The Union Jack
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The Union Jack

Translated by Tim Wilkinson

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 Kertész 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…”

Imre_Kertesz

Born in Budapest in 1929, IMRE KERTÉSZ was imprisoned at Auschwitz in 1944, and then at Bunchenwald concentration camp. After the war and repatriation, the Soviet seizure of Hungary ended Kertész’s brief career as a journalist. He turned to translation, specializing in German language works, and later emigrated to Berlin. Kertész was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 2002 for “writing that upholds the fragile experience of the individual against the barbaric arbitrariness of history.”

TIM WILKINSON is the primary English translator of Imre Kertész (his titles include Liquidation and Kaddish for an Unborn Child) as well as numerous other significant works of Hungarian history and literature. In 2005, his translation of Kertész’s Fatelessness was awarded the PEN Club/Book of the Month Club Translation Prize. He lives in London.

“…An enormous effort to understand and find a language for what the Holocaust says about the human condition.” —George Szirtes, Times Literary Supplement

“…Searching and visionary beyond the usual parameters.” —Sven Birkets, Bookforum

“In explaining something of the weight and importance of Kertész’s subjects and creative achievements, it is hard to convey simultaneously the deftness and vivacity of his writing….There is something quintessentially youthful and life-affirming in this writer’s sensibility…” —Ruth Scurr, The Nation

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