All That Still Matters At All: A Voice that Deserves to be Heard

all that still matters at all

I don’t normally review poetry- indeed I don’t normally read whole poetry collections cover to cover. But this book was special. Part of that was due to the complex story of the man behind them- Miklós Radnóti- a Hungarian poet murdered in the Holocaust.

“The velvet darkness fails to comfort me/and thorny anger no longer can liberate”

There are many strands of his life story tangled up with his writing: the death of his mother and twin at his birth, his wife and muse Fanni, and his conversion to Christianity (sadly even this could not save him from the labour camps). Add to that the fact that these poems were recovered from a notebook found on his exhumed body and it feels like these words are speaking from beyond the grave.

“O will I have the strength to come back/swept away in the riptide of my life”

Through the themes of death and war, this book speaks to the depths of humanity. Burdened with survivor’s guilt from his tragic origins, he paints himself as an anti-hero, a “beast of humankind”. In this way, the image of his twin reflects more than just a single tragedy- it recognises the duality of the human race and the capacity within us all for good and evil.

“the dusk moth will hover already and its wings sparkle silver”

One of the striking elements of these poems is when he harks back to the Ecologues, imagining a conversation with Virgil, where he discusses the madness of the age. With this time travelling exercise he creates a bridge between past and present in a way that even he could not have considered. For in the very last line of this collection, we are inadvertently reminded that his words reach out even after his death:

“on my ear the muddied blood was caking”

A brief, yet impactful read, there were so many wonderful poems here that if I wanted to list my favourites I would be giving you half the contents page.  Instead I will leave you with one last line from this beautiful collection:

“The dusk was copper-skinned/and death was heroic”

Rating: 5/5 bananas

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So will you give this a go? And do you have any poetry collections you can recommend me? Let me know in the comments!

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27 thoughts on “All That Still Matters At All: A Voice that Deserves to be Heard

  1. luvtoread says:

    I’m usually not into poetry, but when I visited the Holocaust museum in Washington DC, I ended up purchasing a book of Holocaust Poetry from the gift shop, as the poetry displayed in some of the exhibits was so powerful. I’ve only read bits and pieces of the book, as it is just so powerful. I’ll have to look and see if this poet’s works are listed in the book.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Zoe says:

    I’m not usually much of a poetry fan to be completely honest, but if I’m ever in the mood for poetry I’ll definitely keep this in mind. 🙂 Thanks for sharing and, as always, fabulous review! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jackie B @ Death by Tsundoku says:

    I really enjoy poetry, but I’ve never read poetry in translation. I wonder if any of the meaning or structure was significantly modified in order to put this book together?

    This sounds like a very powerful book of poems. I’ll need to look into this one for sure! Thanks for reviewing it– I agree that it begs to be read cover to cover.

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Ah yes, that’s a good point, there was an introduction where the translators talked about that a little- but I have to say I don’t remember in any level of detail- the poetry was too good to get bogged down with that 😉 I have read a lot of poetry in translation before, and for me the most important thing is that they ignore all rhyming structures and just focus on the words- I think you can spot the difference between a good translations and a bad one, cos, well, the bad ones make no sense!!
      It is really phenomenal and seriously underrated in the English speaking world!! It really does!! Thank you so much for your lovely comment!! 😀

      Like

  4. Meggy | Chocolate'n'Waffles says:

    Can you be my lit teacher???? Pretty please?
    Wow, this sounds very heavy, yet so important. I haven’t ventured towards poetry yet despite Milk and Honey being on my TBR, but this has a different tone to it, and I think it might help me try to find a different angle to handle the history and my family’s stories that make it so hard for me to read anything from that period. Thank you for this beautiful review ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • theorangutanlibrarian says:

      Aww thank you so much!! 😀
      Yes it really was 🙂 And it does (though I haven’t read that yet, I have some idea of what that collection entails from reading a couple of the poems and reviews) I think this is really different from anything I’ve read on the subject- just because his voice is so utterly unique. Thank you for your lovely comment ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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