Miklós Radnóti

Miklós Radnóti (1909-1944)

A poet, translator, and essayist, Radnóti attended elementary schools in Budapest, studied textile-technology in Liberec in the Czech Republic, and then returned to Hungary to study French language and literature at the University of Szeged, where he obtained his doctorate in 1934. Two years later he married the love of his youth, Fanny Gyarmati, and in the same year he received his teacher's diploma. He made his living by writing and journalism, contributing mainly to liberal or left-leaning newspapers and periodicals. In 1937 he received the Baumgarten Prize from the hands of Mihály Babits [q.v.], a prize awarded to the 'most promising writer of the given year'.
That same summer, accompanied by his wife, he went to Paris and participated in demonstrations in support of Republican Spain. Being a man of Jewish origin, after the German occupation of Hungary in 1944, he was taken to a forced labour camp in Serbia, near Bor. There he had to work in copper mines and build roads. In October 1944 the Germans evacuated Serbia, and Radnóti's labour unit was driven in a forced march towards Austria. En route, in north-west Hungary, with twenty-two others, he was shot dead by his guards and buried in a mass grave.
Several volumes of his poetry appeared during his life, but Radnóti's popularity, indeed his world fame, is due to the posthumous volume Foamy Sky [Tajtékos ég], published in 1946. When his body vas later exhumed, a notebook of poems (including several included in this collection) was found sewn into his clothing
Radnóti's greatness as a poet is often attributed to his profound morality and keenness of vision, the sincerity of his love, and his lack of self-pity. His works have been widely read, making him both one of Eastern Europe's best-known Holocaust victims and the most translated Hungarian poet. His Postcard [Razglednica] is one of the most incredible seven-liners in world literature: in a way both ironic and clairvoyant, the words seem to predict the poet's own execution, which was to take place only seven days later.

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