Monday 16 April 2012


This novel alludes to Mann's Doktor Faustus and Roth's The Radetzky March (among others). Those are books that attempt to sum up an entire historical progression, to diagnose it and analyse it in some sort of definitive way, using the age-old method of writing a vast, integral novel.

Kertesz is dealing with some of the same historical sweep here, his novel is about people who have survived the depredations of ideology, of Auschwitz, of life behind the Iron Curtain. Now, as ideology seems to recede in the late 90s, how do they make sense of what has been? Adrian Leverkuhn revoked the Ninth Symphony; can B., Auschwitz survivor, reluctant writer and consummate nihilist revoke Auschwitz?

This is an odd little novel, fragmented, prone to sudden changes of narrator, person and format, inconclusive, sketchy but still vivid, rich with resonance and ideas in a manner akin to those magisterial novels alluded to earlier, with none of their elaborate narrative scaffolding. It's more than a little disturbing, and even a little skimpy at times, but it's a brilliant skimpiness, the gesture of a writer who has been in hell and is unwilling to reduce it to kitsch, even by simply telling it like it was. I'll stack this novel against a raft of boys in pyjamas of any stripe.

I need to get a hold of Fatelessness, which is a far less oblique take on some of this subject matter, apparently, and see how it compares.

1 comment:

braindrain said...

I haven't read liqudation. But by what I gather, this might be better than "Fatelessness", which I've read. The movie 'Fateless' appealed to me more than the book.