Nobel laureate Imre Kertesz, survivor of both Auschwitz and Buchenwald, is a brilliant writer. As I was reading this short work, I found that I wanted to quote almost the entire book for this review. In the story, a man at a writer's conference explains to a colleague why he refused his ex-wife a child because he doesn't want to bring a child into a world where an Auschwitz is allowed to occur. In fact the very first word of the novel is "No," a reference to a question on whether or not he has children. He then expounds on his reasons for that decision, and on his childhood, his marriage, and his survival experiences.
"No!" something screamed, howled within me, immediately and forthwith, and it was only gradually, after many, many years had quieted it down, that my cramp gave way to a quiet but persistent pain, until slowly and maliciously, like a malignant sickness, a question began to take distinct shape with me: "Were you to be a dark-eyed little girl? With pale spots of scattered freckles around your little nose? Or a stubborn boy? With cheerful, hard eyes like blue-gray pebbbles?" Yes, my existence in the context of your potentiality.
I've had family members also question the wisdom of bringing children into the world, and the first time it was put to me, I didn't understand the reasoning behind this stance at all. Perhaps I was too naive then, though, because I do understand it now. I am a mother; I'm grateful to be a mother; but, unfortunately, there is much evil in this world, and while not my choice, I understand why people would question whether to subject their potential children to it.
1990, [1999 for English trans.], 95 pp.
English Translation of the Mourner's Kaddish
May His illustrious name become increasingly great and holy
In the world that He created according to His will,
and may He establish His kingdom
In your lifetime and in your days
and in the lifetime of all the house of Israel
Speedily and soon. And let us say amen.
May His illustrious name be blessed always and forever.
Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled
Honoured, raised up and acclaimed
be the name of the Holy one blessed be He
beyond every blessing hymn, praise and consolation
that is uttered in the world. And let us say amen.
May abundant peace from heaven, and life
Be upon us and upon all Israel.