Hungary: A Different Take on Life in Concentration Camps

I have been meaning to read Fatelessness by Imre Kertész for many years now. I visited Hungary last year, but had by then decided I would wait and read the book for my reading challenge. I visited Poland last month, and went to both Auschwitz and Birkenau, which means that this book felt so real to me, because I had just been where the main character came from, and the camp he stayed at. I was actually holding this book in my hand while standing at the exact spot pictured on the front cover. Goosebumps!

If you would happen to be a reader who’s never read a book about the holocaust I would not recommend this one. If you however have read many, then give this one a go! I have to say that I felt like there must be something wrong with me when I started reading this book. First I thought I felt like I am not taking this book so seriously, because this is fiction, and I am used to reading horrific nonfiction about the holocaust. Those books really make me sad for humanity. Angry as well. No need to explain in detail what these or this book is all about, because we know it already.

Then I started reading Fatelessness, which I most likely would not have read at all if it wasn’t for Kertész. Where’s all the suffering, horror, sorrow? Am I not reading this book “right”? Have I become cynical? Do I simply not react to anything anymore? Then I realized this is a bit of a different book about a horrible fate. “Everyone asks only about the hardships and the “atrocities”, whereas for me perhaps it is the experience which will remain the most memorable. Yes, the next time I am asked, I ought to speak about that, the happiness of the concentration camps.”

Quite a different take on life during the holocaust, I would say. It made me think. Of course times were hard for most people during the war, horrible for the ones in concentration camps. But, was it always horrible? Probably most of the time, but lately I have read a few more “positive” views. It gives me hope, because if people can find even a glimpse of happiness or some humor in a situation like that, there must be hope for each and everyone of us on this planet, right? Don’t get me wrong, the book is not about enjoying life, but more about trying to make sense of it all. I am not sure if everyone will appreciate this book, but it has been highly praised, so a lot of people see the importance of it.


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