Kaddish for a Child Not Born

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Overview

Imre Kertesz's mesmerizing novel is a tale of identity and memory - the story of a middle-aged man taking stock of his life in the ever-present shadow of the Holocaust. The story unfolds at a writers retreat as the narrator, a survivor of the Holocaust, explains to a friend that he cannot bring a child into a world where the Holocaust occurred and could occur again. In an intricate narrative, we learn of the narrator's myriad disappointments: his unsuccessful literary career, his failed marriage, his ex-wife's ...
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Overview

Imre Kertesz's mesmerizing novel is a tale of identity and memory - the story of a middle-aged man taking stock of his life in the ever-present shadow of the Holocaust. The story unfolds at a writers retreat as the narrator, a survivor of the Holocaust, explains to a friend that he cannot bring a child into a world where the Holocaust occurred and could occur again. In an intricate narrative, we learn of the narrator's myriad disappointments: his unsuccessful literary career, his failed marriage, his ex-wife's new family and children - children that could have been his own. Kaddish for a Child Not Born is a deeply introspective, poetic yet unsentimental work.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
An anguished cri de coeur delivered in a relentless monologue by an unnamed Holocaust survivor, this slim book by the author of Fateless is harrowing to read. The middle-aged narrator, an author and literary translator, attempts to explain why he could not bring a child into a post-Holocaust world, despite a wife who loved him and urged him to assume a normal existence. The narrator contends that a Jew cannot ever have a normal life; that a deep distrust of the world, and the fear that genocide can happen again, is now an ineradicable part of his consciousness. But gradually it becomes clear that his neurosis anteceded Auschwitz. It began during his childhood in Budapest when he was the youngest child at an inhumane boarding school, and was enhanced by the behavior of his autocratic father, whose "threatening love" he equates with an unmerciful God. Trapped inside the head of this totally alienated, emotionally crippled and desperately lonely man, the reader is carried along on his desperate, nihilistic tirade. Thus his kaddish (prayer for the dead) for the child he did not beget is also a lament for the millions who were murdered, for the generations that were unborn and for each individual life that was cursed by bigotry and hatred. It's a coruscating message, but a brutally honest one. (July)
From The Critics
"This stunnig recit...resembles...other memorably declamatory fictions as...Dostoyevsky's Notes from the Underground.Yes, Kertesz's Kaddish is that good."Kirkus
Library Journal
Like its author, Hungarian novelist Kertsz (Fateless, LJ 10/15/92), the narrator in this disturbing yet lyrical novel is a writer/translator and Holocaust survivor. Middle-aged and out of harmony with everyone, including himself, he makes a final effort to explain his disconnectedness to life and his refusal to bring a child into a world where horrors like the Holocaust can occur. He recalls the pivotal events of his unhappy past in a seamless burst of introspection that is painful in its intensity and despair. For him, life is nothing more than the process of digging his own grave, using his writing tools to draw closer to death. The work is well titled, for the narrator truly mourns his unborn child(ren), and there is in his powerlessness a faint reflection of the acceptance of divine will appropriate for a mourner's kaddish. But he is a man without religious faith, numbed by the blows of fate, and his lament is not a doxology but a confession and a cry for death. Kertsz has re-created a memorable, frail life in a slender work that is occasionally rambling but always compelling in its exploration of identity and the will to survive. Recommended for all collections of contemporary literature.Sister M. Anna Falbo, Villa Maria Coll. Lib., Buffalo, N.Y.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780810111615
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press
  • Publication date: 10/25/1999
  • Pages: 95
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.14 (h) x 0.31 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 14, 2005

    Attention: Only read the new translation by Tim Wilkinson

    Anyone who reads the poor first translations of Fateless and Kaddish cannot even get close to the true spirit of the original works. Thanks to Tim Wilkinson English speakers can finally enjoy these excellent books. Look for the titles ¿Fatelessness¿ and ¿Kaddish for an Unborn Child¿, both translated by Wilkinson. These new editions are worthy of the originals and the Nobel Prize.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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