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( 1932 )

» Makra (1971)
» Zakariás (1990)
» ZED and Other Stories (2000)


1932 born in Budapest
1961-1966 ELTE University, majoring in Hungarian Language and Literature
1966-1992 works as a script writer
1995- freelance writer

HIs prizes include:
1966 SZOT Prize, 1972, 1984, 1992 Attila József Prize, 1981 Prize of the Szépirodalmi Publishing House, 1990 Book of the Year, 1991 Prize of the Arts Found, 1992 Cross of the Order of the Republic of Hungary, 2008 Kossuth Prize


Kertész, a master at describing intimate human relations and the connection of man to his history and society, gained an immediate reputation as a writer of the people. This book, his second novel, recounts the history of Ferenc Makra, a man who, in the end, commits suicide. A young man of no particular ambition, Makra s life is completely changed at the age of twenty-six when he gets himself in a bloody fight on Easter Sunday. From then on, his only aim is to be accepted again by friends and society, and especially by his love, Valéria, an ambitious artist. Makra s every attempt is in vain: at the age of thirty-eight, he gives up trying and decides to end his own life. Kertész recalled the novel s popularity: Makra was my most successful novel: it has appeared in one million and two hundred thousand copies in eleven languages. In Hungary and Germany a quarter of a million copies were sold.


The protagonist, Géza Zakariás, a famous but aging provincial actor, begins to realize that he has spent his whole civil life in pretence. When he gets the part of an old Jewish man in a film, he rejects it (’A Jew shouldn’t play Jews!’), but as he is in dire straits, he finally accepts the part and begins to relate the story of his life to his friend, the narrator, the very man who offered him the part. The reader becomes acquainted not only the private problems of the actor, but also a time of historical tragedy: Zakariás, raised as a Christian and persecuted as a Jew, survived the Second World War, began his adult life as a worker in a dictatorial regime, took part in the 1956 Revolution during which the love of his life was shot in the head during the peaceful demonstration before the Hungarian Parliament, and then he spent his life as an actor in the Kádár regime, amid theatre and political intrigues. There are many memorable moments in the novel; the most powerful are those where the writer shows the private (and quite intimate) life of Zakariás, the painful stories of his loves and marriages, and the loss of meaningful contact with all three of his daughters (two are alienated, one is taken to Canada with a stepfather). The novel begins with a short story about the main character, in which we get a glimpse of his struggles; only later are we introduced to his sad but quite interesting world in which the main problem is nothing less than being a Jew in a Hungarian society filled with anti-Semitism.

ZED and Other Stories

Kertész once noted, “I don’t like to make things up: life’s the best storyteller.” In accordance with his conviction, he succeeding in understanding and writing down the problems of the average people he met and spoke to, and showed their honesty, their capability for struggle and their relation to society. “Ákos Kertész is one of the few writers who have remained loyal to the readers. He doesn’t imply that we must read a lot of boring stuff in order to reach highly refined artistic pleasure. He likes to amuse and fascinate the reader and make us form opinions about our own life and that of our contemporaries.....He talks about the absurdity of life. He doesn’t write an autobiography, but is able to understand the fate of each and every character of his: lovers who are determined to die, poor pheasants, gipsy workers, old Jewish craftsmen with terrible experiences, cosmopolitans of Budapest, wise old women, half-orphaned children—or even dogs.” [One of Kertész’s most popular books is the recent Brúnó, Borcsa, Benjámin that relates the story of the author’s own dogs and those of his friends and acquaintances.] “Ákos Kertész’ writing sheds light on the human soul and begs us to make order once and for all in our soul and the whole world as well.” -Jenő Alföldy

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