He fought until the last moment and now his battle has peacefully come to an end. Hungarian writer Imre Kertész died at the age of 86, leaving behind not only an extraordinary contribution to the Holocaust but also an excellent collection of novels, which prove his successful career as a writer. Known by many as ‘the voice of the Shoah’, Kertész will undoubtedly be remembered as an icon of survival, because that’s what he did during the rest of his life.
His fight for survival, as many know, began when he was only a teenager, in 1944, when he was sent to the concentration camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Many of those memories inspired his first novel: ‘Fateless’, which first appeared in 1975, after spending 13 years writing it. However, it wasn’t until the late 80’s, early 90’s when his writing began to be successful, like happened with many other examples of novels/memoirs of the Holocaust.
Anyway, Kértesz always seemed willing to share his experiences; many times among young people. He knew his life had been and would always be hard since his time as a prisoner, but always found an excuse to encourage people to survive. Back in 1989, while giving a conference in the University of San Diego, in California, a journalist raised his hand to ask a question, looked at him an said: ‘How could you survive, while seeing so much horror and misery every single day?’
Kertész’s simple reply was: ‘I survived because I dreamed. While I was there, in my worst days, I dreamed that freedom was possible. And I dreamed that one day, I’d be here, telling all this to you’. An inspiring and emotive message that he would continue spreading and becoming his main source of inspiration to write his later novels such as ‘Kaddish for a Child Not Born’ (1991) or ‘Liquidation’ (2004).
Kertész inspirational career finally had its great award: the Nobel Literature Prize in 2002. But his true survival was not only success, but also his commitment with Europe and also, the battle against his illness, which had almost lead him to consider to retire his career. Nevertheless, he had the privilege to return to his native Budapest two years ago, where he died last Thursday.
He may be gone, but never forgotten. However, ‘the voice of the Shoah’ will always be here stay; he won his battle. Fortunately, for his readers, he left leaving also one last book, which will be published next week.