Austrian-born Erich Fried's poems are very accessible to all readers and this volume, his first appearance in English, was translated by his close friend Stuart Hood - one time controller of the BBC. Always aware that he was living in an alien culture, these poems reflect the sensitivities of a Jew who could not accept an Israel that persecuted others, who was grateful to the country that had given him shelter and protection from the Nazis but also found a great deal that made him unsettled in England. Although Fried moved between two cultural worlds, he never lost touch with his native tongue and its literature. His work is an example of that 'organic assimilation' of experience which Leon Trotsky maintained distinguished literary activity from political agitation. His poems about the Holocaust are both moving and questioning, because he understood very well the climate of fear that made those who wanted to survive do nothing to fight the horrors that they could see arriving. His poems on Vietnam and Chile illustrate the way in which he combines depth of feeling with grasp of political realties.
Erich Fried's poetry is remarkable because it expresses a spectrum of feeling in which there is no dividing line between the political and the personal. His poetry is a passionate cry for justice, tolerance and a better world. Fried belongs to all nations and to none in the international context of poems that are anti-nationalistic and always for pity, mercy, understanding and love. They are both extremely readable and utterly memorable.
Austrian-born Erich Fried has become the most popular poet to write in German since Heinrich Heine, 150 years earlier. Freid came to England from Austria in 1938 as a refugee fleeing from Hitler's Nazi machine and their systematic persecution of the Jews. He joined the BBC and emerged as broadcaster, translator and poet, but always writing in German. Published in Germany after the war, he became the biggest-selling poet of the century in German. The appeal in Fried's poems lies in their direct simplicity which captures the lives of every reader whether he is writing about love, on the themes of political or moral issues or about the feelings and emotions brought on by illness, bereavement, ageing and death. Above all Fried is a poet whose humanity, honesty and perception make his verse immensely enjoyable and enlightening. Born in 1921 he died in London in 1988. Large numbers of his German fans attended the funeral as well as English fans.