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(The Holocaust)

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  10,284 ratings  ·  886 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)
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Griesgundel van Feldenfloeven Looking at the author's biography it is clear that this novel is based on his life.…moreLooking at the author's biography it is clear that this novel is based on his life.(less)
Orsi it can easily be lost in translation from hungarian, but the original title translated literally would definitely be "fatelessness", i just think it l…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)

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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
Lee Klein
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
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
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 suffe
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
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
K.D. Absolutely
May 04, 2010 rated it really liked it
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). Ca
Anna A.
Jul 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Time as Bliss

An unforgettable book I read a while ago but often keep returning to in my mind.

This long overdue read crowned a series of my philosophical and literary incursions into the topic of the two principal and inextricably linked dimensions of human existence: freedom and the unique physicality of life. This freedom series for me began with Tarkovsky’s astounding and revelatory conclusion in his journal that life has no preset meaning because it would reduce life to mere survival of the s
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was ok
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
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
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.
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. ...more
Apr 14, 2011 rated it liked it
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
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
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
Autobiographical story of a 14-year-old jewish boy in Budapest, in 1944. He is put on a train and deported to Auschwitz, and later Buchenwald. This is not an "ordinary" holocaust-novel. The little Gyurgi just describes what he sees and feels, with great eyes and an open mind that is especially susceptible to the efficiency of the Germans. Of course he sees the cruelties and observes his own suffering, but in his view these things are quite logical, almost normal.

Kertesz has often been criticise
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
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
Sue A.
Jun 17, 2020 rated it it was ok
I'm not sure if it was the translation or the content or both but I could barely finish this book. There were so many things I could not wrap my head around, one being the use of words or phrases which I felt were incongruous with the times, for instance "duds" for clothing, really?
I felt I owed it to the author to read every page as it felt somehow disrespectful not to.
There are so many thought provoking books about the Holocaust, I would suggest a different one than this.
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
Lark Benobi
unnervingly unsentimental. I was shaken by the ending. I was shaken by the whole thing. It's bearable to read, though, because of the utterly adolescent voice in which it's written--the voice of a boy too young to see the whole terrible picture. He can sense that there is something really big and monstrous happening all around him, but he can't quite grasp it, or share it with us readers, because he is too wrapped up in the daily miracle of his own survival. The voice never gets bigger than a si ...more
Bryan--The Bee’s Knees
Certain experiences are simply indescribable--or, at least one's reaction to them. The accepted wisdom of how a person might view traumatic experiences does not always tally with reality. That the narrator of Fateless (or Fatelessness, depending on the edition), George Koves, is able to describe moments that seemed beautiful during his time at Buchenwald Concentration Camp is not what others might expect to hear, and, in fact, actually angers people who are convinced that they understand his sto ...more
Oct 03, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
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
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
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
While reading this book you will understand why it took so many years to publish it. After being published in 1975 in Hungary the book was hushed up - with the argument that it mocks the victims of National Socialism. And also after being published in Germany it took a while to succeed.

But what makes this book so scandalous and shocking? Is it the unique and naive approach of the 15-years-old György? Or is it the description of his feelings of happiness during his sojourn in Auschwitz - in a lu
May 05, 2020 rated it liked it
like, you obviously can't disregard someone's prose about holocaust when they personally went through it. buuuuuuuut.

i enjoyed the things about this that most find unsettling according to the reviews: the main character is cold-headed, he lacks compassion, and his only goal in the situation is to endure and survive, repressing almost any emotional turmoil that might have been involved. i don't *think* i've read that POV before and it was interesting.

i didn't enjoy the writing itself, though - it
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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, Kertész's ended soon his brief career as a journalist and he turned to translation, specializing in German language works, and later emigrated to Berlin. Kertész was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 2002 for "wr ...more

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22 likes · 2 comments
“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.” 25 likes
“...I would like to live a little bit longer in this beautiful concentration camp.” 20 likes
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