I found heaven on earth, Garden of Eden, my own safe haven.
Miklos Radnoti – Night
The heart is asleep, so is the fear in the heart,
Fly is sleeping close to a spiderweb on the wall
The house is silent, not even the restless mouse crinks now
The garden, the branch and the woodpecker in the tree are all asleep,
So are the bee in the beehive, bug in the rose,
Summer’s asleep in snaring seeds of wheat,
Flame of the moon sleeps now; cold medallion in the sky
Autumn awakes and sneaks to steal in the night.
A song made of this poem is available on this link: http://youtu.be/FoOb5suP84E
Radnoti is one of my favourite Hungarian poets. His humanity, suffering and the injustice of the war, the love he felt for his wife are touching.
He was a witness to horror and champion of empathy. Miklós Radnóti Hungarian Jew and a fierce anti-fascist, is perhaps the greatest of the Holocaust poets. He was born in Budapest in 1909. In 1930 he published his first collection of poems Pagan Salute. His next book, Modern Shepherd’s Song was confiscated on grounds of “indecency,” earning him a light jail sentence. In 1931 he spent two months in Paris, where he visited the “Exposition coloniale” and began translating African poems and folk tales into Hungarian. In 1934 he obtained his Ph.D. in Hungarian literature. The following year he married Fanni (Fifi) Gyarmati; they settled in Budapest. His book Walk On, Condemned! won the prestigious Baumgarten Prize in 1937. Also in 1937 he wrote his Cartes Postales (Postcards from France), which were poetic precurors to his darker images of war, Razglednicas (Picture Postcards). From 1940 onwards, he was forced to serve on forced labor battalions, at times arming and disarming explosives on the Ukrainian front. In 1944 he was deported to a compulsory labor camp near Bor, Yugoslavia. As the Nazis retreated from the approaching Russian army, the Bor concentration camp was evacuated and its internees were led on a forced march through Yugoslavia and Hungary. During what became his death march, Radnóti recorded poetic images of what he saw and experienced. After writing his fourth and final “Postcard,” Radnóti was badly beaten by a soldier annoyed by his scribblings. Soon thereafter, the weakened poet was shot to death, on November 9, 1944, along with 21 other prisoners who were unable to walk. Their mass grave was exhumed after the war and Radnóti’s poems were found in his coat inscribed in pencil. Radnóti’s posthumous collection Clouded Sky, or Foaming Sky contains odes to his wife, letters, poetic fragments and his final Postcards. Unlike his murderers, Miklós Radnóti never lost his humanity, and his empathy continues to live on and shine through his work.
Photo courtesy: Melinda Balazs
Location: Ashcombe Maze Garden, Australia