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Fatelessness by Imre Kertesz

George W Bush, June 13, 2014

The novel Fatelessness, by Imre Kertesz, is a coming of age story centered around a young boy named Gyuri Koves, who is sent to the Nazi concentration camps at the tender age of 14. Through his haunting and atrocious experiences, Gyuri grows dramatically as a human being, learning to unite his conflicting identities and how to continue living his life post-world war II.
This novel is written from a unique perspective that is uncommon amongst novels about the holocaust. Gyuri seems to enjoy the death camps, focusing more on what he describes as the happiness he experiences in the camps. Each page vividly illustrates Gyuri’s emotions so effectively that is puts the reader into his shoes. However, this is not a typical immersion of reader to character. Gyuri’s perspective on his circumstances and how he reacts to his surroundings will completely contrast that of the readers, which provokes the reader to continuously attempt to justify his actions. This perspective will absolutely engage and perplex the most rational of minds, as the reader will experience again and again intense frustration at Gyuri’s indifference to much of what is happening to him.
Kertesz excellently depicts Gyuri’s conflict of identity, which a large portion of readers can attempt to relate to to a certain extent. Unfamiliar with his Jewish identity and deemed sub-human by the majority of Hungarians, Gyuri is left in the middle of an identity crisis, which ultimately contributes to his indifference to much of what is occurring around and to him. This indifference is the technique the author of this novel uses in order to convey this conflict of identity.
Fatelessness is not like other novels written by and about the Holocaust. Similar to other novels about the Holocaust, Fatelessness explains how horrible the death camps were accurately and in detail; from gas-chambers to abuse. However, what sets this novel apart is ultimately Gyuri’s method of survival. With a small amount of luck and a twisted outlook on his circumstances, Gyuri manages to stay alive even in the worst conditions. And what is even more fascinating is how he is able to adjust to life after the camp. Gyuri returns how to his family and friends when his camp is liberated, and is questioned about his experiences. He does not give a traditional response. His response is relatively nonchalant and brief, which is staying true to his character. This will baffle the reader and shock them one last time before the end of this novel.
The title of this novel is a profound one. As the novel progresses, it gains more meaning. When beginning Fatelessness, I was completely clueless as to what the title could mean. I hypothesized that it could mean the novel would have a bitter-sweet ending. However, as I continued reading, the title gained a sort of momentum, and I quickly began putting things together as if this novel was a puzzle. Through his crisis of identity, discrimination, and unique attitude towards his experiences, I learned that the world Fatelessness harbored a much deeper, revealing concept. Rather than being a simple word meant for foreshadowing, I learned that Fatelessness was Gyuri’s gained understanding of how he would survive after the holocaust. Simply put, Gyuri’s fatelessness was how he was able to reconcile with what he had gone through, and ultimately how he would move on.
I would recommend this novel for anyone who enjoys being challenged on both an intellectual and emotional level. This is a refreshing and beautifully written novel.
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