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This item is taken from PN Review 156, Volume 30 Number 4, March - April 2004.

News & Notes
On 16 December the Fundacio Robert Graves was formed in Deyá, Majorca. The Board consists of the Mayor of Deyá (President), the President of the Govern de les Illes Balears (vice president), and William Graves as Robert Graves's executor, representing the family. The Fundacio aims to buy Canelluñ, the house which Robert built in 1932 with Laura Riding, and where he lived with his wife Beryl from 1946 to the end of his days. The funding comes from the Govern. The Fundacio plans to make Canelluñ into a museum open to the public. The ground floor will be as it has always been, with the poet's study, the press-room, etc. On the first floor Laura's study, Beryl's study and other spaces, including an exhibition room, will be accessible. The garden will be replanted to recover the feel it had in the 1930s, with plenty of fruit trees, recovering too the paths and benches which were so carefully laid out. The land the theatre is on will remain an olive grove. The museum should open early 2005.

The Harvill Press, publishers of Lampedusa, Pasternak, Enquist, Hoeg, Magris, Perec, Saramago, Solzhenitsyn and many other major writers, was acquired by the Random House Group with assurances that its integrity and its traditions would be maintained; the backlist was transferred to Random House's distinguished Vintage list. Random House had previously acquired Secker and Warburg, publishers of Coetzee, Brink, Eco, Orwell, Kafka and Grass, with the same undertakings. Now the Group has announced a new imprint to be called Harvill Secker, and with the accustomed syntheses that accompany amalgamations the management (editorial and otherwise) is being rationalised. Harvill has, though we may soon have to say had, a commitment to modern poetry in English and translation. Secker, too, once had such a commitment. But within the Random House Group, the imprints with active poetry lists have dwindled to one, in effect, Cape; the others (Chatto, Hutchinson etc) are in various stages of dormancy. The merger of two imprints may seem less momentous than the merger of two publishing houses. Can the unparalleled vigour and vision of these two lists be maintained?

Pekka Tarkka's long-awaited two-volume biography of the Finnish poet PENTI SAARIKOSKI (1937-83) has at last been completed, after two decades of work. Saarikoski remains one of the most attractive, if elusive, of Scandinavian poets, a writer whose trajectory in some respects resembles that of the New Zealand poet James K. Baxter, a precocity possessed by the excesses and disappointments of the 1950s, seeking some kind of spiritual solace in conventional and unconventional places. In translation, especially by Anselm Hollo, Saarikoski's best work reminds English readers sometimes of Snyder at his most resolute and allusive, sometimes of Duncan, seldom of the central Beats with whom he is associated in the minds of those who heard her perform in his later years. Saarikoski translated both Homer's Odyssey and Joyce's Ulysses. But the lure of bohemianism. Born among people, one of his poems declares, we die among the gods.

A reader has drawn attention to Elisabeth Sifton's memoir and reflections, The Serenity Prayer (W.W. Norton), `real spiri- tual bread'. It is not, manifestly, a book for the review columns of PNR, but it relates to many of the themes editorially and critically explored. `It stands out as a historically grounded rebuke to the proto-fascistic situation in which the U.S. now stands, by a writer who stems from the AmericanGerman and English Protestant élites, and indeed embodies them. Donald Davie, were he alive, would, I imagine, praise Elisabeth Sifton's ability to weave both hymns and Reinhold Niebuhr's, her father's, prayers into an ethical-political polemic both sweetened and salted by memoir - a literary form, it now strikes me, which seventeenth-century Englishmen and Americans would have acknowledged as familiar but which, among us, flies as seldom as the LesserCrested Magnanimous.'

The Palestinian poet FADWA TUQAN, a popular elegist and a poet of resistance, died in December at the age of 86. Even her foes, Moshe Dayan among them, were affected by her work. He described how listening to one of her poems was `like facing twenty enemy commandos'. The poems draw on long traditions of Arabic verse and are marked by (relative) understatement, even in extreme circumstances. She wanted less to die for her country than to die in it, a longing shared by many refugees and colonised people. She was also a critique of Arab society, not least because of the ways in which women are sometimes treated. At Oxford (1962-4) she studied English literature and language. She travelled widely. In both Israel and among her Arabic readers she remains a profoundly unsettling figure.

The Moroccan writer MOHAMMAD SHOUKRI died in November. He was 68. Tangiers was the focal point for much of his writing, which explored in a radical and realist spirit many themes that too often lie obscured, censored either by edict or by cautionary custom. It was the sexual freedom of Tangiers - a freedom enjoyed by European and American artists from Genet and Matisse to Bowles and Tennessee Williams - and the deep poverty with which hedonism shared its nights, that detained him. Born to intense poverty, with a violent father, he fled to Tangiers to escape. He did not learn to read and write until he was 21, when he started primary school, but he could speak street English and Spanish. Later, in Tangiers, when some of his poems had appeared in the Arabic newspapers, Williams suggested he write his life, and Bowles undertook to translate it. Bread Alone appeared in English in 1972. Ten years later it was published in Arabic, when it was banned. He built on his autobiography and wrote several other titles, novels and literary studies.

JEFF NUTTALL, the master of the `happen- ing' and a poet whose work made less impact than his human presence, died in Abergavenny in January. He was seventyone years old. The Guardian recalled how in 1991 he was cast as Friar Tuck in Robin Hood. He was a spirited experimenter and adventurer for whom process always seemed to be more important than product. Charlie Parker was one of his driving Muses. The peripatetic and inclusive People Show was evidence of this. His best-remembered book was highly controversial in its day, Bomb Culture (1968).

The printer, Olympic oarsman and poet ANTONY ROWE, who championed short run printing and was a kind of grandfather to Print on Demand, died in December on the brink of his eightieth year. Urbane, spirited, a delightful gentleman with classical bearing and classical taste in verse, a talented translator of Latin (he subscribed himself Torquatus), he was unusual among printers, keener always to talk of Horace than to sell his services. He was a bookman and a book lover of the old school, for whom literature was a value, and the ways in which it was presented mattered to the meaning.

This item is taken from PN Review 156, Volume 30 Number 4, March - April 2004.



Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to editor@pnreview.co.uk
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