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Fight for Imre Kertész

August 18th, 2014
Left-wing columnists complain that the government is trying to lure the Nobel Prizewinning author into its own camp, although his place should be in the ranks of the opposition. Their pro-government colleague dismisses such claims of “ownership” and also urges Kertész’s right-wing critics to make peace with him.
Népszabadság has addressed the issue on two consecutive days after it was reported that Imre Kertész is expected to receive the highest state honour on the national holiday of August 20th. (See BudaPost, August 16) György Vári thinks the government side is trying to expropriate Imre Kertész in order to justify its World War II remembrance strategy, whereas all victims of Nazism should be equally honoured, and the Holocaust is an expression of the worst evil present in human existence and “should thus unite rather than divide”. He also remarks that Imre Kertész’s most vocal critics have been on the Right. It was from those quarters that his strong words about today’s Hungary were rejected most vehemently.
A front page editorial in the same daily raises the idea, only to drop it right away, that Kertész might reject the honour. “It doesn’t matter if he accepts it, why shouldn’t he?” they write. Whatever right-wing luminaries decide to do about him, “he will be ours. He will belong to us, his readers”, Népszabadság concludes.
In Magyar Nemzet, Zsuzsanna Körmendy expresses her sadness that a gesture of respect on the part of the government should spark a wave of attacks, offending not just the government, but Kertész himself. It is on such occasions that magnanimity should prevail – on both sides. She also warns fellow right-wingers who protest against the planned state honour to Kertész that they should respect the great writer in him and forgive the bitter remarks he made about Hungary and about “his not being Hungarian”. He chose to accept the honour for the same reason that prompted him to return to Hungary and have himself cured here, rather than in the best German clinics. This is his country. And “he is our first Nobel prize winning writer. Let him now be what is most important. As long as he is still amongst us”.

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