The Union Jack (The Contemporary Art of the Novella)
"It was...unnecessary for me to fret about who the murderer was: Everybody was."
A haunting, never-before-translated, autobiographical novella by the 2002 Nobel Prize winner.
An unnamed narrator recounts a simple anecdote, his sighting of the Union Jack—the British Flag—during the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, in the few days preceding the uprising's brutal repression by the Soviet army. In the telling, partly a digressive meditation on "the absurd order of chance," he recalls his youthful self, and the epiphanies of his intellectual and spiritual awakening—an awakening to a kind of radical subjectivity. In his Nobel address Kertesz remembered:
"I, on a lovely spring day in 1955, suddenly came to the realization that there exists only one reality, and that is me, my own life, this fragile gift bestowed for an uncertain time, which had been seized, expropriated by alien forces, and circumscribed, marked up, branded—and which I had to take back from 'History', this dreadful Moloch, because it was mine and mine alone..."
The Contemporary Art of the Novella series is designed to highlight work by major authors from around the world. In most instances, as with Imre Kertész, it showcases work never before published; in others, books are reprised that should never have gone out of print. It is intended that the series feature many well-known authors and some exciting new discoveries. And as with the original series, The Art of the Novella, each book is a beautifully packaged and inexpensive volume meant to celebrate the form and its practitioners.
saw the pale, spent woman hanging on the breast of the fugitive man, he saw her love and distress, and he knew: so life must be to be creative”—I read those words like somebody who was reading for the first time in his life, like somebody who was encountering words for the first time in his life, secret words that spoke to him alone, interpretable by him alone, the same thing as had happened to me when I saw Die Walküre for the first time in my life. The book—Thomas Mann’s The Blood of the
conman and adulterer, as was indeed confirmed decades later when, from a newspaper bought out of sheer absent-mindedness (since the so-called news was of no real interest), I was silently and genuinely shocked to learn about his death in a well-known common prison, where, allegedly, a permanent cell, his slippers and a bathrobe were set aside for him even during the days that he spent on release; and who one afternoon, in one of those cafés around Nagymező Street, one of those cheap, noisy,
BASKERVILLES / ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE THE DEAD / JAMES JOYCE FIRST LOVE / IVAN TURGENEV A SIMPLE HEART / GUSTAVE FLAUBERT THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING / RUDYARD KIPLING MICHAEL KOHLHAAS / HEINRICH VON KLEIST THE BEACH OF FALESÁ / ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON THE HORLA / GUY DE MAUPASSANT THE ETERNAL HUSBAND / FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY THE MAN THAT CORRUPTED HADLEYBURG / MARK TWAIN THE LIFTED VEIL / GEORGE ELIOT THE GIRL WITH THE GOLDEN EYES / HONORÉ DE BALZAC A SLEEP AND A FORGETTING / WILLIAM DEAN
some extent, about journalism itself, held no inkling about journalism in the disaster era, or about disasters at all; the book was lighthearted and wise, or in other words, an unwitting book, but a book that with the allure of unwittingness exercised a fateful influence on me. The book may well have lied, but, as I recollect, the lying was certainly honest, and it is highly likely that I was in need of just such a lie at the time. A person always lights upon the lie he is in need of just as
family liked opera, which may make it somewhat easier to understand why I didn’t like opera. What my family liked, though, was certainly not the operas of Richard Wagner but Italian opera, the pinnacle of my family’s taste, I almost said tolerance, being the opera Aida. I grew up in a musical milieu—insofar as I can call my childhood milieu a musical milieu at all, which I cannot, because I would call my childhood milieu any other milieu but a musical milieu—where the remarks that were passed