Literature and War Readalong September 30 2015: Fateless – Sorstalanság by Imre Kertész


The third book in this year’s Literature and War Readalong is Imre Kertész’ Holocaust novel Fateless. Kertész is a Hungarian author who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2002. As far as I know, he’s the only Hungarian author who has won the prize.

As a boy of fourteen, Kertész was deported to Auschwitz in 1944 and later brought to Buchenwald. Although the book is based on some of his own experiences, it is by no means autobiographical. The movie based on the book, and for which Kertész wrote the script, is much more autobiographical as the novel.

Here are the first sentences

I didn’t go to school today. Or rather, I did go, but only to ask my class teacher’s permission to take the day off. I also handed him the letter in which, referring to “family reasons” my father requested that I be excused. He asked what the “family reasons” might be. I told him my father had ben called up for labor service; after that he didn’t raise a further peep against it.

And some details and the blurb for those who want to join

Fateless – Sorstalanság by Imre Kertész (Hungary 1975), Holocaust,  Novel, 272 pages.

The powerful story of an adolescent’s experience of Auschwitz by Holocaust survivor and Nobel Prize winner, Imre Kertész.

Gyuri, a fourteen-year-old Hungarian Jew, gets the day off school to witness his father signing over the family timber business to the firm’s bookkeeper – his final business transaction before being sent to a labour camp. Two months after saying goodbye to his father, Gyuri finds himself assigned to a ‘permanent workplace’, but within a fortnight he is unexpectedly pulled off a bus and detained without explanation. This is the start of his journey to Auschwitz.

On his arrival Gyuri finds that he is unable to identify with other Jews, and in turn is rejected by them. An outsider among his own people, his estrangement makes him a preternaturally acute observer, dogmatically insisting on making sense of everything he witnesses.

I’m planning on watching the movie soon. I’m interested to see the differences. If you don’t get the time to read the novel, but still want to join the discussion, you could just watch (and review) the movie.



The discussion starts on Wednesday, 30 September 2015.

Further information on the Literature and War Readalong 2015, including all the book blurbs, can be found here.

23 thoughts on “Literature and War Readalong September 30 2015: Fateless – Sorstalanság by Imre Kertész

  1. To survive one concentration camp is incredible, but two? I wonder if he didn’t write his autobiography because it would have been too horrific.
    Having never read an adolescent’s experience in such conditons, I’m definitely intrigued. The movie is so tempting, but I don’t want to spoil the book.

    • I know. I’ve had the DVD for ages but kept postponing to watch it.
      I haven’t read a lot abut him, so I’m not sure why he never wrote an autobiography. I’m really keen on reading it.

  2. Maybe I can watch the movie–I have fallen so far behind in the world of blogging I fear I can’t catch up and just have to go on from here…. Do you think you will do your Literature and War readalong next year? Maybe if so I will do better. The book sounds good, but maybe a little too dark for me at the moment, but I look forward to hearing what you think of it.

    • Don’t put yourself under pressure. I sometimes try to catch up but sometimes it’s not possible and letting go ist the best way. I hope it’s not too dark.
      I’m not sure about next year at all. I’m tempted but at the same time, I’m glad there are only four books this year.
      I think the movie must be very good.

  3. I read this book last year and thought it was very good. Not sure I remember enough to join the discussion but I look forward to reading what others think of the book

  4. This looks like compelling book. Interesting that the book is not autobiographical. In away I like that better then if it was billed as such. I find that mixing fact with fiction to sometimes produce uneasy results.

    • I think it should be very good. I was wondering if saying it asn’t autobiographical was just a way to keep people from asking too persoanl questions?
      And then, years later, when he wrote the script, he was able to.

  5. I’m joining you for this readalong, Caroline. The book is already on my shelf.
    I’m expect it to be a difficult read on a emotional level.
    We’ll see.

  6. This book looks quite fascinating, but also hard to read, Caroline. I haven’t got the book yet. If I am able to get it on time, I will join. Happy reading!

  7. Pingback: Looking Back and Planning Ahead | My Book Strings

  8. Pingback: Fatelessness or Fateless by Imre Kertész | Book Around The Corner

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