Born in 1910, Henrikas Radauskas spent his childhood in a village near Panevėžys in the north-central part of Lithuania. His family moved to Siberia at the beginning of World War I, and it was there he attended elementary school. In 1921 he returned to Lithuania, graduating from Panevėžys high school, and, in 1929, graduated from the Teachers Institute there. For a short period of time he taught school, and then entered the University of Kaunas. After completing his studies, he became a radio announcer and a copy editor in Kaunas. In 1937 he assumed the editorship of the publications division of the Lithuanian Ministry of Education.
In 1944, Radauskas, like many other Lithuanians before him, attempted to emigrate to the Soviet Union; but he and his wife were caught between the retreating Nazis and the advancing Red Army, and were forced to settle in Germany, first in Berlin and later in Reutlingen by the French and Swiss borders. In 1949 they emigrated to the United States, spending a year in Baltimore before settling in Chicago.
American life was difficult for the couple, and he labored for ten years as a machine operator for a company that produced chairs before being able to secure a job as a translator and copy editor at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.─ a job he held until his death in 1970.
Radauskas published only four books of poetry, but they were of sufficient merit to establish him as a major Lithuanian poet in an artistic scene of great sophistication. Other major Lithuanian poets, both émigrés and those writing in Lithuania, wrote poetry grounded in traditional German and Lithuanian conventions; but, as Radauskas's translator has written, "Radauskas sought to shape the things of the world as he saw them into a personal universe, a controlled place which the terrors of history...could be mitigated and overcome."
The result is a poetry that at times seems highly influenced by surrealism, but is, nonetheless, highly idiosyncratic, closer to a vision of the naïve artist who compresses images and time to create a work of stunning originality.
BOOKS OF POETRY
Fontanas (1935); Strėlė danguje (1950); Žiemos daina (1955); Žaibai ir vėjai (1965).
ENGLISH LANGUAGE TRANSLATIONS
Chimeras in the Tower: Selected Poems of Henrikas Radauskas, translated by Jonas Zdanys (Middletown, Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press, 1986)