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

NEITHER RESIGNED NOR DEFIANT Franco Fortini, Summer is not all: selected poems, translated by Paul Lawton (Carcanet) £18.95

'No Fortini', wrote Peter Levi in P·N·R 38, at once lamenting the absence of a favourite figure and thankful that something was still not so familiar as to be vulgarized. Well, in 1982 there was only a handful of Fortini poems to be found in English, and only the selection in a limited print run of Michael Hamburger translations for Arc Publications of Todmorden. Ten years on the picture is happily, for those not intent on keeping things 'sacred', altered out of all recognition. Summer is not all announces the arrival of Fortini, now in his eighth decade, as unequivocally as could possibly be wished, and in versions that - as with Arc, with the Italian en face - make both an immediate and a long-lasting impact, but can only benefit from appearing under the wing of a major imprint.

Very helpfully, for modern Italian poetry tends to mean Montale for most of us, Fortini situates his poetry in a long and subtle preface which speaks of D'Annunzio, Sereni, Zanzotto and others as well. From this alone one infers what duly occurs in the body of the book proper: that the road to be travelled will only seem straight after the event, even though the journey is undertaken in stoutness of heart and out of fidelity to fact. Fortini adheres from the outset to the task of writing what is real, even as it changes; so much so that in relatively minor poems, even when one knows ...


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