On May 5th, we celebrate the 100th birthday of Miklós Radnóti, a great Hungarian poet and a great poet of the Holocaust. His last poem, in which he predicts his imminent death, Razglednicák (‘Picture Postcards’ in Serbo-Croat), written while on a death-march, is one of the true Holocaust poems. Remarkably it was sewn into his clothing and discovered on him nearly two years after his murder in 1944. He is a major focus of any study on Holocaust literature.
Yet he wrote some of the most sensous poems in any language, my favourite being Bájoló (The Charm), beautifully sung by the another icon of Hungarian culture, Zsuzsa Koncz (YouTube link). There is the inevitable Wikipedia article on him, not to mention at least two Facebook groups. He has been the subject of several excellent films. Hungarian readers have the ever reliable Hungarian Electronic Library to access his poetry, English readers should head for their favourite bookshop, electronic or otherwise, Foamy Sky, a bi-lingual edition of his major poems. We can also turn to Lóránt Czigány’s epic A History Of Hungarian Literature for deeper understanding of Radnóti’s genius.
And even if you can’t understand a word of Hungarian listen to the great, yet tragic, Latinovits, read Radnóti’s homage to his homeland, (written even after it betrayed him),Nem tudhatom/I Know Not What (YouTube link) and understand the power of the poem to transcend the everyday.
Disclaimer:I posted the above on Metafilter (see link here) so this is a vanity re-post! Some people said some nice things about the post so I thought I would also post it here. Pure vanity, as I say, but that is a good enough reason. Besides, I get to correct my spelling mistakes here!