In the Footsteps of Orpheus
The Life and Times of Miklós Radnóti
A powerful account of the life, art, and tragic death of a 20th-century Hungarian Jewish poet.
Zsuzsanna Ozsváth bring[s] forth Radnóti’s life, his thought, and his passion with a depth of insight that is rare in a scholar. Brilliant, penetrating, and passionate, Ozsváth’s book sets a new standard of excellence in Holocaust studies. It is a must for anyone who would approach the dark flame that burns at the core of the Event." —David Patterson, University of Memphis
Miklós Radnóti, a young Hungarian Jewish poet, was shot by Hungarian soldiers guarding him while on a forced march from Yugoslavia back to Hungary during the final days of World War II. When his body was discovered and exhumed nearly two years later, a small book of poems was found in his coat pocket. These poems, together with the rest of Radnóti’s work, solidified his reputation as one of Hungary’s greatest poets. Radnóti shared the experience of many Jewish artists and intellectuals in Central Europe during the early part of the 20th century, but his poetry brings out a particular and personal view of the Holocaust in Hungary. His work plays a unique role in the history of Central European culture as some of the most beautiful poems ever written in Hungarian, as a voice against the rise of totalitarianism, and as testimony to the destruction of Europe’s Jews. Zsuzsanna Ozsváth places Radnóti within the context of the political and intellectual history of interwar Hungary, situating him as an artist who is both a Jew and a Hungarian patriot. Her sensitive translations from the Hungarian lend poignancy to this tragic and forcefully told story. This account of Radnóti’s life and work explores the sources of the poet’s inspiration and imagery and restores it to its extreme times and places.
Zsuzsanna Ozsváth is Professor of Literature and the History of Ideas at the University of Texas at