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This article is taken from PN Review 244, Volume 45 Number 2, November - December 2018.

Translator’s Notebook (ed. James McGonigal)

A Translator’s Notebook (10)
Edwin Morgan
From Budapest to Glasgow

edited by James McGonigal

EDWIN MORGAN usually kept a pocket notebook when he went on poetry-reading or lecture tours abroad. Here he jotted down details of flights and train journeys, meals, encounters and street observations – maximum information in miniscule handwriting. All these notebooks are archived in Glasgow University Library’s Special Collections (MS Morgan H.). The one that Morgan kept in the autumn of 1966, when he and poet and BBC radio producer George MacBeth were members of a British Council group attending an international poetry congress in Budapest, has claims to be a real translator’s notebook, since he attended on the strength of his work in East European translation. It was not a very comfortable first week, with a packed schedule of conference papers to be listened to either in Russian, Hungarian or ‘broken French’. In the second week he gave a paper on translation and lectured on modern British poetry at Budapest University and the British Embassy: ‘I slipped some (phonic) concrete into my lectures and caused something of a sensation,’ he reported to Robert Tait, soon to be his co-editor on Scottish International journal.

More significant, however, were opportunities to meet Hungarian poets such as Ottó Orbán and Sándor Weöres, and also Miklós Vajda, literary editor of the New Hungarian Quarterly [NHQ]. The latter would have noted Morgan’s translations of seven poems by Attila József in the Budapest magazine Arion earlier that year, as well as of Lajos Kassák and János Pilinszky in NHQ ...

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