“The Hungarian writer Imre Kertesz, who survived the camps at Auschwitz and Buchenwald and went on to win the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2002, announced his retirement last November. Or did he? In an interview with a German magazine, Kertesz, who is 83 and suffering from Parkinson’s disease, said, ‘I don’t want to write anymore. I consider my oeuvre, so closely related to the Holocaust, as closed, whether I succeeded or not’ Sounds like a retirement announcement to me. It did to the French journal ActuaLitte, too, which picked up the news. The Millions followed suit. As these reports spread, however, Kertesz’s American publisher, Dennis Johnson, posted a recollection of visiting Kertesz and his wife in Berlin last March. ‘The only really somber moment occurred when Imre spoke of his fear of not being able to finish the new book he was working on,’ Johnson wrote. ‘Still, he was making progress, he insisted, and was determined to get it done.’
When the reports of his retirement began circulating several months after that meeting in Berlin, Kertesz wrote to Johnson that the rumors were ‘a bit too hasty.’ He added, ‘Naturally, I will try to write as long as I can.’ Ah, ambiguity.”
Can Writers Retire? Let Us Count the Ways by Bill Morris
I’ve been writing every day for the past 40 years or so, sometimes getting paid to do it and sometimes not, and through all those years I’ve assumed I will keep doing it until my wits leave me or I die. In other words, I’m a long-time disciple of the gospel according to Reynolds Price, a believer that writers are people who are both blessed and cursed by the compulsion to distill their experience of the world into words on a page. But Roth’s startling announcement caused me to begin rethinking this assumption. Why shouldn’t writers be free to stop writing when they they’ve lost their appetite for the grind, or when they feel they’ve lost their edge, or when they’ve said everything they care to say?