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Kaddish for an Unborn Child (Vintage International)

4.0 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: San Val (Aug. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1417725133
  • ISBN-13: 978-1417725137
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Product description


"Condenses a lifetime into a story told in a single night...exhilarating for [its] creative energy" (World Literature)

"Stunning... resembles such other memorably declamatory fictions as Camus' The Fall and Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground" (Kirkus Reviews)

"While the average reader cannot pretend truly to understand the reality of those who suffered in concentration camps, Kertész draws us one step closer" (Observer)

"For taking us somewhere no other writer has, Kertész fully deserved his Nobel Prize" (Independent)

"Tim Wilkinson is a seriously good translator...I may have given the impression that this is harrowing, and it is; but it has its moments of great, consoling insight, is about far more than just the Holocaust and in its own haunting way provides comfort for the afflicted" (Nicholas Lezard Guardian) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

Book Description

A moving, mesmerising novel about the dilemma involved in bringing a child into a world in which the evil to create Auschwitz exists. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very good read.
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Format: Paperback
This book is a long lament and defence of the author why he didn't become a father.
First, there is the incurable Auschwitz illness - I.K. was imprisoned there at the age of fifteen. But for him, Auschwitz, was the emanation of a bigger system, that he calls totalitarianism. From his childhood on, his family and the people around him began destroying him through their education and religion - the 'virtues' of his youth: God as an almighty father revealed himself in the image of Auschwitz.
For the author, surviving in this system was already supporting it. But why did he continue to live in it: to write - 'My pencil is my shovel'.
With its powerful flowing elliptic style this book is written like a musical symphony. A masterpiece.
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Format: Paperback
It was not Auswicz that he was to spend the most part of his imprisonment, but in Buchenwold. In fact, had he remained in auswicz, it is almost certain he would not have survived. It is to our betterment that he did live to tell his tale, one which has been told before so many times, but essential for those people who believe the holocaust and the massacre of so many Jews and other people who were undesirable to the ide of a master race.
It must also be noted that evenm had he not been ingrained in his religion (and you must not forget that for many Jews, especially then but also now in Orthodox communities, it isn't simply a question of a religion which one chooses to follow, but a traditional way of life in which the judaism is intrinsic. Even so, the German invaders were not concerned with the religion as a choice, but as a 'race', they believed that the Jews were a dirty, inferior race of less-than-humans, so whether people were practising their religion or not made no difference to the Germans. Eastern european Jews have a quite distinctive appearance and this is quite dominant genetically. Maybe the determination and strength is a genetic trait too? It is these traits that people are afraid of and that is what makes the Jews, even today, often scapegoats. (Remember the conspiracy theory about the Twin towers on 9/11, for example)
The book itself, "Kaddish..." definitely justified (if justification were needed in this time of overpopulation) his reasons for not wishing to father a child, and his eloquence is something one rarely sees in literature these days.
The fact his books all have this huge impact that his imprisonment had on the rest of his life made glarngly obvious is reminiscent of J.
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The inside mind of the depresed
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program) 3.8 out of 5 stars 10 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars it is among the best novels I've read in many years--no the best 12 Sept. 2016
By Morris A. Shepard - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It's not for the faint of heart. However, it is among the best novels I've read in many years--no the best. I started with Kertesz' Fatelessness. He won the Nobel Prize for literature for that one. Together they represent the penultimate in WWII novels. The first one chronicles a young Hungarian boy's life at Auschwitz--one which he survives, obviously, based on an incredible approach to the horrors of living and working while his Jewish brethren are cremated by the millions. Unborn child will adds to story of that boy's life as an adult stun you. But, more importantly, will enhance your view of what humans are capable of doing while facing extermination. Unborn Child is not a page-turning story. You don't want to hurry through ti because each page provides another emotional thrust that makes your heart race, your brain expand, and the understanding of how at least one man's life can be important to our outrage to Hitler's Germany.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Original but repetitive and disappointing 10 Mar. 2014
By J.D. Hunley - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Imre Kertesz won the Nobel Prize. Having survived the Holocaust, he has original observations about it, but this book is repetitive, mostly uninteresting, and disappointing. Kertesz perhaps pursues the ineffable a bit too far, leaving his meaning excessively elusive. There is little plot, little detail. It opens with the word, "No," that, as gradually becomes clear, is a rejection of the idea of bearing a child, apparently because the world is such a forbidding place. The narrator relates scenes from his childhood that seem horrible enough but certainly not on the scale of Auschwitz. "Later on, Auschwitz, I said to my wife, seemed to me to be just an exaggeration of the very virtues to which I have been educated since early childhood. Yes, childhood and education were the start of that inexcusable process of breaking me, the survival that I never survived, I said to my wife." This and other such observations are, as I say, original, but I am uncertain of their profundity.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Happiness is too simple to write about..." 29 Dec. 2009
By Gio - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Imre Kertesz makes no effort to test that premise, that it's impossible to write about happiness, in this dense and dark little book. Writing, he declares often enough, is his necessary act to stay alive long enough to die: "...for my ballpoint pen is my spade," he repeats several times, "and if I look ahead, it is solely to look backwards." Don't suppose, dear reader, that this is another 'life-affirming' memoir by another Shoah survivor. Kertesz's only affirmation is of the necessity of understanding one's life as long as one is stuck with it. "One's religious duty," he writes, "totally independently of the crippling religions of the crippling churches, is therefore understanding the world; yes, that when all is said and done, it is in this, in understanding the world and my situation, and in this alone, that I may seek ... my salvation." Oh, the likelihood of any such salvation is slim indeed, according to Kertesz, but "we must at least have the will to fail."

That last quotation is second-hand; Kertesz quotes it from a book by the Austrian writer Thomas Bernhard. If you know Bernhard's work, you'll recognize the influence it must have had on Imre Kertesz. At least in this volume, their styles are nearly identical: the same endlessly extended and qualified sentences, the same throbbing repetitions, the same parenthetical avoidance of any chronological narrative. If you don't like Bernhard at all, you'll probably hate Kertesz. On the other hand, if you can handle Bernhard's tyrannical mannerisms, you may well find Kertesz blessedly accessible and affective, though every bit as difficult. I do find this style -- Kertesz's as well as Bernhard's -- tyrannical, in that the hyper-run-on sentences, with all their adverbial qualifiers and compulsive repetitiveness, deliberately require me not to "think back" at them, not to pause to respond or reflect, simply to plough on to the end, with sometimes no more than the barest hope of recalling and reassembling enough in my mind to be justified in claiming that I comprehend. You have to read such stylists on their terms, and their terms only, whether those terms are acceptable or not. You can quarrel with the author later, but he won't be there to listen.

The "Kaddish" is a synagogue prayer for the benefit of a recently deceased family member. Strictly speaking, Kertesz's Kaddish for an Unborn Child isn't a prayer at all. Eventually, as you read, you come to realize that it is an 'apology' addressed to Kertesz's own unborn child, that is, to the child he refused to bring into life. There is, of course, nobody to hear it, no child to resent or to be grateful for not being born. Much of the tension of Kertesz's non-narrative comes precisely from "looking backward", as he re-assesses the reasons he gave his ex-wife for refusing to father her child. The wife obviously doesn't have her own voice, as Kertesz would surely admit; her thoughts are only Kertesz's thoughts about what he thought she must have been thinking. Yes, that's the kind of book this is: utterly hermeneutic and self-referential.

Kertesz writes that "NO!" which he says he said, both to his wife and to the philosopher-acquaintance whose question about having children stimulates the meditation qua Kaddish, at the head of each subsection of the text. "NO!" is the refrain, the burden, the moral of Kertesz's Kaddish. It's the complexities of meaning in Kertesz's NO! that make the book worth reading. Because, of course, Kertesz IS an Auschwitz survivor, although there's very little description in this book of his death camp experiences, and therefore has some certified claim to authority on the subject of NO!, of evil. As he tells his unborn child that he must have told that child's would-have-been mother, "...what is truly irrational and genuinely inexplicable is not evil but, on the contrary, good." It may well be too simple an explication of Kertesz's moral outrage, but it seems to me that his NO! has to be taken as the most ready incidence of 'Good' in his world.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Difficult to read, but a growth experience 19 July 2006
By Sil - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a childless, second-generation descendant of Polish Jews who barely made it out of Europe in time to escape the gas chambers, I had heard that certain "psychological symptoms" of Holocaust survivors often appeared in later generations. I didn't know what this meant until I read Kaddish for an Unborn Child.

Kertesz puts in writing emotions and beliefs that I had never been able to articulate or make sense of, but which I recognized as a big part of who I am.

This book is not easy to read, but it's worth the effort and the tears.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars 1 April 2015
By bookie - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sad but it remains a Classic.
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