The Abject as Body Language in Imre Kertész’s Fateless and Alaine Polcz’s One Woman in the War

Edit Zsadányi


Among the various analyses that examine Imre Kertész’s Fateless, little attention has been paid to the relationship between body and narrative. Using Julia Kristeva’s concept of the abject, I focus on excerpts in the novel in which power breaches the boundaries of the protagonist’s body, Gyuri Köves, as he endures detainment in various concentration camps. In this paper I argue that it is the dehumanized and abjectified body that rebels against totalitarianism by refusing to accept a deceptive survival scenario. When the perspective of death has been accepted, the concept of the abject paradoxically reveals that is the identity’s inherent motherly aspect that is able to provide a human perspective to an abjectified person. After comparing excerpts in Fateless and One Woman in the War by Alaine Polcz, another narrative in which violence breaks the boundaries of the body, I will reach the conclusion that the body itself forms the final frontier of dictatorship. Once totalitarian dictatorship penetrates the body, it loses its influence over the victim as death offers a more humane, more bearable life.


Imre Kertész; narrative; Kristeva; abject; Holocaust; Alaine Polcz

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