Last Friday, Imre Kertész was laid to rest in Budapest. The funeral of the only Hungarian Nobel Prize winning writer was attended by writers as well as Hungarian and foreign politicians.
At the request of Kertész's wife, writers Péter Esterházy and György Spiró delivered speeches at the funeral.
"A funeral is not the end but the beginning of something", Esterházy said. "I do not mean eternal life but our duties bequeathed to us by the one who died. (...) We must read Imre Kertész's texts again and again. (...) He is a great writer, a great Hungarian writer, even if his relation to the nation is not without turmoil and not rosy, to say the least. To say no lies, and to record what is gone, i.e. to find tranquility: that is also what we expect from a funeral. Here, we have to do without that. Restlessness also means life, movement. Kertész brought such restlessness into the Hungarian language. The new order of restlessness. If I had to associate one word with Kertész, it would be suffering. His life, his death and his art were all in the sign of suffering. Sometimes it was suffering that found him, sometimes it was him who found suffering. Silence, restlessness, suffering: these could be the great Kertész words, under the umbrella of the 'no-'s; those are the concepts through which we learn something new about the world."
György Spiró stressed that Kertész "did not let himself be deceived by anything or anyone. He was not yoked by prejudice, vanity, fictitious self-image, domestic or foreign, official or oppositional literary attitudes. He looked at everything and everyone 'in the ravine of lies,' as he put it in Fiasco, with a plebeian sarcasm. He was 'the people,' but he did not idealize the people. There was not a trace in him of the romantic attitude typical of intellectuals." Spiró reminded the mourners that when Kertész wrote Fatelessness, he was without a job. "In those depressing, disconsolate decades he was the freest person I knew," he said.
Attending the funeral were, among other people, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his wife, Minister of Human Resources Zoltán Balog, President of Bundestag Norbert Lammert, and writers Péter Nádas and György Konrád. At the catafalque, Zoltán Kocsis and Barnabás Kelemen played music, then Magda Kertész spoke briefly.
Photo by Gergely Máté Oláh