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Fateless [Paperback]

Imre Kertesz
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
RRP: £8.99
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Book Description

27 April 2006

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.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (27 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099502526
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099502524
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 67,309 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Moving and numbing...a very great novel - Irish Times"

"Remarkable...an original and chilling quality -New York Review of Books"

"[T]his work...ought to stand beside Primo Levi's If This is a Man - The Times"

"Extraordinary - Observer"

"Should be savoured slowly . . . Only through exploring its subtlety and detail will the reader come to appreciate such an ornate and honest testimony to the human spirit" (Washington Times)

Book Description

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

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "...this beautiful concentration camp" 30 Jan 2006
By D Hall
This story of 15 year old Gyuri, as seen through his own eyes, begins with his Jewish family in Budapest in 1944.
At the beginning the protagonist is like any other boy on the threshold of manhood, embarrassed by displays of emotion, looking on distastefully at his father and stepmother’s affection for each other. Yet he too finds his emotions awakening and becomes attached to a girl living in the same apartment block.
Although we as readers are privileged and know the import of the events that are unfolding, Guyuri talks matter-of-factly about the ominous signs in his home city: the mandatory wearing of the yellow star, his father’s shopping preparations as he is called to a ‘labour’ camp, and then his own subsequent journey from working at a refinery for the war effort to Auschwitz. He is told that by taking the train he will be given a worthy job and, like all adventurous and naive boys of his age, volunteers for this opportunity with enthusiasm.
Briefly in Auschwitz, Guyuri is soon transferred to another concentration camp and it is here that both he and the reader are surprised by the acceptance of the slow, incremental degradation he observes in himself and in others.
His experiences not only age his body into that of a decrepit old man but also engender a wisdom that many who live to 100 years may never attain. Guyuri realises that survival is only possible because people live their lives one step at a time: to live with the knowledge of what is to come would be an unbearable burden.
Simply written, with some heartbreaking moments (“I would like to live a little longer in this beautiful concentration camp"), it is Guyuri’s astonishing, unique voice that makes this a hugely affecting and remarkable tale.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Of Freedom and of Life he Only is Deserving 11 Jan 2005
By Leonard Fleisig TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Who every day must conquer them anew.
These words of Goethe provide the emotional context within which I experienced Imre Kertész' masterful novel Fateless.
Kertesz was an assimilated Hungarian-Jew living in relative comfort in Budapest. In the summer of 1944 he was picked up and shipped to Auschwitz. He was fourteen years old. He was transferred from Auschwitz to Buchenwald, from Buchenwald to Zeitz (a lesser-known concentration camp) and then back to Buchenwald. He was liberated a year later and returned to Budapest.
The life of György (George) Köves, the protagonist of Fateless, tracks the experiences of Kertesz. The novel is written in George's voice and we see the world through his recollection of events. (Kertesz has indicated in interviews that although Fateless takes the form of an autobiographical novel it is not an autobiography but a work of fiction.) George is a relatively care free, naive 14 year old leading a middle class life with his family. As the story opens, the family is preparing to say goodbye to George's father who is being sent to a labor camp. I was struck immediately by George's detachment as these early events unfold. George obtains a job at a factory. This provides him with a pass out of his neighborhood although he is still required to wear a yellow star identifying him as Jewish. One morning, on the way to work, he is swept up along with thousands of others and is sent on his journey into the seven layers of hell known as concentration camps. The rest of novel details George's experiences in the camps, his gradual physical deterioration that leaves him near death, the chain of events that kept him alive, his liberation and his eventual return to Budapest.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars We are our own fate 11 Oct 2005
This book is a harsh and realistic account of the holocaust seen through the eyes of the author as a 15 year old boy.
What makes this story particularly impressive, is the innocence of the adolescent - and his family - who obeys all police commands and who discovers only very slowly what is really going on.
The home coming is also gripping.
Why 'fateless'? Because if there would have been an interchange of babies at his birth, he would have had a totally different destiny.
Nevertheless, the author is also very harsh for himself: he went, he did undergo his fate. He didn't realize like he says afterwards 'that we are our own fate'. As Nietzsche said, he chose the wrong conjugation: he didn't live, he was lived.
This novel is to be put on the same level as other impressive novels about the holocaust, like as an example those of Primo Levi and Jorge Semprun.
A masterpiece.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Takes your breath away 25 May 2007
By Sofia
I have just finished reading this and I just feel blown away.

I began reading this with the expectation that it would be worthy but unpleasant in its detail and subject matter, but in fact what is really breathtakingly chilling about it is the emotionless way in which one step after another, the narrator Gyuri relates the string of events that lead him to Auschwitz, Buchenwald and Zeitz. There is something about the way in which Gyuri (a 14 year old boy) seeks to rationalise everthing that is happening to him, that really took my breath away. There is something too about the escalation of events up against the coolness of the description, which also made this impossible to put down, which I really wasn't expecting.

I have been to Auschwitz and read various testimonies, but the beauty of the Kertesz's prose in rendering Gyuri's efforts to explain the little details of everyday life (even down to seeking out the good things of concentration camp life)through to trying to rationalise his fate and that of other Jews will stay with me for a very long time. I can't recommend this book enough.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
I appreciate the real;ity and resilience described in this book
Published 22 days ago by MR MICHAEL G EVERETT
2.0 out of 5 stars Fateless
I find this book very difficult to read,
and just didn't like the way it was written
Very disappointed with it.
Published 15 months ago by Yoke
5.0 out of 5 stars 'Even there, next to the chimneys, in the intervals between the...
An account of the author's teenage year spent in a concentration camp: yet written in a passive, unemotional way, reminiscent of Camus' "L'Etranger". Read more
Published 17 months ago by sally tarbox
3.0 out of 5 stars A slow read
An atypical survivor account of the Holocaust. This quasi- autobiographical account is distanced through the fictional narrator of Gyuri a fifteen year old boy who observes life in... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Danni Norman
4.0 out of 5 stars Strikingly unusual holocaust novel
...which reminded more of Camus's 'The Outsider' than of any other holocaust novel I've ever read. This is not a typical holocaust novel. Read more
Published on 5 Sep 2010 by Jezza
4.0 out of 5 stars Fatelessness- heart-breaking yet inspiring
'Fatelessness' is a translation of 2002 Nobel Laureate Imre Kertesz's arguably most acclaimed piece of work. Read more
Published on 15 Jun 2010 by Anjana Nityanandam
5.0 out of 5 stars Fateless
I still have this young man in my mind long after finishing the book. There were so many lose ends I wanted cleared up but, of course, life isn't like that. Read more
Published on 24 Mar 2010 by Dostoyevsky
5.0 out of 5 stars Fatelessness - my favourite book
This is my favourite book and i never thought i would like any more more than any other. I read this while i was living in Budapest and it really moved me. Read more
Published on 28 Nov 2008 by Chlova
5.0 out of 5 stars Harrowing, super-real, utterly frightening, simple humanity
Some writers try to shock. At least it often seems that they embark upon a novel with that in mind. They create books set in times of conflict, amid war or pestilence, where the... Read more
Published on 24 Mar 2008 by Philip Spires
5.0 out of 5 stars outstanding human story
A totally absorbing film.Anyone with an interest in the state of the human condition and the strength sometimes needed to make the best of the most dreadful of situations wo'nt... Read more
Published on 27 July 2006 by Dean Cowan
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