Best Literary Quotes of Imre Kertész

  1. I stayed alive therefore I am.
  2. I refuse to adapt or integrate myself.
  3. Anyone who wants something else is Jewish.
  4. Man is always a little at fault, that’s all.
  5. He was now in the ninth year of considering that.
  6. I do what I have to do, although I don’t know why I have to.
  7. One cannot start a new life, you can only continue the old one.
  8. If you’re a revolutionary, you shouldn’t have started a family.
  9. Failure alone remains as the one single accomplishable experience.
  10. I would like to live a little bit longer in this beautiful concentration camp.
  11. My body is foreign to me that body that sustains me and will, ultimately, kill me.
  12. The world is not our imagination but our nightmare, full of inconceivable surprises.
  13. There’s just one revolution that I can take seriously, and that’s a police revolution.
  14. At any rate I found myself writing because I had to write, although I didn’t know why.
  15. Talking is not enough; words don’t clarify anything. I’ll have to hit upon something, but what?
  16. If people had understood the greatness of those works, they would have destroyed them long ago.
  17. Writers complete their works, whether those be thousands of pages long or just a few laconic lines.
  18. Of course, living is another way of killing oneself: its drawback is that it takes so horribly long.
  19. I am sick of atrocities, though these are now the natural order of our world. And I would still like to act!
  20. Man, when reduced to nothing, or in other words a survivor, is not tragic but comic, because he has no fate.
  21. Writers sometimes cast themselves into the most profound depths of despair in order to master it and move on.
  22. I look on my life as raw material for my novels: that’s just the way I am, and it frees me from any inhibitions.
  23. Boredom. He takes it with him everywhere, like an angry shaggy terrier that he sets on others from time to time.
  24. I tried to depict the human face of this history, I wanted to write a book that people would actually want to read.
  25. If one takes the path of success, then one ends up either successful or unsuccessful, there is no third alternative.
  26. On the other hand, what is really irrational and what truly cannot be explained is not evil but, contrarily, the good.
  27. Good can be done in a life in which Evil is the life principle, but only at the cost of the doer’s sacrificing his life.
  28. Nothing upsets me as much as a shop window jammed full of objects; such windows literally depress, sadden, even demoralize me.
  29. I had gotten into the habit of sleeping late because I had started to see that this was the only sensible way I could kill time.
  30. Non-existence. The society of the non-existent. In the street yesterday a non-existent person trod on my foot with his non-existent foot.
  31. It seems that only one philosophy can succeed the philosophy of existentialism: non-existentialism, the philosophy of non-existent existence.
  32. A person’s true means of expression is his life. Living the shame of life and maintaining silence, that was the greatest accomplishment of all.
  33. Everyone here makes a botch of his life. That’s the local speciality, the genius loci. Anyone who doesn’t botch up his life here simply has no talent.
  34. “Auschwitz cannot be explained.” And yet, it doesn’t take a Wittgenstein to notice that the sentence is faulty even from the point of pure linguistic logic.
  35. I am still here, although I don’t know why; accidentally, I guess, as I was born; I am as much or as little accomplice to my staying alive as I was to my birth.
  36. How can we do justice even when it concerns truth itself, since for me only one truth exists, my truth, even if it is a delusion, yes, my delusion; my delusion.
  37. Survivors represent a separate species, just like an animal species. We are all survivors, that is what determines our perverse and degenerate mental world. Auschwitz.
  38. Let us call our man, the hero of this story, Kingbitter. We imagine a man, and a name to go with him. Or conversely, let us imagine the name, and the man to go with it.
  39. For me this is a fact, writing is necessity, I don’t know why, but it seems it was the only solution offered to me, even if it doesn’t solve anything; still it doesn’t leave me…
  40. I exist. Is this a life still? No, just vegetating. It seems that only one philosophy can succeed the philosophy of existentialism: non-existentialism, the philosophy of non-existent existence.
  41. The sentence “Auschwitz cannot be explained” is faulty simply from a formal point of view, for anything that is has an explanation, even if by necessity a merely self-serving faulty, so so explanation.
  42. People have lost their flair for greatness and only their flair for murder has persisted, though undoubtedly they have refined the latter, their flair for murder, to an art, almost to point of greatness…
  43. I live and occasionally I look up at the glorious air or the clouds into which I keep digging my grave with my pen, diligently, like a forced labor, whom they order every day to dig deeper with his spade…
  44. The state is always the same. The only reason it financed literature up till now was in order to liquidate it. Giving state support to literature is the state’s sneaky way for the state liquidation of literature.
  45. Only from our stories can we discover that our stories have come to an end, otherwise we would go on living as if there were still something for us to continue (our stories, for example); that is, we would go on living in error.
  46. He himself had said near enough exactly what was in the play. The only snag was that by the time that scene was played out in reality, almost word for word, the person who had written the play, and that scene in it, was no longer alive.
  47. If a person resolves to fight, he ought to know what he is fighting for. Otherwise it makes no sense. A person usually fights against a power in order to gain power himself. Or else because the power in question is threatening his life.
  48. He liked the style, that wry gallows humor armed with the semblance of omniscience; a most serviceable style it was, the dialect of the initiated, protecting them from their disillusionments, their fears, their well-concealed childish hopes.
  49. I read somewhere; while God still existed one sustained a dialogue with God, and now that He no longer exists one has to sustain a dialogue with other people, I guess, or, better still, with oneself, that is to say, one talks or mumbles to oneself.
  50. Auschwitz, I told her, appears to me in the image of a father; yes, the two terms, Auschwitz, and father, resonate the same echoes in me, and if the observation is that God is an exalted father, then God, too is revealed to me in the image of Auschwitz.
  51. If you have a concept of the world, if you have not yet forgotten all that has happened, that you have a world at all, it is writing that has created that for you, and ceaselessly goes on creating it; Logos, the invisible spider’s thread that holds our lives together.
  52. What we usually mean by fate is what we least understand, that is to say, ourselves, that subversive, unknown individual constantly plotting against us, whom , estranged and alienated but still bowing with disgust before his might, we call, for the of simplicity, fate.
  53. You just sit there and tolerate it, the same way everything in this country is tolerated. Every deception, every lie, every bullet in the brains. Just as you are already tolerating bullets in the brains that will be implemented only after the bullet is put in your brains.
  54. I took a stroll in the city. It was infernally hot. The usual evening hubbub around me. Lovers on the pavements, hurrying to cinemas and other places of amusement as if nothing had happened, nothing. Living their nonexistent lives. Or do they exit, and it’s me who doesn’t.
  55. True, he had been living a lively interior life today: he had dreamed something, he had awoken with an erection, and while shaving he had been dogged by a feeling that today he needed to decide, though he could not see clearly what it was he needed to decide, besides which he was all too aware of his own inability to make any decisions.
  56. I have felt that some sort of awful shame is attached to my name and that I have somehow brought this shame along from somewhere I have never been, and that I have carried this sin as my sin even though I have never committed it; this sin pursues me all my life, which life is undoubtedly not my own even thought I live it , I suffer from it die of it.
  57. Cognitively we don’t know and will never discover what occasions the cause of our existence, we don’t know the purpose of our existence and we don’t know why we have to disappear from here once we have been placed here, I don’t know, why I have to live this fragmentary existence, which happened to be my lot, instead of a life that perhaps does exist somewhere. Why did I get this lot? This sex, this body, this awareness, this geographic setting, this fate, this language, this history, this rented room?
  58. To live and to write, it’s all the same, both together, for the pen is my spade; when I look ahead I only look back, when I stare at the paper I only see the past: she crossed that bluish green carpet as if she were crossing the sea because she wanted to talk to me, for she found out that I was “B.”, author and literary translator, one of whose “works” had read, and which she definitely wanted to discuss with me, she said, and we talked and talked until we talked ourselves into bed — Good God! — and continued to talk even then, uninterrupted.
  59. But I believe in writing — nothing else; just writing. Man may live like a worm, but he writes like a god. There was a time when that secret was known, but now it has been forgotten; the world is composed of disintegrating fragments, an incoherent dark chaos, sustained by writing alone. If you have a concept of the world, if you have not yet forgotten all that has happened, that you have a world at all, it is writing that has created that for you, and ceaselessly goes on creating it; Logos, the invisible spider’s thread that holds our lives together.
  60. That evening he talked about Leonardo and Michelangelo. It is impossible to place them in the human world, he said. It is impossible to comprehend how anything that attests to greatness has survived; it is obviously a result of innumerable chance events and of human incomprehension, he said. If people had understood the greatness of those works, they would have destroyed them long ago. Fortunately, people have lost their flair for greatness and only their flair for murder has persisted, though undoubtedly they have refined the latter, their flair for murder, to an art, almost to point of greatness, he said.
  61. The régime was overthrown, and I’m not going to pretend it was me who overthrew it. A general liquidation is in full swing, and I’m not going to join in. I’ve become a spectator. And I’m not even spectating from the front rows in the stalls but from somewhere up in the gods. Maybe I’m worn out, but it could be that I never truly believed in what I believed. That would be the unseemliness alternative, because then they would have smashed my ear in for no reason at all. That is the assumption I’m inclining to these days. (He breaks off and ponders, book in hand.) I did time for no reason, dragged the millstone of a police record around for no reason, was on probation for years for no reason, and I’m no hero, I merely botched up my life.

imre-kerteszImre Kertész (9 November 1929 – 31 March 2016) was a Hungarian author, Holocaust concentration camp survivor, and recipient of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Literature, “for writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history”. He was the first Hungarian to win the Nobel in Literature. His works deal with themes of Nazi holocaust, dictatorship and personal freedom. He died on 31 March 2016, aged 86, at his home in Budapest after suffering fromParkinson’s disease for several years. (from Wikipedia)

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