I had never heard of poet and translator Emery George (and there’s essentially nothing about him online except that “He is Emeritus Professor of German at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor”), but he did a terrific translation (judging by the English—I don’t read Hungarian) of “A la recherche,” one of Miklós Radnóti‘s last few poems before he was shot by the SS in 1944. Hexameters don’t come naturally in English, and to make them sound this effortless takes a lot of work:
Evenings, gentle and old, you return as memory’s nobles!
Gleaming table, crowned as by laurels with poets and young wives,
where are you sliding on marshes of irretrievable hours?
Where are the nights when exuberant friends were cheerfully drinking
auvergnat gris out of bright-eyed, thin-stemmed, delicate glasses?
Lines of verse swam high round the light of the lamps, with bright green
epithets bobbing up-down foaming crests of the meter;
those now dead were alive and the prisoners, still at home; those
vanished, dear friends, long since fallen, were writing their poems;
on their hearts the Ukraine, the soil of Spain, or of Flanders.
You can read the remaining five stanzas and get much more information on Radnóti’s life (and of course the usual gorgeous collection of images) at Poemas del río Wang, where I found this. And while I’m at it, let me also recommend an earlier río Wang post about the Holocaust, May it be bound up: “By reading this text, I feel it dreadfully beautiful that in the wasteland of Nagykónyi there has been standing for a hundred and thirty years a sophisticated poem carved in stone which has not been read by anybody in the past sixty-five years, because there is nobody there who could read it any more. It is like the well of the Little Prince which is hiding in the desert until somebody finds it again.”
Incidentally, I discovered in my googling that Emery George edited what looks like a fine anthology, Contemporary East European Poetry. This edition “offers a massive selection of over 500 poems from 160 poets spanning ten countries and 15 languages, including Yiddish and the four languages of the former Yugoslavia. For cultural and artistic reasons, the former Soviet Union is not included…”