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This item is taken from PN Review 159, Volume 31 Number 1, September - October 2004.

Letters from Nicholas Murray, David Lindley, Martin Neoloch
Janáček and Kafka


Graham Roe (PNR 158) pleads for a `real scholar' to step forward to say whether Kafka and Janáček were aware of each other's existence.

It really only needs someone to consult the index to his correspondence where there are many references to the composer in letters to Brod. A representative one would be in October 1917 when Kafka thanks Brod for sending him his translation of Jenufa, remarking: `It will serve as tomorrow's treat in my reclining chair' (Letters to Friends Family and Editors (1978), translated by Richard and Clara Winston, p.151). There is no apparent evidence that the composer and the writer met but the latter was certainly aware of the existence of the former. And by the way, Kafka died not in Prague but in a sanatorium at Kierling on 3 June 1924.

Presteigne, Powys



John Lucas's piece in PNR 158 provides an often interesting ramble, but the comment on Hardy's `The Voice' seems very odd in an article devoted to `Plain Speaking and the Language of the Heart'.

In fact `wan wistlessness' was substituted for `existlessness', not the other way round. And for my part I can't see any reason why the change should be thought an improvement. The introduction of a weak and dragging adjective together with a distracting alliteration is a move towards the sort of poetic diction which the article seems to oppose. While `existlessness' - so direct, so onomatopoeic - gives way to the academic `wistlessness'. It would be interesting to know in what ways John Lucas finds the change to be better to the (to me, inspired) original.

Cockermouth, Cumbria

More Plain Speaking


John Lucas in his engaging essay `Plain Speaking and the Language of the Heart' repeats a nostrum I thought had been finally laid to rest by Michael Hamburger in his essay `On "Metrical" Verse, "Free" Verse and Prose', first published in 1974 and collected in his volume Testimonies (1989). Blank verse is not a native note, and it is an archaic reflex, atavistic and unhelpful, to continue to regard it as such.


This item is taken from PN Review 159, Volume 31 Number 1, September - October 2004.

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