Parkinson’s disease has not deterred the octogenarian Hungarian Jewish Nobel Prize winner Imre Kertész from literary productivity. Adding to justly-praised books such as “Fatelessness,” “Kaddish for an Unborn Child,” and “Detective Story,” still available from Vintage Books, in October Kertész’s French publisher Les éditions Actes Sud released a new translation of “A Galley Slave’s Diary” (Gályanapló in the original Hungarian, first published in 1992).
Capturing the novelist’s meditations from 1961 to 1991, “A Galley Slave’s Diary” fascinatingly gauges the writer’s emotional and spiritual concerns, as he produces works which earned him 2002’s Nobel Prize in Literature. Born into a Hungarian Jewish family in 1929, he was deported to Auschwitz at age fourteen, and later returned to East Europe. In 1991 Kertész notes that what saved him from imitating Western European authors who were Holocaust survivors and later suicides, such as Paul Celan, Jean Améry, and Primo Levi, is that by living under Eastern bloc tyranny, Kertész essentially “continued [his] prisoner’s life,” with no postwar hopes to disappoint.