By Beth Weiss
Born in Budapest in 1929 to a Jewish family, Kertesz was deported to Auschwitz in 1944 and later moved to Buchenwald. He was liberated from the camp in 1945. Kertesz won the Nobel prize for literature in 2002. Most of his novels deal with the subject of the Holocaust. After the war he found work at a Budapest newspaper, Vilagossag, but in 1951 he was forced out because of the Communist takeover. Kertesz joined the military for two years and has since made a living translating German authors into Hungarian.
Among his works is a 1975 novel entitled Fateless, based on his experiences in the Nazi camps. The novel was not well-received when it was first published. Following this novel was Fiasco in 1988. A third volume Kaddish for a Child not Born, was printed in 1997. (The Kaddish is the Jewish prayer said in memory of the deceased). The main character in this novel, Gyorge Koves, opposes having a child in a world allowing Auschwitz's existence.
Other works include The Pathfinder (1977), The English flag (1991),and Galley Diary (1992). He has also lectured extensively after the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe in 1989 and his lectures have been collected and published.
In addition to his Nobel prize, he has won numerous other prizes for his writing, including the Brandenburger Literaturpreis in 1995 and the Leipziger Buchpreis zur Europaischen Verstandigung in 1997.
As for his Jewish heritage, Kertesz explained in an interview with El Pais, a Spanish daily: "I am a non-believing Jew. Yet as a Jew I was taken to Auschwitz, as a Jew I was in the death camps and as a Jew I live in a society that does not like Jews, one with great anti-Semitism. I always have the feeling that I was obliged to be Jewish. I am Jewish, I accept it, but to a large extent it is also true that it was imposed on me." (The Jerusalem Report, November 4, 2002).