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This review is taken from PN Review 175, Volume 33 Number 5, May - June 2007.

NOT WANTING Vittorio Sereni, The Selected Poetry and Prose of Vittorio Sereni, translated and edited by Peter Robinson and Marcus Perryman, introduction by Peter Robinson (Chicago University Press), £22.50

For all the richness of Vittorio Sereni's writing, he is a poet self-defined by lack. His best known collection, Diario D'Algeria, refers to his experiences as a prisoner of war in the Second World War, when the poet was haunted by missed opportunity, by the marginalised position into which history sequestered him. It is this seclusion and suspicion of past disengagement which reverberates throughout his poetry, like the thorn of memory in 'The Disease of the Elm' that continues to burn even when removed. For the first time in English, we have an authorised translation which gives due consideration to his corpus, selecting from among his four collections the most representative poems and from his prose those pieces which extend the poetry's themes and concerns. Together they present a complex portrait, reflective of the poet's search for a way of being in the world, a mode of existence and of writing which would be an appropriate response to the weight of a personal experience intertwined with that of his country and Europe in the twentieth century.

A translator of, inter alios, Valéry, Char, Pound and William Carlos Williams, Sereni was also the founder of the Linea Lombarda school, a group which derived its name and purpose from Luciano Anceschi's 1952 anthology, aiming to reconstruct the relationship between poetry and reality and reappropriating historical reality while remaining within the hermetic tradition. The line of this dual tension runs throughout ...

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