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This review is taken from PN Review 92, Volume 19 Number 6, July - August 1993.

VOICES OF THOSE WHO HAVE DIED Federico García Lorca, Selected Poems translated by Merryn Williams, (Bloodaxe) £7.95
Constantine Cavafy, Collected Poems translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard (Princeton) £10.95

Only the central position each occupies within very different native traditions brings Lorca and Cavafy at all close together, though both are universally admired beyond Spain and Greece. Lorca lived much of the time on a semi-public stage, in spite of deeply introspective tendencies, and of course died on it in such a way as to seem almost more a metaphor than a man. Cavafy scarcely left Alexandria, and within it kept to a humdrum routine based on his own familiar quarter of the city, clubbable in his own way, but (as Robert Liddell's biography indicates) with relatively little to offer by way of 'biography as spectacle'. So far as deductions on the matter can be grounded in their poetry they dealt very differently with their homosexuality, with the otherwise reticent Cavafy making no bones about it, and the much more direct Lorca suffering - as the recently discovered Sonnets of Dark Love best demonstrate - in agony and in secret, given the prevailing mores of machismo. Ironically, both Lorca and Cavafy died in the middle years of that Tow and dishonest decade', the 1930s; but Cavafy at 70 (in 1933) and Lorca three years later in his late 30s.

Translations of Lorca abound, and seem certain to continue to proliferate. He is simply the kind of poet anyone might wish to try and capture, in spite of the very real obstacles which lie in wait. The new Merryn Williams selection is very generous in its scope, ...


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