Imre Kertész: Memoirs of a survivor
Imre Kertész came back from Auschwitz, endured Stalinism and years of neglect in Hungary – and then won the Nobel Prize. Tibor fischer meets him in Budapest
Published: 11 January 2008
Kertész believes that you can be happy anywhere, even in a concentration camp
‘Everyone asks me that,” replies Imre Kertész when I ask, isn’t it ironic that he spends so much time in Berlin? “It’s not ironic, because it was in Germany that I made an impact as a writer, where my book was understood and published. I felt I could say something. I could do something. And anyway it was here, not Germany, that I first experienced fascism.”

We are in Budapest, in the café of the Gresham Palace. Kertész has arrived with his second wife, Magda, smiling as if he’s just heard a good joke. Somehow you expect a Nobel Laureate, a man who was shipped to Auschwitz at 14, pronounced dead at Buchenwald and who spent decades living a hand-to-mouth existence as an unfashionable author working in a language only spoken by 15 million people, to be less… good-humoured. His smile is partly the smile of the victor, partly the smile of a man at ease with fatelessness.