Fiasco (1988) Imre Kertész

Second novel in trilogy by Nobel winning Hungarian Imre Kertesz. #1 __Fatelessness__reviewed briefly below. Less of an intense reading experience than the first when our boy hero Koves describes turning 15 in Auschwitz. Koves narrates the change from work camp to death camp less as a monstrous change than as the proverbial frog in the increasingly hot water. Post war young man Koves tries to be a writer in his Soviet controlled land but runs into many obstacles. For one his Nazi death camp writing is rejected for not being horrifying enough. He becomes a factory worker and does not do so well there either. Will read #3.

His writing is beautiful. Enjoy this:

“They carted him off and he perished at their hands!” And, head held high, she stared at him almost provocatively, with a strange defiance, as if she were heaping all her sufferings at Köves’s feet and was now waiting for Köves to trample on them. Nothing of the kind happened, however. Köves nodded a few times, slowly, with the sympathetic, rather long face of someone who, while of course not regarding it as right, also does not find it particularly unusual that someone, as Mrs. Weigand put it, was “carted off” and “perished at their hands,” and who will make do with the dead without expecting further illumination as to the details; the woman’s tense face, on the other hand, gradually relaxed and slackened, as if she had grown weary of the silence which had descended on them, or perhaps suspected him of harboring a secret complicity woven between them, as it were, by their silence. “Yes,” she reiterated, this time languidly and even, it seemed, a touch listlessly, “they carted him off, and he perished at their hands!
Fiasco (pp. 194-195).

And this:

“No?” the department head leaned over the desk toward Köves, his face unexpectedly softening and sagging, his mouth opening slightly, his eyes staring confusedly at Köves from under the cap: “What do you mean, ‘No’?” he asked, so Köves, who by then had visibly regained his poise, although this seemed to have reinforced rather than shaken his determination, repeated: “No,” like someone shielding something tangible against some kind of fantasy. And so as not to appear like the sort of uncouth bumpkin who could not even speak, he added by way of an explanation: “I’m unsuited for it.” “Of course not.” The department head too had meanwhile calmed down and plainly resigned himself to the utmost patience he could muster in order to acquaint Köves with one thing and another. “Of course you’re not suited: we are quite clear of that ourselves.” There was a momentary pause as a slightly care-laden expression flitted across his face, then, overcoming his doubts as it were, he slowly raised his blue gaze and trained it straight on Köves: “That’s precisely why we’re posting you over there,” he went on, “so that you will become suited,” and now it was Köves’s turn to lean forward in his chair in surprise.
Fiasco (p. 243).


Essentially, or so it seemed to Köves, what they were concerned about here was much the same, with the appropriate modifications, of course: more particularly, it was as if people in the Ministry for Production had woken up to the fact that production was, it seemed, far from the natural activity that for a long time they had thought it was, but was actually an extraordinary, heroic undertaking, indeed vocation, that the public at large, and even the workers themselves, were not fully alive to; they just did the work, but effectively without being aware of what they were doing, and it was the senior staffer’s duty— that is to say, now his as well, it dawned on Köves with a shudder— to awaken a sense of self-esteem in them, and of public esteem toward them.
Fiasco (p. 264).


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