Dossier K


The first and only memoir from the Nobel Prize–winning author, in the form of an illuminating, often funny, and often combative interview—with himself

Dossier K. is Imre Kertész’s response to the hasty biographies and profiles that followed his 2002 Nobel Prize for Literature—an attempt to set the record straight. 

The result is an extraordinary self-portrait, in which Kertész interrogates himself about the course of his own remarkable ...

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Dossier K: A Memoir

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The first and only memoir from the Nobel Prize–winning author, in the form of an illuminating, often funny, and often combative interview—with himself

Dossier K. is Imre Kertész’s response to the hasty biographies and profiles that followed his 2002 Nobel Prize for Literature—an attempt to set the record straight. 

The result is an extraordinary self-portrait, in which Kertész interrogates himself about the course of his own remarkable life, moving from memories of his childhood in Budapest, his imprisonment in Nazi death camps and the forged record that saved his life, his experiences as a censored journalist in postwar Hungary under successive totalitarian communist regimes, and his eventual turn to fiction, culminating in the novels—such as Fatelessness, Fiasco, and Kaddish for an Unborn Child—that have established him as one of the most powerful, unsentimental, and imaginatively daring writers of our time. 

In this wide-ranging and provocative book, Kertész continues to delve into the questions that have long occupied him: the legacy of the Holocaust, the distinctions drawn between fiction and reality, and what he calls “that wonderful burden of being responsible for oneself.”

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times Book Review - Martin Riker
What all of this adds up to is very loosely a memoir, but it might be better described as an energetic and thoughtful introduction (or companion) to Kertesz's other books. Kertesz, for his part, seems to intend Dossier K. as a kind of catchall interview that will save him not simply from having to sit for more interviews, but also from having the complexity of his life's experiences and ideas reduced by others to sound bites…On the heels of his winning the Nobel Prize in 2002 and all the public attention that resulted, it makes sense that Kertesz would take steps against being turned into a "kitsch supporting character in a fraudulent narrative" of his own life by producing an account of himself that is as original, complex and open to contradiction as the rest of his life's work.
Publishers Weekly
Hungarian author Kertész (Kaddish for an Unborn Child), winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize for Literature, pens an unflinching memoir in the form of a Socratic dialogue with himself about his extraordinary life. Noting that “a good autobiography is like a document: a mirror of the age on which people can ‘depend,’” Kertész unearths memories of his childhood in Budapest, his adolescent imprisonment in Nazi concentration camps, his pursuit of journalism in Communist-dominated Hungary, his two marriages, the eventual publication of his novels, and the relation between his life and literary career. The unsentimental and provocative author explores his views on religion: “I’m prone to mystic experiences, but dogmatic faith is totally alien to me.” He also discusses philosophy; Communism and his reasons for joining the Party; the legacy of the Holocaust; the influence of Thomas Mann, Albert Camus, and Franz Kafka on his work; and more. Kertész is meditative, insightful, profound, and unafraid to confront difficult questions and biases: “Anyone who is right generally proves not to be right. We need to have respect for man’s fallibility and ignorance....” He finds that writing gives him his greatest joy and believes it can only come from an “abundance of energies, from pleasure; writing... is heightened life”—and so is his memoir. (May)
From the Publisher
"A book full of marvellous, intoxicating answers…It is rare that we find what at first sight seems a philosophical quibble of a memoir such a page turner, but that is what it is. The reader is constantly on the scent of truth about the most basic, most dreadful, most vital human affairs. It is what makes Kertesz a great writer."
The Times (UK)

”An unflinching memoir in the form of a Socratic dialogue with himself about his extraordinary life…Kertész is meditative, insightful, profound.”
Publisher’s Weekly (starred review)

”Kertész’s sensibility defies classification. To call him unique would be to miss the point; it would diminish his frankness, his modesty, his shocking honesty that, he would remind us, is not the same as telling the truth…A necessary work, beautifully translated.”
ALA Booklist

“The opposite of a Bildungsroman, its defining features are not organic development and continuity but rupture and shock. . . Kertész attempts to reconnect to humanity, to define himself as an individual, as the subject of his own history.”
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 

“A counterpart of Günter Grass’s Peeling The Onion. Just as accurate and relentless, a book of autobiographical self-questioning, which undermines any kind of dogmatism.”
Neue Zurcher Zeitung

Priase for Imre Kertesz 
“Kertész, like Beckett, is deadly serious and his work is a profound meditation on the great and enduring themes of love, death and the problem of evil.” —John Banville, The Nation 

Kirkus Reviews
Kertész, the first Hungarian writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, interrogates himself in a provocative memoir that will deepen the understanding of those already familiar with his novels. Published in 2006, this unusual transcript receives its first English translation and American publication, providing the author's perspective on novels that challenge the distinction between fiction and reality as well as conventional notions of the Holocaust and totalitarianism. His renown rests on a series of novels--Fatelessness (1975), Fiasco (1988) and Kaddish for an Unborn Child (1990)--that were little-known in the West until after the Nobel and which have frequently been described as unsentimental. After a childhood in a broken family in Budapest, Kertész was imprisoned in Nazi death camps at the age of 14 and survived due in part to a forged record of his death. He subsequently became a journalist and a communist following the end of the war before turning to fiction. He rejects the very term "Holocaust" as "a euphemism, a cowardly and unimaginative glibness," while spurning the conventional categorization of his work: "I never called Fatelessness a Holocaust novel like others do, because what they call ‘the Holocaust' cannot be put into a novel." Kertész acknowledges the profound influence of and his deep affinity for Kafka, Mann and Camus, while maintaining, "I don't know what the truth is. I don't know whether it is my job to know what the truth is, in any case. Truth-telling artists generally prove to be bad artists. Anyone who is right generally proves not to be right." Such provocation fills practically every page of this memoir by an author who hasn't mellowed with age and who continues to believe that "everything is in flux, there is no foothold, and yet we still write as though there were." The author's novels may provide a better introduction to his work, but this memoir will help to further illuminate them.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781612192024
  • Publisher: Melville House Publishing
  • Publication date: 5/7/2013
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 566,161
  • Product dimensions: 4.99 (w) x 7.98 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

IMRE KERTÉSZ was born in Hungary in 1929. At the age of fourteen he was imprisoned at Auschwitz and later at the Buchenwald concentration camps. He is the author of 14 books of fiction and non-fiction, and was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 2002 for “writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history.”

Translator TIM WILKINSON is the primary English translator of Imre Kertész as well as numerous other significant works of Hungarian history and literature. In 2005, his translation of Kertész’s Fatelessness was awarded the PEN Club/Book of the Month Club Translation Prize. He lives in London. 

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