Imre Kertész
Detective Story.
Knopf, 128 pages, $21

Auschwitz, for the Hungarian writer Imre Kertész, was no aberration, but a logical culmination of European thought and culture. In his 2002 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, forty-five years after his liberation from Auschwitz, Kertész said, “What I discovered in Auschwitz is the human condition, the end point of a great adventure, where the European traveler arrived after his two-thousand-year-old moral and cultural history.” For Kertész, to call the Holocaust inexplicable is to indulge in moral and intellectual faint-heartedness, for its logic, set in place one decision at a time, although immoral, is indisputable. In his experience, it is altruism and self-sacrifice that are, strictly speaking, illogical as they put one’s survival at risk. Evil, on the other hand, has shown itself supremely logical throughout the twentieth century.

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