Sorstalanság was the first full-length novel I ever finished reading cover to cover in Hungarian. I borrowed it from my host father towards the end of what seemed an interminable winter in my year abroad. My language skills still had room to grow, and reading at length was often exhausting, but I could not put it down. Recently, I managed to get a Hungarian-language copy all my own. It’s just as captivating as I remember.
The prose is fairly simple, written from the memories of a stunned young boy taken from his home in Budapest and sent to Auschwitz. I don’t often read anything, fiction or fact, about the Holocaust, not since we spent so much time studying it in high school. It’s painful. It makes me so sad, and I feel helpless reading about a past I cannot change. This book, however, I love. Kertész Imre’s story is so powerful in its simplicity, and so unusual in its reserve. Very unlike any of the we-will-overcome story lines that I suppose are meant to take the edge off tragedy.