Imre Kertesz

translated from the Hungarian by Tim Wilkinson
Harvill Press 2006
A book review by Danny Yee © 2007
Liquidation begins in the third person, with the narrator circuitously approaching the protagonist, a literary editor named Kingbitter. It then continues as fragments of a play called Liquidation in which Kingbitter is a character, and then switches to Kingbitter's first person perspective. And then there's a fragment that is from another character's point of view, but clearly written by Kingbitter.

This metafictional collage describes Kingbitter's relationship with the writer B, who has committed suicide and whose literary estate he is managing, and his search for the novel that he is sure B must have written but which can't be found. This search involves Kingbitter's girlfriend, who has had an affair with B, and B's ex-wife, with whom he has previously been involved. And the background to this is striking: B's life story as a holocaust survivor actually born in Auschwitz, Hungary's transition from communism and its effects on writers and publishers, and the possible justifications for suicide.

Liquidation is too slender to do too much with all of this, but it is not unsatisfying: the absence of substantial answers goes with the shifting foundations of the structure. More than a clever literary mystery, it is a novel that will bear rereading.

April 2007

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%T Liquidation
%A Kertesz, Imre
%M Hungarian
%F Wilkinson, Tim
%I Harvill Press
%D 2006
%O hardcover
%G ISBN 1843432358
%P 130pp