Struggle For Life

Frigyes Karinthy

Let’s face it, mate, you’ve been brought down
by every law and trick, that’s clear —
The jackals have picked up your scent.
Hungry crows are circling near.

T’was not the pack to prove the stronger,
far meaner beasts have brought you there —
Will feral dogs or humble sparrows
share the feast? I do not care.

You rarely raised your fist and always
halted halfway to the blow —
Was that for goodness, fear or weakness?
Or shyness? Pride? I do not know.

Perhaps disgust. I calm down. Amen.
I do not curse. I don’t condemn.
I’d rather be consumed by vermin
than I should ever feed on them.

About Poetry and the Holocaust (excerpt): Consider the work of great writers like Faludy as well as Jenő Heltai, Frigyes Karinthy and Ernő Szép, much loved and admired in their native Hungary (though hardly known abroad). They could not be ignored at home—but their Holocaust poetry has been consistently treated by school teachers, editors and critics as general anti-war protest in line with the perennial pious indignation of the post-war governments of the day. Even their readers do not know that these are Holocaust poets.

Struggle for Life: According to Holocaust legends, this poem was read to a group of starved, naked and brutalized civilian captives—orthodox Jews observing strict dietary rules—to calm and comfort them before their mass execution in a gas chamber.

Frigyes Karinthy (1887-1938). Poet, translator and novelist, a recipient of the Baumgarten prize. He was a satirist of enormous international influence—even though the fireworks of his verbal wit have translated poorly into other languages.

SOURCE: Karinthy, Frigyes. “Struggle For Life” (with notes), in Survivors: Hungarian Jewish Poets of the Holocaust, edited and translated by Thomas Ország-Land (Middlesborough, UK: Smokestack Books, 2014), pp. 66, 12, 108, 110.

Frigyes & Ferenc Karinthy in English

Frigyes (Frederiko) Karinthy (1887-1938) en Esperanto

Futurology, Science Fiction, Utopia, and Alienation
in the Work of Imre Madách, György Lukács, and Other Hungarian Writers:
Select Bibliography


Struggle for life, translated by Peter Zollman
(also at PoemHunter

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Uploaded 28 June 2016

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