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"If I'd been father, I'd have bashed that brat against the wall, you know that?" I shouted through the door.
"Are you crazy? What brat?" The door opened suddenly.
"Me," I hissed through clenched teeth, "for him, everyone died; only I am left! And no one'll ever know whether it was I or my brother who died. With twins, how can people tell?"
(from Under Gemini tr. by Kenneth & Zita McRobbie, Jascha Kessler)


Peace, Dread

I went out, closed the street door, and the clock struck ten,
on shining wheels the baker rustled by and hummed,
a plane droned in the sky, the sun shone, it struck ten,
I thought of my dead aunt and in a flash it seemed
all the unliving I had loved were flying overhead,
with hosts of silent dead the sky was darkened then
and suddenly across the wall a shadow fell.
Silence. The morning world stood still. The clock struck ten,
over the street peace floated: cold dread was its spell.
(translated by Zsuzsanna Ozsváth and Frederick Turner)


Forced March

He's foolish who, once down, resumes his weary beat,
A moving mass of cramps on restless human feet,
Who rises from the ground as if on borrowed wings,
Untempted by the mire to which he dare not cling,
Who, when you ask him why, flings back at you a word
Of how the thought of love makes dying less absurd.
Poor deluded fool, the man's a simpleton,
About his home by now only the scorched winds run,
His broken walls lie flat, his orchard yields no fruit,
His familiar nights go clad in terror's rumpled suit.
Oh could I but believe that such dreams had a base
Other than in my heart, some native resting place;
If only once again I heard the quiet hum
Of bees on the verandah, the jar of orchard plums
Cooling with late summer, the gardens half asleep,
Voluptuous fruit lolling on branches dipping deep,
And she before the hedgerow stood with sunbleached hair,
The lazy morning scrawling vague shadows on the air...
Why not? The moon is full, her circle is complete.
Don't leave me, friend, shout out, and see! I'm on my feet!

(translated by George Szirtes)


from "Razglednicas"


The oxen drool saliva mixed with blood.
Each one of us is urinating blood.
The squad stands about in knots, stinking, mad.
Death, hideous, is blowing overhead.


I fell beside him and his corpse turned over,
tight already as a snapping string.
Shot in the neck. "And that's how you'll end too,"
I whisper to myself; "lie still; no moving.
Now patience flowers in death." Then I could hear
"Der springt noch auf," above, and very near.
Blood mixed with mud was drying on my ear.

(translated by Zsuzsanna Ozsváth and Frederick Turner)


"One reads history backwards, and if that history is sufficiently tragic or tidy (which may sometimes be the same thing), it begins to feel like myth. Radnóti had long been obsessed by his own death, so much so that he seems to have been able to imagine its precise circumstances. He produced a distinct body of 'prophetic' poems in which a particular form of death is courted, feared and almost desired. The reader approaches these with a certain veneration, as though they were more than poems. Slowly, everything assumes a mythic shape and the life embraces the ouvre so comprehensively that the one disappears in the other." (George Szirtes - TLS May 14 1993)



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