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This review is taken from PN Review 108, Volume 22 Number 4, March - April 1996.

THIS IS (NOT) A POEM A Centenary Pessoa edited by Eugenio Lisboa with L.C. Taylor, translations and contributions by several hands (Carcanet) £25
CZESLAW MILOSZ, Facing The River translated by the author and Robert Hass (Carcanet) £7.95
AIMÉ CÉSAIRE, Notebook of a Return to My Native Land translated by Mireille Rosello with Annie Pritchard, bilingual edition (Bloodaxe)£8.95
Philippe Jaccottet, Under Clouded Skies and Beauregard translated by Mark Trehame and David Constantine, bilingual edition, (Bloodaxe) £8.95
LORAND GASPAR, The Word at Hand, with a selection of poems translated by Roger Little (Dedalus) £7.95
FRANCIS PONGE, Selected Poems, edited by Margaret Guiton, translated by Margaret Guiton, John Montague and C.K. Williams (Wake Forest University Press).

The idea of celebrating the centenary of Pessoa seems to hover perilously close to absurdity, even as it recommends itself as a very proper kind of homage. How can 'the man who never was' now suddenly take on the standard attributes of posthumous fame? A Centenary Pessoa supplies exactly the right answer to this question. It offers as much material as perhaps a single book possibly could, and it very appropriately leaves its reader to make sense of the sheer diversity of elements on offer. Twenty-five pounds may at first seem a high price to pay in pursuit of a figure who famously grows more elusive the closer you appear to approach him. Yet for the outlay you acquire a quite splendid volume, as pleasing to the eye as it is challenging to the mind.

The best place to begin this omnium gatherum is with the admirable selection of thirty-two black and white photographs dividing the poems from a detailed 'life and times' chronology. (There are, of course, more to be found in the huge 'photo-biography' published by Christian Bourgois in Paris in 1990, but the effect there is to make Pessoa seem almost too real and substantial.) The photographs, as it were, establish the possibility of Pessoa having existed, without demystifying the sense in which he can be said to have lived by proxy. This latter aspect is conveyed by the twenty-two coloured plates towards the end of the book, the last of which (Manuel Amado: ...


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