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This review is taken from PN Review 93, Volume 20 Number 1, September - October 1993.

WINGS OF THE SAME BIRD GÖSTA ÅGREN, A Valley in the Midst of Violence translated by David McDuff (Bloodaxe)
£7.95
BO CARPELAN, Homecoming translated by David McDuff (Carcanet) £7.95
*
Estelas en la mar: essays on the poetry of Antoniao Machado 1875-1939, edited by D. Gareth Walters, Department of Hispanic Studies, University of Glasgow £10.80 (distributed by Grant and Cutler Ltd)

Of the many unfamiliar names gathered together by David McDuff for his anthology of Finland-Swedish poetry Ice Around Our Lips (reviewed in PNR 76), Gösta Ågren is one of the first to be singled out for translation in his own right in the form of a Selected Poems, an honour otherwise accorded only to Bo Carpelan,Solveig von Schoulz and Tua Forsström. One can see immediately why Ågren should have been thus honoured: the impact he makes is dependent on apparently minimal means, which leave the impression that nothing could possibly have been lost in translation.The effect is not unlike what seems always to have obtained in the case of Zbigniew Herbert; though few people have the necessary expertise to read the poems in the original language, any number can feel can feel that they are being granted direct access with just the slightest suggestion of something mysterious attaching to it.

David McDuff, in his brief introduction to this selection, emphasizes the fact that these are 'poems whose directness and level sanity of diction take them far beyond the regional context in which they were shaped and conceived.' In mode and manner Ågren is internationalist, 'intellectually austere and laconic', and concerned with the pursuit of truth, or truths, of ...


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