Detective Story

Detective Story, translated from Hungarian by Tim Wilkinson, is an irregular little story (indeed, I feel the term “little story” almost demeans it); then again, Imre Kertész seems to be an irregular author. He spent time in Auschwitz as a youth and won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Literature for writing that “upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history.”

We are not given much in the way of setting other than a South American country just recently out from the dictatorship of the Colonel. The book is the memoir of Antonio Martens, a member of the former Corps now imprisoned for his role in the torture and execution of father and son Federigo and Enrique Salinas.

Martens liberally intersperses passages from Enrique’s diary, which he purchased afterwards, so that we obtain a picture of the two men. Enrique is passionate, desparate to do something to restore the life and country he once knew, while Martens is calm and straightforward with a detachment that becomes frightening. He mentions frequent headaches, perhaps the twinging remnants of a conscience that has undergone brainwashing, and lacks the cunning of Diaz and sadism of Rodriquez (his fellow officers). There is no sickness or cruelty, just a complete lack of any moral system. Here is a quote from Martens’ thoughts:

“I grasped that we had now cast away everything that bound us to the laws of man; I grasped that we could no longer place our trust in anyone except ourselves. Oh, and in destiny, in that insatiable, greedy, and eternally hungry mechanism. Were we still spinning it, or was it spinning us? Now it all amounts to the same thing. You think you are being very clever in riding events out, as I say, and then you find out that all you want to know in where the hell they are galloping off to with you.”

The book is not something I normally would have picked up, I think, but it was utterly fascinating and really flew by. As an added bonus, I realized I can count this for the Lost in Translation Challenge!

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Published in: on June 18, 2009 at 11:23 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] book looks very enlightening, and will be the perfect follow-up to Detective Story. I also received What I Did on My Summer Vacation: 40 Funny Poems About Summer Adventures and […]

  2. […] Detective Story, by Imre Kertész (Hungarian) […]


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