cover image Kaddish for a Child Not Born

Kaddish for a Child Not Born

Imre Kertesz. Hydra Books, $24.95 (95pp) ISBN 978-0-8101-1176-9

An anguished cri de coeur delivered in a relentless monologue by an unnamed Holocaust survivor, this slim book by the author of Fateless is harrowing to read. The middle-aged narrator, an author and literary translator, attempts to explain why he could not bring a child into a post-Holocaust world, despite a wife who loved him and urged him to assume a normal existence. The narrator contends that a Jew cannot ever have a normal life; that a deep distrust of the world, and the fear that genocide can happen again, is now an ineradicable part of his consciousness. But gradually it becomes clear that his neurosis anteceded Auschwitz. It began during his childhood in Budapest when he was the youngest child at an inhumane boarding school, and was enhanced by the behavior of his autocratic father, whose ""threatening love"" he equates with an unmerciful God. Trapped inside the head of this totally alienated, emotionally crippled and desperately lonely man, the reader is carried along on his desperate, nihilistic tirade. Thus his kaddish (prayer for the dead) for the child he did not beget is also a lament for the millions who were murdered, for the generations that were unborn and for each individual life that was cursed by bigotry and hatred. It's a coruscating message, but a brutally honest one. (July)