Kaddish for an Unborn Child, by Imre Kertesz, was a difficult book, in the sense that the narrator was rambling, repetitiously, due to his stream of consciousness.
The novel opens with the word ‘No!’ It is an answer to a question asked him, the question being did he have a child. He also answered his wife the same way, when she wanted a child. From there the reader is led through the narrator’s bleak, dark and depressed outlook on life and living.
The narrator is a writer. Within the ramblings the sentences run into each other, as his thoughts unfold on the pages. He tries to illuminate all of his thoughts and feelings, often repeating what he has just stated. This is due to the workings of his mind, and the fact he has an urgency to get it all out in the open. This urgency is what keeps him alive, literally. He has much to criticize regarding his life, including his childhood.
The narrator compares his abusive and restricted childhood to his existence in Auschwitz. Rules and the oppressive environment almost seem normal to him, coming from his controlled adolescent upbringing. Once liberated his perceptions regarding daily life continue in the same vein. He encloses himself within the walls of isolation.
His routine continues to be a somewhat confined existence, as he transcends from being a Holocaust camp prisoner, to living for years sheltered from life in a rented room. He compares his living arrangement to that of the camps, in the sense that he has been restricted and limited in space, and therefore in daily life.
Of course, much of his limitations have been self-induced repercussions and extensions of the Holocaust. Once he marries, he ponders the issues of an apartment with his wife, and how he has never thought of spaciousness, furniture, this or that. The rented room was self-contained, with all of the essentials provided. His pen was his life’s companion. He had need for nothing else.
I won’t delve into the story line any further. It was enough to get through the novel in its entirety. It was an emotionally, laborious read in many aspects, reinforcing the Holocaust and its mental and emotional effects and affects on those who survive, those who are generational survivors, and on those who are victims of a survivor’s bleak and dark mindset. In this case, his wife was a victim of the narrator’s mindset and his demons.
Within the darkness, I found Kaddish for an Unborn Child to be an excellent resource on the philosophical and psychological aspects of humanity’s, Holocaust nightmare.