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

BRIDGE PASSAGES MARIN SORESCU, The Bridge, translated by Adam J. Sorkin and Lidia Vianu, with a translation foreword by Adam Sorkin (Bloodaxe) £8.95
NICHITA DANILOV, Second-Hand Souls, translated by Sean Cotter (Twisted Spoon Press) $13.50/£8.00

Romanian people love their allegories. When the Moldavian shepherd of our `national' ballad, Miorita, is told of his imminent murder he breaks into a splendid vision. He describes his death and the ensuing burial as a wedding in heaven. His imagined wife is a king's daughter. Stars turn into torches carried by an entourage of fir trees in an Orthodox religious procession over the mountains and into fantastic worlds. The altar is the threshold to heaven where the sun and the moon together crown the newlyweds. The language of Miorita, a cross between keening and lullaby surfaces at many Romanian celebrations at home and abroad. Love of nature, reverence for God, courage in the face of death, intricate rituals and poetry are prominent (though yes, romantic and dreamy) elements of the Romanian ethos. But how much of this do we expect that will carry across in confessional poetry?

Marin Sorescu's most recent collection of poems The Bridge/Puntea: Ultimele (2004/1997) is a book about his own death. It is a collection which lays bare the poet's humanity in all its privacy. It was written during the last few weeks of his life in the hospital; many of the poems were dictated to his wife between November and 8 December 1996. The translators would have done well to render the entire title of the book from the Romanian, so it would read The Bridge: The Final Poems (or The Last Poems). The word `bridge', as the title of this ...

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