic and unforgettable atrocity, but it sometimes feels like there's little to gain from looking at it again, and that artists who source their work in it are taking a short-cut to something moving and poignant.

That's not the case with Kertesz.

By subverting the accepted standpoint(s) on the holocaust, by tak
...more
Kayla
Mar 17, 2011 rated it it was ok
I probably would have liked this better if it were written in a different style. I understand the use of the dispassionate narrative to provide an arresting contrast to the horrors being depicted at the concentration camps, but it kind of turned me off--not to mention the pages-long paragraphs and forty page chapters (I like my chapters to be around 10-15 pages; it's helpful to me to have frequent stopping places seeing as that most of my reading is done during short breaks between classes and r ...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Jakob the Liar
  • Celestial Harmonies
  • The Beautiful Mrs. Seidenman
  • Kornél Esti
  • They Were Found Wanting
  • The End of a Family Story
  • Eclipse of the Crescent Moon
  • The Pendragon Legend
  • Adventures of Sindbad
  • War & War
  • Iskola a határon
  • Badenheim 1939
  • Dry Tears: The Story of a Lost Childhood
  • Szent Péter esernyője
  • This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen
  • Triumph of Hope: From Theresienstadt and Auschwitz to Israel
  • A Scrap of Time and Other Stories
  • The Tragedy of Man
See similar books…
244 followers
Born in Budapest in 1929, Imre Kertész was imprisoned during the Second-World-War at Auschwitz in 1944, and then at Bunchenwald concentration camp. After the war and repatriation, the Soviet seizure of Hungary ended Kertész's brief career as a journalist. He turned to translation, specializing in German language works, and later emigrated to Berlin. Kertész was awarded the Nobel Prize for literatu ...more

Other books in the series

The Holocaust series (4 books)
  • Fiasco
  • Kaddish for an Unborn Child
  • Liquidation
“As we pass one step, and as we recognize it as being behind us, the next one already rises up before us. By the time we learn everything, we slowly come to understand it. And while you come to understand everything gradually, you don't remain idle at any moment: you are already attending to your new business; you live, you act, you move, you fulfill the new requirements of every new step of development. If, on the other hand, there were no schedule, no gradual enlightenment, if all the knowledge descended on you at once right there in one spot, then it's possible neither your brains nor your heart could bear it.” 22 likes
“...I would like to live a little bit longer in this beautiful concentration camp.” 21 likes
More quotes…