The first word in this mesmerizing novel by the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature is “No.” It is how the novel’s narrator, a middle-aged Hungarian-Jewish writer, answers an acquaintance who asks him if he has a child. It is the answer he gave his wife (now ex-wife) years earlier when she told him that she wanted one. The loss, longing and regret that haunt the years between those two “no”s give rise to one of the most eloquent meditations ever written on the Holocaust.
As Kertesz’s narrator addresses the child he couldn’t bear to bring into the world he ushers readers into the labyrinth of his consciousness, dramatizing the paradoxes attendant on surviving the catastrophe of Auschwitz. Kaddish for the Unborn Child is a work of staggering power, lit by flashes of perverse wit and fueled by the energy of its wholly original voice.
Translated by Tim Wilkinson
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of History eBook: Kaddish for an Unborn Child|
|Release Date: 12-18-2007|
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|Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group|
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Kaddish for an Unborn Child
No!" I said instantly and at once, without hesitating and, virtually, instinctively since it has become quite natural by now that our instincts should act contrary to our instincts, that our counterinstincts, so to say, should act instead of, indeed as, our instincts-I'm joking, if this can be regarded as a joking matter; that is, if one can regard the naked, miserable truth as a joking matter, is what I tell the philosopher approaching me, now that both he and I have come to a halt in the beech wood, beech coppice, or whatever they are called, stunted and almost audibly wheezing from disease, perhaps from consumption; I must confess to being a dunce about trees, I can recognize only pine trees instantly, on account of their needles-oh yes, and plane trees as well, because I like them, and even nowadays, even by my counterinstincts, I still recognize what I like intuitively, even if not with that same chest-thumping, gut-wrenching, knee-jerking, galvanizing, inspired, so to say, flash of recognition as when I recognize things I detest. "I don't know why it is that every time everything is different in every respect with me, or perhaps if I do know, it's simpler that I know without knowing it. That would spare me a lot of explanations. But, it would seem, there is no getting around explanations, we are constantly explaining and excusing ourselves; life itself, that inexplicable complex of being and feeling, demands explanations of us, those around us demand explanations, and in the end we ourselves demand explanations of ourselves, until in the end we succeed in annihilating everything around us, ourselves included, or in other words explain ourselves to death," I explain...