Radnoti, Blanchot, and the (Un)Writing of Disaster

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Colleges, School and Institutes


An application of Maurice Blanchot’s literary and quasi-historical notion of disaster to the Holocaust poetry of Miklós Radnóti, particularly the last sequence entitled Postcards (Razglednicák), may court paradox and even scandal. Yet for a reader attempting to understand Radnóti’s poems—written as they were from the brink of death—Blanchot’s The Writing of the Disaster comes to mind, yet paradoxically so, since Radnóti’s poetry, as a poetry of witness or survival, seems to repel many of Blanchot’s central formulations about the passivity and sacrifice of the author in the experience of writing and the uncertainty of death. It shall be argued in this essay that a reading of Radnóti through Blanchot, and then vice-versa, yields both a means of addressing the task of writing and the notion of an authorial self in Holocaust poetry, and a new perspective from which to appreciate Blanchot’s often highly elusive thought on the notions of writing, authorial self, and disaster. It will also enter Radnóti into the philosophical discussion of Holocaust literature, which has been in the main dominated by the poetry of Paul Celan, for whom the poetic directive points to memorialization and loss—thus toward the past—rather than survival and demise in the exigency of the present.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-10
Number of pages9
JournalComparative Literature and Culture
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2015


  • Radnóti, Blanchot, Radnoti, Holocaust literature