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  • Author or Editor: Alice Freifeld x
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Imre Kertész was among the 82,000 Hungarian Jews who returned in 1945. The transition from camp to home, the adjustment fom adolescent trauma to adult life is only hinted at in his works. This paper situates Kertész in the identity crisis of the immediate postwar period. The confusion of displaced identities in the aftermath of WWII, prompted psychologist Erik Erikson to universalize the adolescent identity crisis as a central contemporary problem. In Hungary not only Jews but the entire society was reforging identities. Borders were porous, so were political and religious affiliations. Kertész's identity was defined, at least in a negative way, by the Holocaust: as a Jew without being a Jew, as a survivor when it was best to keep quiet. He lived in the constant of the world of Buchenwald and of Stalinist Hungary, with their constricted options and ideological imperatives fashioned upon twisted idealisms. His recreation of the Holocaust in Fateless and of the existentialist experience of living with memory in Kaddish, has made for disquieting reading abroad, as well. In ignoring heroic clichés he has transgressed the identity of victim and victimizer.

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Kossuth, the crowd hero, was the pioneer of an exciting new political discourse that used the Magyar vernacular. In exile, Kossuth presented himself as “the wandering son of a bleeding nation.”Eventually, he retreated into the role of the hermit of Turin. His funeral attracted a crowd of over a million people in 1894.

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