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This review is taken from PN Review 161, Volume 31 Number 3, January - February 2005.

ORIGINALS AND ACCESSORIES FREIDRICH HÖLDERLIN, Poems and Fragments. Translated by Michael Hamburger, fourth bilingual edition (Anvil) £19.95/$29.95

This enormous, handsome book (over 800 pages) is a fitting culmination, if that is what it turns out to be, of Michael Hamburger's work on Hölderlin, which began more than sixty years ago. A first volume of versions appeared in 1943 ten years after Hamburger's arrival in Britain from Berlin. He turned eighty earlier this year, and perhaps that's one reason for the new edition; but another, presumably, is that the third edition, which came out ten years ago and from which this differs only slightly, has sold out - a pleasing thought and a sign that Hamburger's life's work (one of his life's works) has not been in vain.

The blurb promises 'revisions, new translations and other supplementary material' but I only discovered one new poem, a different version of 'Mnemosyne' which follows a recent German edition of Hölderlin's hymns. This edition is based on the eccentric premise that Hölderlin deliberately scrambled a whole phase of his work, leaving signs in the manuscripts to indicate how it should be reassembled or decoded. Such understanding compels the editor, D. E. Sattler, gifted with intuition of Hölderlin's intentions, to sew the fragments of Hölderlin's 'late' work together into ordered wholes, but 'The Nymph', the new construction Hamburger adds, is more convincing than most of the others. 'Late' here means early to mid-thirties, just before Hölderlin went mad and, as Hamburger puts it, changed personality. Thereafter he wrote in a quite different mode, using simple, native, rhymed forms and ...


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