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This review is taken from PN Review 86, Volume 18 Number 6, July - August 1992.

SOME VERSIONS OF SURVIVAL The Poetry of Survival: post-war poets of Central and Eastern Europe, edited by Daniel Weissbort with translations by various hands (Anvil) £19.95
Contemporary Poetry from the Canary Islands, selected and introduced by Sebastian de la Nuez Caballero, translated by Louis Bourne (Forest) £12.95

The anthologist works with only one certainty to sustain and at the same time to frustrate him: the knowledge that his enterprise can never be carried out to everyone's satisfaction. In the circumstances the cardinal error of seeking to keep on good terms with everyone must give way to the pursuit of some personal pleasure principle. Perhaps the great test is whether interested parties (and even those who think themselves otherwise) are put in touch with a body of material they would not have discovered for themselves; anthologies are particularly effective in opening up some little-known corner of a foreign field. The Poetry of Survival has already attracted criticism of the kind that its editor would ideally, beyond the advantages of notoriety, have wished to avoid, and on the principle of 'every man his own anthologist' cannot hope to enjoy a wholly smooth passage. The Bourne-Caballero enterprise circumvents the principle for the very good reason that no-one else has seen fit to map the domain.

Weissbort divides his available space into three, opening with eight figures born before the outbreak of the First World War, centering upon twenty poets born entre deux guerres, and closing with nine appendices of interviews or programmatic material. The dedication, 'To the memory of Vasko Popa' (who died in 1991), sets the tone for what follows, though the decision to begin with Brecht is a more telling index of the contents. Weissbort's selections gravitate towards enigma at one boundary and prosaic simplicity ...


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