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Homage to Imre Kertész

August 16th, 2014

Historian Mária Schmidt praises Nobel Prize winning writer Imre Kertész for his staunch opposition to all forms of dictatorship. She wonders why Kertész’s “needle-sharp” analyses on Hungary’s recent past are not a topic ofpublic discourse.

In Heti Válasz (print edition), historian Mária Schmidt likens Imre Kertész to his role model, French writer Albert Camus who was side-lined by left-wing intellectuals after having condemned Communism in general and the Soviet Union  in particular for crushing the Hungarian revolution in 1956. Just like Camus, Kertész (85) has also spent long years in isolation and even in voluntary exile in Berlin. He felt utterly different from mainstream Hungarian left-liberal intellectuals and was uncompromising in condemning those among them who had been enthusiasts of or made immoral deals with the Communist regime. Their mistrust towards Kertész was coupled with jealousy, when he was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 2002 for the unique way in which he presented and interpreted the Holocaust in his writings. Kertész was also unique in rejecting the widespread misuse of the Holocaust. That is also one reason, Mária Schmidt suggests, why he was side-lined: he drew universal conclusions from the Holocaust and saw no moral difference between the Nazi death camps and the Soviet Gulag. Nor has he ever stopped reflecting on his own condition and having always felt being just a guest in Berlin, decided to return home and spend his last years in his native land. “Imre Kertész is a free man”, Mária Schmidt writes. “He remained one during and despite both inhuman totalitarian dictatorships. And he is still a free man today. God bless him.”

(In an editor’s note, Heti Válasz reports that Imre Kertész will be awarded one of Hungary’s highest honours on August 20th, the national holiday.)

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