At Home in Any Language

In the history of the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize only three outstanding personalities were awarded an honorary endowment. One of them was Imre Kertész who was not only recognized for his great literary works but also his translations and his commitement to the international exchange of literature.
Robert Bosch Stiftung | March 2016

In the 32-year history of the Adelbert von Chamisso Prize, three outstanding individuals have been selected for a special award. One of these was Imre Kertész, born in Budapest in 1929, who was acknowledged in 2001 for his magnificent literary works, in particular for his magnum opus Fatelessness, and also for his translations and services for the intercultural promotion of literature - a good year before he received the 2002 Nobel Prize in Literature.

Kertész, who was deported to the concentration camps Auschwitz, Buchenwald, and Tröglitz/Rehmsdorf following the occupation of Hungary by German troops in the summer of 1944, financed his work on the epoch-defining manuscript of Fatelessness through translations, light comedies, and other texts. In Hungary, where the work was first published in 1975, it took decades for its significance to be recognized. It wasn’t until the texts were translated into German that Kertész received real international recognition. The German versions of this disturbing work - essentially about unutterable experiences in concentration camps - published in 1990 under the title Mensch ohne Schicksal and retranslated in 1996 under the title Roman eines Schicksallosen made it clear that the novel (later published in English under the title Fatelessness) was amongst the most important European literary works of the 20th century.

The literary figure of worldwide acclaim lived predominantly in Berlin from 2002 until 2012. He returned to Budapest four years ago due to a serious illness that he did not seek to hide. Imre Kertész died on March 31, 2016. Not only the literary world is paying homage to him and his achievements.