September 13, 2014

Miklós Radnóti (Miklós Glatter)

Miklós Radnóti (Miklós Glatter) [Hungary]

Miklós Radnóti was born Miklós Glatter into an assimilated Jewish family on May 5, 1909. At his birth both his twin brother and his mother died, which continued to effect his poetry and life until his death, a fact specifically addressed in Ikek hava (Month of the Twins), a prose memoir published in 1939.

     Radnóti began publishing in the short-lived magazine Haladás in the 1930s, work that co-mingled experimentalism with traditional forms such as the eclogue and love poems. His first book, Pogáy kōszōntő (Pagan greeting) appeared in 1930, after which he published several other volumes, including Ujmódi pásztorok éneke (Modern shepherds’ song, 1931), Lábadozó szél (Convalescent Wind, 133), and Újhold (New Moon, 1935).

     In the same year as the last book, he married Fanni Gyarmanti and lived for a decade with her in what has been described as a very happy period.

     Due to extensive anti-Semitism, Radnóti converted, like many Hungarian Jews, to Catholicism in 1943. The following year, however, he was assigned to the unarmed “labor battalion” of the Hungarian Army. Assigned to the Ukrainian front, that battalion retreated with the Army, his group being transferred to the copper mines in Bor, Serbia.

     In August 1944 Yugoslav Partisans, led by Josip Tio, advanced, forcing Radnóti’s battalion of 3,200 Hungarian Jews to march to central Hungary. Most of the group, including Radnóti died on the force march.

     In these last months of his life, Radnóti continued to write poems in a small notebook, dedicating his last poem to his friend Miklós Lorsi, who was shot to death during the march.

     According to witnesses, Radnói was beaten to death by a drunken militiaman angry that the author been “scribbling.” Too weak to continue, soldiers shot him into a mass grave near the village of Abda in northwestern Hungry, where today a statue commemorates his death.

     Eighteen months after his death, the grave was exhumed, diggers finding poems stuffed into the front pocket of Radnóti’s overcoat. He body was re-interred at the Kerepesi Cemetery in Budapest.


Pogáy kōszōntő (1930); Ujmódi pásztorok éneke (1931); Lábadozó szél (1933); Újhold (Szeged: Szegedi fiatalok mvészet kollégiuma, 1935); Járkálj cask, halálraítélt! (1936); Meredek út ( Budapest: Cseréfalvi, 1938); Naptár (1942; Budapest: Magyar Helikon, 1975); Tajtékos ég (Budapest: Révai, 1946); Radnóti Miklós művei (1978)


Postcards (West Branch, Iowa: The Cummington Press, 1969); Clouded Sky (New York: Harper & Row, 1972); Subway Stops: Fifty Poems (Emery E George, trans.) (Ann Arbor, Michigan: Ardis, 1977); The Witness: Selected Poems (Thomas Országh-Land, trans.)

(1977); Forced March: Selected Poems (Clive Wilmer and George Gömöri, trans.) (Manchester, England: Carcanet Press, 1979); Under Gemini: A Prose Memoir and Selected Poetry (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1985);  Foamy Sky: The Major Poems of Miklós Radnóti (Zsuzsanna Ozsváth and Frederick Turner, trans.) (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1992); The Complete Poetry (Emery E. George, trans.) (1980); A Wiser, More Beautiful Death (Solomon Rino, trans.) (San Francisco: Editions Michel Eyquem, 2011); Miklös Radnöti: The Complete Poetry in Hungarian and English (Gabor Barabas, trans.) (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2014).

For selections of Radnóti’s poetry, go here:

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