Author Imre Kertész, Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate, dies at 86

Imre Kertész

Imre Kertész

(JTA) – Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize for Literature winner Imre Kertész has died.

Kertész, who portrayed the horrors of Auschwitz in some of his writings, died on Thursday at the age of 86.  His death at his Budapest home was reported by his publisher, the Magyeto Kiado firm. He reportedly suffered from Parkinson’s disease.

Kertész was deported from his birthplace of Budapest to Auschwitz in 1944 at the age of 14, and was transferred the following year to Buchenwald, where he was liberated in 1945.

He returned to Budapest after the war and worked as a journalist, but lost his job in 1951 when the newspaper adopted the Communist Party line. He later moved to Berlin, where he remained until recent years. Upon his return to Budapest he reportedly rarely left his home.

Kertész was the first Hungarian to receive the Nobel literature prize, which was awarded to him in 2002.

Among his words are “Fateless,” “Fatelessness,” Kaddish for an Unborn Child,” and “Fiasco.” “Fateless” was incorporated into Hungary’s high school curriculum.

The Swedish Academy said in its announcement of the 2002 prize that Kertész won “for writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history.”

“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. His works return unremittingly to the decisive event in his life: the period spent in Auschwitz, to which he was taken as a teenage boy during the Nazi persecution of Hungary’s Jews. 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 modern existence,” the committee wrote.


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