Daily News header

A Wiser, More Beautiful Death:Miklos Radnoti's Sad Farewell to a Murderous World

By  

Miklos Radnoti's songs from the grave

(A Wiser, More Beautiful Death, Miklos Radnoti, translated by Solomon Rino, Editions Michel Eyquem 2011, paperback, 43pp)

"In Abda, Hungary, a mass grave was exhumed in 1946 and the corpse of Hungarian poet, Miklos Radnoti, was found. In his raincoat pocket was a notebook containing his final ten poems. Written not in memory, but in the labor camp and on the proceeding forced march, the Bor Notebook was to become an invaluable Shoah document."

Miklos Radnoti
Miklos Radnoti

So begins Solomon Rino's translations of these memorable poems in a reverent and elegant bilingual edition.

The Nazis in their mad zeal for ethnic purity murdered symphonies, poems, paintings, inventions, the future of civilization, supplanting it with hack, derivative surrogates, and foreshadowing a nativist impulse which today in America disguises itself in phony issues.

A poignant thirst for consciousness, for a higher awareness, characterizes this stanza, a complete poem appearing on page 19: Bloody drool hangs from oxen's mouths We urinate blood The company stands in stinking wild knots Death blows hideously overhead

I call this courage of a high order, this unyielding quest for comprehension in the jaws of death. To his very end the poet seeks to understand what is happening. He seeks to describe it. But it dies with him, in his bloody raincoat, only to emerge later and arrive in our minds as a gift from the grave. The poet stands for the creative thrust, the light-giving aspiration to ennoble what the mind touches, while his murderers stand for the angry, nihilistic impulse that motivates every schoolyard bully and lying politician.

In this way, this small, exquisite volume is a monument to our alchemical history, the great yearning of man to transmute lead to gold, which is really a metaphor for the transmutation of the human soul, for the ennoblement of the spirit.

Radnoti's poem, "Letter to My Wife," begins:

Deep silent worlds
How in my ears,
I shout But no one replies from far
Serbia swooning in war
And you are distant.

He never saw his wife again, nor did the young Turkish officer who died at Gallipoli with an unsent letter to his wife in his pocket, which begins with this heartbreaking salutation, "High-born lady, Rose of Dawn." A British soldier found it and was as moved as we are today by these letters. Such words make us ashamed for each other, that we concoct base, transparent reasons to make war.

Radnoti's poems reveal a close study of modernist tendencies, such as the occasional abandonment of punctuation and an unparsed rhetoric that makes way for greater clarity and potential meaning. He understands when silence and ambiguity speak volumes, and there seems to be an awareness of the work of C.P. Cavafy and the uses of the conversational mode. I suspect, judging by the typography, that Radnoti is somewhat more modernist in the original Hungarian than in this English translation.

The poem, "Forced March," gives us the book's title:

The fallen man who stands and walks again, is a fool. Moving ankle, knee wandering in pain Rising as if winged. The ditch calls in vain he dare not stay. If asked, Why not? He might answer, His wife waits and a wiser, more beautiful death. It also gives us a clue to the questions raised not only by the translator but the poet himself. Why, why persevere in the shadow of indescribable doom? For the same reason Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin did, to make music, all they knew how to do well.

"Through this book," Rino writes, "I hope to generate greater empathy with Radnoti, not as a victim or quirk of history, but as an avatar of poets, who at the gravest moment in his life went as Celan did, 'with his very being toward language.' " I think Rino succeeds in this ambition.

Djelloul Marbrook

Djelloul Marbrook's first book, Far from Algiers (Kent State University Press, 2008) won the 2007 Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize and the 2010 International Book Award in poetry. "Artists' Hill," an excerpt from his unpublished novel, Crowds of One, won the 2008 Literal Latté first prize in fiction. Artemisia's Wolf, a novella, was published by Prakash Books of India early in 2011. Alice Miller's Room, a novella, was published in 1999 by OnlineOriginals.com (UK) as an e-book, and Bliss Plot Press of Woodstock, NY, recently published his novella, Saraceno, as an e-book. Orbis (UK), Smashwords.com, Potomac Review (Maryland) and Prima Materia (New York). His second book of poems is Brushstrokes and Glances (Deerbrook Editions, 2010). Recent poems were published by American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, Oberon, Meadowland Review, The Same, Reed, The Ledge, Poemeleon, Poets Against War, Fledgling Rag, Daylight Burglary, Le Zaporogue, Atticus, Long Island Quarterly, ReDactions, Istanbul Literary Review, Arabesques Literary and Cultural Review, Damazine, Perpetuum Mobile, Attic, and Chronogram. A retired newspaper editor and Navy veteran, he lives in Germantown, NY, with his wife Marilyn, and has lifelong ties to Woodstock.

Del's book, Far From Algiers: http://upress.kent.edu/books/Marbrook_D.htm
New review of Far from Algiers: http://www.rattle.com/blog/2009/05/far-from-algiers-by-djelloul-marbrook/
Artists Hill, Literal Latté's fiction first prize: http://www.literal-latte.com/author/djelloulmarbrook/
His blog: http://www.djelloulmarbrook.com
His mother's art: http://www.juanitaguccione.com
His aunt's art: http://www.irenericepereira.com

  Please leave a comment here     If it does not display within 10 seconds, please refresh the page

* The views of Opinion writers do not necessarily reflect the views of NewsBlaze

Related Opinions News

A mistake for Israel to tolerate the intolerable. What gave the Arab countries the right to refuse to recognize a sovereign state, in this case Israel?
To this day, Eddyville remains a thriving community of two broken down trailers, a junkyard and a prefabricated U.S. Post Office with a zip code to service the various vagrants that inhabit the mobile homes around the town.
As we have seen this year - and for the past few years - Congress seems intent on an amnesty and also opening up the floodgates to allow two million legal immigrants per year.
Kingsley Olaleye Reuben interviews Cleveland McLeish about his journey as a writer and what inspired the title of his most recent publication to date.
If we condone their actions retribution will come from on high, of which it has already begun, we (every soul) good or bad will pay the price to some degree. It will come by storms, winds, rains, hail, snow, earth quakes, famine, and fire but it w
We contaminated rivers with our poisons, the air with our fossil fuel exhaust and clear cut rainforests by the millions of acres.

 

NewsBlaze Writers Of The Month



Popular Stories This Month

newsletter logo

NewsBlaze
Copyright © 2004-2014 NewsBlaze Pty. Ltd.
Use of this website is subject to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy  | DMCA Notice               Press Room   |    Visit NewsBlaze Mobile Site