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
“"Written with a keen sensitivity for words, . . . In the Footsteps of Orpheus is about more than one man's life . . . it is about a world and a void and how poetry weaves the two together." —Judaism
". . . this well-designed, fully documented and indexed volume offers a bibliography of Hungarian and English sources and ten useful photographs of the poet, his associates, and environs." —Choice
" . . . a sensitive and honest study of Radnóti . . . [Ozsváth] poignantly describes Radnóti's difficult childhood, shows that his relationship with his wife, Fifi Gyarmati, and short affair with Judit Beck were major influences on his love poetry, and clearly discusses his problematic relationship to Judaism." —Library Journal
" . . . 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." —David Patterson, University of Memphis
In the Footsteps of Orpheus considers the life and work of Miklós Radnóti, one of Hungary's greatest 20th-century poets. It examines Radnóti's artistic development and premonitory poetry and illuminates the intellectual world in which he lived. Following the poet's route into forced labor and on his death march, this book explores the sources of the poet's inspiration and imagination and restores his work to its extreme times and places.”
“Co-translator of Radnóti's (Radnoti's) Foamy Sky (1992), Ozsváth (Ozsvath) (Univ. of Texas, Dallas) has written a useful and reverential biography of one of Hungary's greatest 20th-century poets. Radnóti's (Radnoti's) life story resembles that of many central European literary artists of Jewish inheritance: repelled by antisemitic writings in the early 20th century, the poet was attracted to Magyar national and literary traditions, which he universalized in his poetry. Ozsváth (Ozsvath) traces Radnóti's (Radnoti's) childhood and young manhood in the context of the central European Zeitgeist; his attraction to the political Left; his alienation as fascism gained power in Hungary; his marriage to Fanni Gyarmati, who inspired much of his poetry; and his martyrdom in May 1944 at the hands of Hungarian guards as part of a Jewish labor battalion and burial in a mass grave. Those who exhumed his body after the war found in his pocket a stained address book that had preserved ten poems he had composed as a forced laborer and on a death march, poems that established Radnóti's (Radnoti's) place in Hungarian literature. Including lucid analyses of Radnóti's (Radnoti's) poems, this well-designed, fully documented and indexed volume offers a bibliography of Hungarian and English sources and 11 useful photographs of the poet, his associates, and environs. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty.June 2001”
— D. S. Gochberg, Michigan State University
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Table of Contents
Preliminary Table of Contents:
1. Myth and Consciousness
2. Poetic Images: Socialist Art and Political Commitment
3. The Pull of Contraries: Making of the Past
4. Visions of Destruction, Lyrics of Resistance
5. In Extremis: 1944