Miklós Glatter Biography


(Literary Essentials: Great Poems of the World)

Miklós Radnóti (born Miklós Glatter) lived for only thirty-five years, and even his birth was darkened by tragedy: It cost the lives of his mother and twin brother. Radnóti’s father soon remarried; Radnóti deeply loved his stepmother and the daughter born of the second marriage, yet grief and guilt feelings concerning the double tragedy of his birth influenced his entire creative life. The figure of his mother is a recurring image in Radnóti’s poetry and prose.

Radnóti completed his elementary and high school education in Budapest. Then, following the suggestion of his guardian (his father, too, had died), he spent 1927 and 1928 in Liberec, Czechoslovakia, studying textile technology and working in an office. In the fall of 1930, he enrolled at Szeged University, majoring in Hungarian and French. By the time he received his doctorate in 1934, he had several volumes of poetry in print. It was during this period that he assumed the name “Radnóti,” after Radnót, the town in northeastern Hungary where his father had been born.

During the late 1920’s and at the beginning of the 1930’s, Radnóti became involved with youth organizations that were culturally nurtured by ideas from the Left. During this period, he wrote “engaged” poetry, using a deliberately nonpoetical language which was meant to identify him with the working class. Since that identification lacked the reality of experience, it exhausted itself in language and...

(The entire section is 540 words.)


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Outside his native country, Miklós Radnóti (RAWD-not-ee) is the best-known Hungarian poet of the twentieth century. Though his poetic oeuvre is comparatively small, his poems are a testimony of personal courage and perseverance in the face of the spread of fascism in Europe and the Holocaust which finally consumed him in the last months of World War II.{$S[A]Glatter, Miklós;Radnóti, Miklós}

Radnóti was born Miklós Glatter to middle-class Jewish parents of German descent on May 5, 1909; later he adopted Radnóti as his nom de plume, from Radnot, his father’s birthplace, to make his name sound more Hungarian. All his life, Radnóti was haunted by feelings of guilt and remorse for the death of his mother and his stillborn twin brother, expressed frequently in his early poems and in his prose memoir, Under Gemini.

His father died in 1921; his stepmother, rather than taking the boy with her to her place of origin in Romania, left him in the care of his maternal uncle, a rich textile manufacturer who groomed him for a career in the textile industry. Thus, he studied textile manufacturing in Czechoslovakia in 1927 and 1928. However, after enrolling at the University of Szeged in 1930, he studied Hungarian and French literature, surely encouraged by the publication of his first collection of poems, Pagan Salute. At Szeged he came for the first time into conflict with the increasingly powerful fascist regime of Miklós Horthy when he was charged with subversion and offending public taste after the publication of his second volume of poetry, Song of the Modern Shepherds, in 1931. At his trial he was acquitted of having offended public modesty but condemned to eight days in jail for sacrilege, though the sentence was later suspended. However, this episode contributed to his subsequent decision to convert to Christianity, though Radnóti was neither a devout Jew before nor a devout Christian after his conversion.

Most of his early poems are optimistic and constructive, or celebrate his love for Fanni Gyarmati, whom he married in 1935. During second trip to Paris, Radnóti begins to write poems of his impressions in the form of postcards—brief, fragmented glimpses of his experiences which...

(The entire section is 919 words.)