Stop abusing seriously ill Nobel laureate Imre Kertész!

This week, in a reversal of their previous position, Mr. Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party declared that the writings of author Imre Kertész, recipient of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Literature, are actually in sync with their philosophy and are putting him up for a high state award. Historian Dr. Mária Schmidt wrote a lengthy article declaring Mr. Kertész the Hungarian right-wing’s new “darling.”

In the past, Mr. Kertész a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz concentration camp has strongly criticized Hungary and the Orbán-regime. In a 2002 interview he talked about his despair at the culture of hatred consuming his birth country. He was critical Hungary’s Holocaust-denier culture saying, “Nothing has been worked through, everything is painted over with pretty colors. Budapest is a city without a memory.”

Mr. Kertész has made his home in Germany for more than 10 years. Living in Berlin, far away from Hungary’s political affairs he felt there was nothing new in his native country, implying that life under Viktor Orbán was basically the same as it was during communist dictator János Kádár.

Imre Kertész

Imre Kertész

Mr. Kertész has compared Mr. Orban to the “Pied Piper” of Hamelin. Not surprisingly Mr. Orban’s party labelled him “anti-Hungarian,” and some party officials stated that “he didn’t deserve the Nobel prize.”

One year ago Luisa Zielinski interviewed Mr. Kertész. She wrote in the Paris Review that Kertész can no longer take part in life.

She observed, “he is in the last stages of a battle with Parkinson’s disease. Our interview was clearly taxing for him. Although he speaks fluent German, Kertész relied on his good friend Can Togay both to relay his answers to me and to translate my questions from German into Hungarian. At times, it was all Kertész could do to follow his own train of thought; our conversations were interspersed with pauses when he grew tired or needed help shifting position in his chair.”

Later that year Mr. Kertész collapsed in his home, hit his right hip, and had surgery. He has not been seen in public this year.

Mr. Orbán’s regime is perceived in the West as an anti-Semitic quasi dictatorship and badly needs a boost. Mr. Kertész, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate, might provide a perfect photo op for the embattled regime.

To award Mr. Kertész, a man who has a hard time “to follow his own train of thought,” would be a shameless political exploitation of a suffering man. Since he is ill and incapacitated, he may not be able to refuse the award.

It would be a crime: elder abuse.

György Lázár

5 Comments

  1. And if he refuses, he will also cause consternation. This is a trap, whichever way he reacts.

  2. “and some party officials stated that “he didn’t deserve the Nobel prize.”

    .
    Are they to offend Mr. Kertész or the Nobel Committee? Nice to see how the Orbán government is providing guidelines for the Nobel Committee on who can win Nobel prize.

  3. Anna Lengyel says:

    The intent of this article is noble and Orbán’s and the Hungarian government’s effort to hijack the only Hungarian Nobel-laureate in literature is despicable. But the other premise of this note is mistaken. Kertész – who by the way has been living in Hungary again for about a year now – is NOT a man, who has a hard time following his own train of thought. It might have been the case during the quoted interview, but it is in no way a general state of mind that would describe him. He is indeed old and very sick, which I agree must cloud his otherwise clear vision to some small extent, but only to that of a person getting tired very quickly. Sadly, however, he knows what the award is, and even though friends have tried to dissuade him from accepting it, he seems to want it, as well. There is a last minute effor to try and convince him otherwise. Fingers crossed. But Imre Kertész is no way senile, and his mind is not foggy. It is just that most sick 85-year olds though have other concerns and other priorities than their 40 or 60 year-old selves.

  4. Thanks Anna, for sharing your information. I am relieved to hear that Imre Kertész is mentally capable of deciding about the decoration. This was indeed unclear for me after reading this article by György Lázár. I don’t envy Imre’s position at all. Never have. I very much respect his works, wish him well, and hope he and his friends can accept his decision.

  5. Dr. Habil. Fodor András says:

    “Imre Kertész is no way senile, and his mind is not foggy […] he knows what the award is, […] his otherwise clear vision to some small extent, but only to that of a person getting tired very quickly. […] He knows what the award is, and even though friends have tried to dissuade him from accepting it, he seems to want it, as well”- all these are from Anna Lengyel”s letter. “Mr. Orbán’s regime is perceived in the West as an anti-Semitic quasi dictatorship and badly needs a boost. Mr. Kertész, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate, might provide a perfect photo op for the embattled regime”- wrote Mr. Lázár. I would argue his rigid and hostile statement. My interpretation is that Mr. Orbán is a committed patriot and is sincerely for uniting the Hungarian nation, including our Jewish communities, whom he has naturally considered as an integrated part of the nation. He also wanted to express, his acknowledge and respect towards the outstanding Hungarian writer even if their political views were totally different. I would take this action seriously as an important step toward peace, friendliness and brotherhood between Hungarian patriots of non-Christian and Christian identity. The positive response from your side would be another important step toward this direction. If I could vote, I would vote for that.

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