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This review is taken from PN Review 97, Volume 20 Number 5, May - June 1994.

HOW HISTORY INSISTS Poems by Henrik Ibsen, translated by Brian Sourbut (York Settlement Trust, 126 Holgate Road,York Y02 4DL) £2.50
KJELL ESPMARK, Route Tournante, translated by Joan Tate (Forest) £6.95
OTTO ORBÁN, The Blood ofthe Walsungs selected poems, edited by George Szirtes (Bloodaxe) £6·95
MICHAEL KRÜGER, Diderot's Cat: selected poems, translated by Richard Dove (Carcanet) £9.95.

We know I been as a dramatist, and not as a poet; a dramatist, indeed, in retreat from poetry after Brand and Peer Gynt (where translation is crucial and yet compromised), and apparently deeply suspicious of the impulses that issue in left overs like 'the forests avenge themselves'and 'vine-leaves in his hair'.There has been only one concerted effort to shift, if only for a moment, a balance which will always weigh heaviest in favour of the figure of whom Pirandello said, 'After Shakespeare, I have no hesitation in placing I been first'; and John Northam's resourceful rendering of the whole poetic oeuvre of I been, published in Oslo in 1986, remains relatively inaccessible. The York Settlement Trust have very admirably refused to regard the case as closed, in what ironically amounts to a memorial volume in honour of the translator Brian Sourbut. The homage is stapled, rather than bound, and costs about as little as a magazine from a bookstall. It will not move mountains, the intractability of which Ibsen himself knew only too well, but it alters the balance of forces, if not with the impact of the plays, then at least with the effect of leaving this remoter territory more clearly in focus.

Poems by Henrik Ibsen is naturally on occasion very close to I been's Poems as rendered by Northam. Yet Sourbut obviously has an advantage when it comes to rhythm; he ...


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