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...
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