- The Washington Times - Friday, October 11, 2002

STOCKHOLM Imre Kertesz, a Hungarian who survived Auschwitz as a teenager, won the Nobel Prize in literature yesterday.

The Swedish Academy, in a citation, said Mr. Kertesz was honored for writing "that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history." The academy singled out his 1975 debut novel "Sorstalansag" ("Fateless"), in which he writes about a young man who is arrested and taken to a concentration camp but conforms and survives.

"For him, Auschwitz is not an exceptional occurrence," the academy said. "It is the ultimate truth about human degradation in modern experience."

Mr. Kertesz, a Jew born in Budapest, was deported in 1944 to the Auschwitz camp in Nazi-occupied Poland, then to the Buchenwald camp in Germany, where he was liberated in 1945. An estimated 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

Mr. Kertesz, 72, is the 13th Hungarian to win a Nobel prize, though he is the first to take the award for literature.

"My immediate reaction is one of great joy. It means very much to me," he told the Associated Press in Berlin, where he is on a teaching scholarship.

"There is no awareness of the Holocaust in Hungary. People have not faced up to the Holocaust. I hope that in the light of this recognition, they will face up to it more than until now," he added.

Author Elie Wiesel, an Auschwitz survivor who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, yesterday applauded the academy's decision.

"He is a great writer," Mr. Wiesel said. "His style and his approach are of such high quality that he deserved to be given the highest prize in literature."

"Fateless" was the first of a trilogy of novels reflecting on the Holocaust. In "A kudarc" ("Fiasco"), published in 1988, an aging author writes a novel about Auschwitz that he expects to be rejected. When the book, to his surprise, is published, he feels only emptiness and a loss of privacy.

"Kaddish a meg nem szueletetett" ("Kaddish for a Child Not Born"), the third work of the trilogy, is a short novel that was published in 1990. The narrator is a middle-aged Holocaust survivor who has become a writer and literary translator.

Mr. Kertesz's other works include such nonfiction collections as "The Holocaust as Culture," "Moments of Silence While the Execution Squad Reloads" and "The Exiled Language."

Two of his books, "Fateless" and "Kaddish," have been translated into English, and Mr. Kertesz is hopeful the award will enable more works to become available. The Nobel winner in 2000, Gao Xingjian, was also little-known by English-language readers, but now has several of his books in translation.

Mr. Kertesz, who will receive about $1 million in prize money, will have to pay about 40 percent of it in taxes under Hungarian law.

Most prestigious prizes are tax-exempt under Hungarian law, but, according to Laszlo Zara, president of Hungary's Tax Consultants Association, lawmakers forgot to include the Nobel prizes to the list. According to Reuters news agency, Mr. Zara's group yesterday urged the government to correct that error.

All but one of the previous Hungarian Nobel winners won their awards while living outside the country, so they avoided paying tax on the prize money.

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