The Franz Kafka Prize

2008 - Arnost Lustig

Born: 21 December 1926, Prague, Czechoslovakia

Died: 26 February 2011

Author's quote: "Sometimes it's impossible to say certain things ... Writing is something needed by man to share experience."

Field: Playwright

Prize share: 1/1

Books Written By Arnost Lustig

Arnost Lustig; 21 December 1926 – 26 February 2011 was a renowned Czech Jewish author of novels, short stories, plays, and screenplays whose works have often involved the Holocaust.


A Prayer for Katerina Horovitzova - Arnost Lustig

By Lawyeraau

This is an incredibly chilling and well crafted holocaust story. Twenty, very wealthy, Jewish American men have been rounded up. They are ostensibly being held in anticipation of their exchange for German prisoners of war, held by the American government. The supposed terms for them, however, include the proviso that they must pay for their expenses while they are guests of the Gestapo. They must pay for all expenses necessary for their repatriation. The Americans agree. They choose to believe that this will be done, despite evidence to the contrary. Their need for self-deception is very high, as the alternative is unthinkable.

Katerina has joined them, after one of the Americans took pity on her and paid the Germans to include her in their package deal. She, too, is hopeful and patient, watching, waiting...until that one moment when all becomes unmistakably clear, and hope is wrenched from the depths of her innocence. It is then that Katerina is quiet no longer. She chooses a requiem of her own devise.

This is a stunning novel in which the experience of the author, who himself spent time in various death camps during World War II, manifests itself in the book in the form of a mood so chilling and diabolical, as to make the reader take pause and wonder at man's inhumanity to man.


A Prayer for Katerina Horovitzova - Arnost Lustig

By Jill Meyer

In March of 2011, the Czech writer Arnost Lustig died in Prague. He was 84 and a survivor of various Nazi death camps during WW2. He wrote many books about the Holocaust, and this one, "A Prayer for Katerina Horovitzova" is one of his most famous. I had never read his work and decided to start with "Katerina".

I think many survivors of the Holocaust wrote about it in an attempt to understand what they went through. But there's no real understanding what happened when a country went mad and destroyed half of Europe. Whether the killing was 6 million Jews and millions of others, including Russians, Gypsies, the mentally defective or the killing of 20 men and one woman in an isolated incident, the deaths were of the same magnitude to those involved.

Lustig's novel is the chilling story of 20 Jewish-American businessmen who were somehow detained in Italy under the Mussolini regime and transferred to German control when the Germans invaded Italy after Mussolini was deposed in 1943. The twenty were sent to an unnamed concentration camp in Poland - probably Auschwitz - and were held as hostages in an attempt to trade them for high-ranking German officers held by the Allies. Whether negotiations were ever truly held was suspect, but the German official in charge of the men, Gestapo official Friedrich Brenske, played a game with the captives, promising them release and freedom for an ever-escalating payments of gold from the American hostages. Somehow their group was joined by a beautiful young woman, Katerina, whose entire family was sent to the gas chambers upon arrival at Auschwitz, and the ransoming began to include her life as well.

Brenske's use of language, "final solution", "disinfection" and other seemingly bland terms in his discussion with the captives are, of course, a precursor to their ultimate fates.

Lustig's book is so rich in it's spareness of style that the reader faces the dwindling number of pages with a sense of dread. He manages to reduce the Holocaust to the lives of 21 people. It's a small masterpiece of Holocaust literature.