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This review is taken from PN Review 91, Volume 19 Number 5, May - June 1993.

A KIND OF NICHE Franz Baermann Steiner special issue of Modern Poetry in Translation, new series No. 2, Autumn 1992, King's College London

Hard upon the excellent first issue of Modern Poetry in Translation's new series (see P-N-R 89) comes this bilingual selection from an émigré Prague poet known to very few beyond his personal circle during his lifetime, and yet to be granted any significant posterity in the forty years since his death. Franz Baerman Steiner here enjoys, in part as a consequence of the distinguished reputation of his translator Michael Hamburger, the kind of limelight he never knew and would, perhaps, have been ill-equipped to cope with. Tambimuttu close some Steiner poems for Poetry London in 1944; Hans Eichner wrote an essay on him for German Life and Letters in 1954; there is a Swiss work; the Penguin of his posthumously published study of Taboo seems to be out of print. Several of the poems presented here have, Hamburger tells us, yet to find a publisher in Germany. Never in vogue, Steiner would doubtless have modestly disclaimed entitlement to celebrity. MPT 2,with due acknowledgement paid to Professor Jeremy Adler, his literary executor, is a homage offering a belated opportunity of recognition.

MPT's cover photograph aptly supplies a grainy image of Steiner's head thrust forward, but at an angle deflected away from direct confrontation. A high brow stretches back to a receding hair line, with Steiner's dark and somewhat drooping moustache an odd kind of relief from gimlet-like eyes behind severe 1940s spectacles. The camera has caught him as if he were speaking to someone else, or just about ...


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