February 15, 2012

OFFER: In celebration of Imre Kertész


I’m 82. I’m ill. My reaction has been to settle here, in Berlin. Act? I can only do that by writing. And yet when I do, it doesn’t have any effect, or it earns me condemnation. With one notable exception. The release in Hungary last year of my Journal (to be released in France by Actes Sud) sparked, for the first time, some sympathetic reactions. Does that suggest that Hungary isn’t following the pied piper en masse? In any case, it made me think of the Karl Kraus joke: “The situation is desperate but not serious.”

Nobel Prize-winner Imre Kertész spoke movingly to Le Monde last week about the state of Hungarian politics and his standing among his countrymen. This followed last month’s international criticism of the Hungarian prime minister, rightwinger Viktor Orbán, for policies—like reducing the independence of the central bank—that will entrench his own power and stifle opposition to his rule. Kertész spoke with characteristic frankness about the country he left ten years ago, explaining the prevailing attitude with a biting Duchamp quotation: ‘There is no solution because there is no problem.’

Last year brought one of the proudest moments in Melville House‘s history: our publication, for the first time ever in English translation, of Imre Kertész’s Fiasco, the book that completes his Nobel Prize-winning trilogy. Sitting in between Fatelessness and Kaddish for an Unborn Child, this previously ‘lost’ book speaks of the confusion and despair experienced by the individual at a time of war. It’s most frequently described as ’Kafkaesque’, thanks to a humour so dark it has sometimes gone entirely undetected, and a take on the incomprehensibility of life’s grand patterns that gets you right in the gut. Its visceral portrayal of twentieth-century atrocities and its roots in Kertész’s own trauma—drawing on Kertész’s experiences in camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald—make that humour, that punch to the gut, all the more potent.

So ‘modest’ doesn’t really cover Kertész’s ‘Act? I can only do that by writing.’ At Melville House we have long been champions of his particular brand of literary action: before publishing Fiasco we published two more of his works in our Art of the Novella series: The Pathseeker and The Union Jack, each a small gem that speaks originally and courageously to power, history and the individual’s relation to each.

Ill and 82 Kertész may be; he’s also an inspiration and a literary talent to be treasured. In celebration of all things Kertész, today we’re offering a discount on our three titles: buy The Pathseeker and The Union Jack for $5 each, down from the list price of $13 each, and Fiasco for $10, down from $18.95.


Ellie Robins is an editor at Melville House. Previously, she was managing editor of Hesperus Press.