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This article is taken from PN Review 22, Volume 8 Number 2, November - December 1981.

KZ Oratorio (translated by Peter Jay) Janos Pilinszky

Note: 'KZ' is an abbreviation of the German for concentration camp, Koncentrazionslager.

The poem first appeared in János Pilinszky's Rekviem (1964); the original 1961 version was entitled Dark Heaven, with 'KZ Oratorio' as the subtitle. The text I have translated was published in Nágyvarosi ikonok (1970) and was reprinted in his collected poems, Kráter (1976).

My thanks to the author and to Artisjus, the Hungarian literary agency, for permission to publish this version; to the author for his annotated copy of Pierre Emmannuel's French version of the 1961 text; to Zsuzsánna Hársanyi for helping me with the original, and to János Csokits for his comments and elucidations. Peter Jay April 1981

Scene: an empty stage or concert-platform. The choir is seated on the two sides of the stage, leaving a narrow passage in the middle. Lamps are suspended horizontally overhead.

Characters: a Small Boy; an Old Woman; M.R., a young girl. All three are KZ-inhabitants.

While the orchestra is tuning up, M.R. appears, followed by the Small Boy, with the Old Woman last. M.R. is wearing a striped prison uniform, her hair is close-cropped; the old woman is dressed in black; the small boy wears a grey dust-coat. Holding lighted candles, they go to the front of the stage, where they stand in the middle. Before them on a music-stand is a score, the pages of which they turn with their free hands during the performance. The boy stands ...


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