"The oeuvre of Kertész as an essay-writer works on the basis of Enlightenment thinking, which has learnt the lessons of the barbarism of Fascism and Communism, and works for a Europe that will either become an enlightened and free Europe or it will not exist at all", was how the jury, with Austrian writer and essayist Robert Menasse as president, justified their decision.
Imre Kertész is the ninth to receive the 12 thousand euro prize – sponsored by the Austrian Erste Bank and the Stuttgart publisher Klett-Cotta – which is conferred every second year at the Frankfurt Book Fair. The previous prize was given to Slovenian writer Drago Jancar.
Jean Améry (b. Hans Mayer, 1912–1978) was an essayist of Austrian origin who, as Kertész, survived the Nazi concentration camps. He became known after the publication of his book translated into English as At the Mind's Limits: Contemplations by a Survivor on Auschwitz and Its Realities (1966), in which he explored the nature and the methods of Nazism.
In his essay entitled "The Holocaust as Culture", Kertész wrote about Améry: "...it is precisely in this irrelevance that I seem to glimpse the now increasingly diminishing possibility of speaking, the emblem of a tangled, transient and unrecognised situation in which a survivor like Améry is obliged to exist in order that this existence may then – whether by a tragic gesture, as in his case, or otherwise – step forward and be manifest as fate. The Holocaust has its saints just like any other subculture; provided a living memory of what happened abides, then it is not through official speech-makers but through the lives of those who bore witness that it will abide." (Translated by Tim Wilkinson)