Thursday, March 23, 2017

Liquidation [2003]

In the brilliantly modernist novella Liquidation, Hungarian author, and Auschwitz and Buchenwald survivor, Imre Kertesz’s 1st work after being conferred with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2002, was alternately introspective, melancholic, caustic and darkly humorous, as he delved into a subject that he’s been tied to throughout his writing days – the irreconcilable memories and scars of the Holocaust, and attempts at deciphering the “why” more than the “what”. In possibly a reference to Primo Levi, who delved on this period of history right from his harrowing debut memoir If This is a Man, the book’s central character, simply referred to as B (or Bee) as in The Trial’s K, was a famous writer who spent his childhood in the notorious concentration camp and has recently committed suicide. His death has created deep psychological turbulence in the lives of those who knew him closely – in particular, Kingbitter, an editor who’s become obsessed with his deceased friend’s literary estate and a wry observer of life in Budapest which is in transition from dictatorship to democracy; Judith, B’s ex-wife who’s decided to escape her past through marriage to a seemingly conventional man; and Sarah, who is married to a broken man who’s lost the functioning of one ear on account of police brutality and was engaged in a secret affair with B until his shocking demise. As an ironic meta-narrative element, B had composed a hitherto unpublished play on how his suicide would play out among the people he knew – this, along with his conviction that B had written a novel as well prior to his death, compels Kingbitter to pry into the lives of B, the people around B, and his own self. With the brooding air of a person trying to understand, a playful and self-deprecatory tone borne out of disillusionment, and traits of a detective story in its attempts at reconstructing events from past and present, Kertesz provided a terrific meditation on personal vis-à-vis public history, and the enigmatic relationship between life, fiction and myth.

Author: Imre Kertesz
Genre: Black Comedy/Political Drama/Psychological Drama/Holocaust Literature
Language: Hungarian
Country: Hungary

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