Imre Kertesz

From "Fatelessness": "As we pass one step, and as we recognize it as being behind us, the next one already rises up before us. By the time we learn everything, we slowly come to understand it. And while you come to understand everything gradually, you don't remain idle at any moment: you are already attending to your new business; you live, you act, you move, you fulfill the new requirements of every new step of development. If, on the other hand, there were no schedule, no gradual enlightenment, if all the knowledge descended on you at once right there in one spot, then it's possible neither your brains nor your heart could bear it."
From "Fiasco": "For the old boy thought of himself - we can hardly dispute that he had every reason to do so - as old, as someone to whom nothing more could happen, nothing new, whether good or bad (with a proviso for the far from consubstantial chances of the just slightly better ro slightly worse) (although this made essentially no difference to the essence), as someone to whom everything had already happened (including what might still happen or might have happened), someone who had outwitted - transiently - his death, lived out - definitively - his life, gained his modest reward for his vices and strict punishment for his virtues, and had long been a permanent figure on that grey list that is kept, who can tell where, and in accordance with what sort of promptings, of those who are excess to headcount; someone who, despite all that, wakes up day after day to the fact that he still exists (and doesn't find it so unpleasant at that) (as he might, perhaps, have felt) (if he always took everything into consideration) (which he did not do at all),"

"All at once i found myself confronting the immaterial and formless monster of time. Its gaping mouth yawned witlessly at me, and there was nothing i could shove down its maw".

"The exasperation i felt from the heat, a dull headache, and my indecisiveness had been wound to exploding point by a thousand little things en route: the abrupt switching-on of a screeching siren just as an ambulance had drawn alongside me; the inexplicable outburst of rage from a dog which unexpectedly hurled itself at the railings as i passed by, its demented, hoarse, rancorous barking, which unremittingly accompanied my steps; a half-wit in a boater, short-sleeved shirt, and, dangling on a leather strap that reached from his neck to his belly, a pocket-radio which appeared to be equipped with every gadget that a modern radar-detector vessel might need, the crackling howl from which i didn't seem able to get rid of; my choking and sneezing and my eyes stinging in the dense, black exhaust cloud from a truck that raggled past - in short, the sort of impressions that are inconsequential of themselves but which, colectively and coupled with a degree of mental turmoil, take such a hold on people in big cities as to drive them to unpredictable excesses, individual perversions, anarchistic thoughts, bomb throwing."

"At one time he had decided that Oglutz (and the old boy's starting to call Oglutz Oglutz may have dated from this decision) embodied a qualitatively new form of being, namely, a visual (or auditory) (or audio-visual) being (which differed radically from, for instance, the) (nowadays in any case barely realisable) (art-loving being, in that Oglutz's watching) (or listening) (or watching and listening) (habits both in prose and music were confined exclusively to the products, so to speak, of the light-entertainment genre, quiz and game shows, gala evenings, current-affairs programmes, advertisements, or at most, natural history documentaries); and if it is questionable whether this form of existence is satisfying in every respect, there can be no doubt that it is extremely comfortable, because instead of our having to live a many-sided life, it constantly swarms before our eyes - true, only on a screen, and all we can do is be diverted or angered by it, but not influence it, guide it, intervene in it or accept its consequences - yet in that respect, and in that respect alone (not in what happens on the screen), does it not resemble some of our lives?"

"The problem with facts, however important they may otherwise be, is that there are too many of them and they rapidly wear fantasy down. Instead of our coming to terms with them and mingling in their world ... we are ever more alienated as we gawk at them."

"During that period i may have felt myself ready to regard my future life as an inexhaustible source of ideas for public display; to set down the fruits of my reflections straightaway onto paper; to call on editorial ffices and publishing houses with duplicate copies of this triumphant act; and to watch out for signs on people's faces, or even in their lifestyle, of changes wrought by the influence of those ideas. Amidst a deafening fanfare of portentous pronouncements, authoritative views, and unappealable opinions. I too would have blown on my own toy trumpet. Once released on the mirror-smooth surface of paper, my hand would have flided at breakneck speed on the skate-blade of my ballpoint pen. I would have written as if i were seeking to avert a catastrophe - the catastrophe of not writing, obviously. In other words, i would have written for fear that, God forbid, i wouldn't write; i would have written so as to kill every minute of time and to forget who i am: an end-product of determinacies, a maroon of contingencies, a martyr to bioelectronics, a reluctant surprised party to my own character."


Back to the database of writers | Send more excerpts | Back to Literature | Home