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This review is taken from PN Review 102, Volume 21 Number 4, March - April 1995.

REEL STORIES CRAIG RAINE, History: The Home Movie (Penguin) £9.99

'History is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake,' said Joyce's Stephen Dedalus famously; but nightmare or not, Craig Raine, who reveres Joyce above all others, has plunged into his material, with all guns blazing, and come up with History: The Home Movie, his long-announced and much-rumoured 'epic history of Europe from 1905-1984'. Raine himself is fifty this year, and there is no mistaking his ambitions for this work; like many another poet nel mezzo del cammin of our extended life-expectancy, Raine has sought to deliver himself of his magnum opus. Certainly it is a work that deserves to be judged as such. A long poem like this, or a long series of poems (even describing it demands judgement), requires a wider set of criteria than is usually the case for judging an individual collection.

The racy blurb surrounding the appearance of History: The Home Movie has done nothing, in my view, but harm. To describe the work helter-skelter as an epic poem, a novel and a film, reveals a staggering confusion of genres. Raine's own descriptive, 'The Home Movie', is hardly closer the mark, either. True, the poet's narrative is based on the lives of two branches of his own family, the Raines and the Pasternaks, but the individual poems which make up the whole are frequently artfully selected 'cruces' which relate directly to historical events. Raine is interested in the intersection of these lives with history, especially in the Russian sections, and that ...


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