Poetry Review – Survivors

30 Mar

Survivors: Hungarian Jewish Poets of the Holocaust

edited by Thomas Orszag-Land

£8.95, ISBN 978-0-9927409-2-4, 2014, Smokestack Books

Survivors“There are, in fact, very few good Holocaust poems accessible to English readers,” explains Thomas Orszag-Land in his introduction to this collection. As can be imagined, the nature of this subject is one that saw many of the poets involved killed and their contemporary work destroyed, whilst those who did survive to write about the Holocaust did so mostly in other languages, the translation of their work left mainly in the hands of academics rather than poets, whilst later generations have largely been silent on the topic, and the governments of eastern Europe have done their best to ignore or even suppress their work in order to avoid the uncomfortable questions of complicity that go with them. Where poets, such as Faludy, were too popular to totally ignore, their Holocaust poems were redefined as anti-war pieces with nothing specific to say about events in their homelands.

The introduction alone is a powerful and fascinating piece of writing that perfectly sets the scene for the importance of the poems that follow. Regular readers of The Supplement will have seen some of these poems in print – Orszag-Land’s Ghetto Games (issue 66), The Wound of Manhattan (issue 71) and The Germans’ Mercenaries (issue 73) – but there are many more excellent poems in this collection.

As a substantial collection of non-English poetry, Survivors would be well worth reading, but as a reminder of the dark events of seven decades ago, it is even more important a collection. Highly recommended.

(An expanded version of this review appears in issue 73 of The Supplement, from Atlantean Publishing).

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