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This review is taken from PN Review 84, Volume 18 Number 4, March - April 1992.

KNOWLEDGE ENORMOUS Patrick Bridgwater, Poet of Expressionist Berlin: the life and work of Georg Heym (Libris) £35
Odysseus Elytis, Selected Poems, translated by various hands (Anvil) £7.95
Takis Varvitsiotis, The Eye in the Mirror: selected poems, translated by Kimon Friar (Forest Books) £8.95

Too little, too much: from virtual ignorance to knowledge enormous. Such of Georg Heym as non-specialists could previously have come across was contained - and in some ways helpfully confined - in a chapter or in the selected items of an anthology. This extremely thorough 'life and work' of Heym comes courtesy of the figure whose previous books and translations have done most to make turn-of-the-century German poetry better-known in England. Indeed, even the indigenous post-war revival of interest in 'Berlin's Rimbaud' looks sporadic when set beside Patrick Bridgwater's juggernaut of a book. Heym's life, all twenty-five years of it, very properly occupies only something like one-fifth of the canvas; yet even over the space of some sixty pages it seems stretched, and stuffed with superfluities. The unresolved tensions of adolescence, with massive self-absorption issuing in largely futile acts of revolt, left Heym's young manhood still in a state of volatility, the stricter processes of pen and paper notwithstanding. The handful of fine, even very fine, poems seems almost epiphenomenal against a background of such turbulence and tribulation. One almost wishes Heym less life than the little he had and made so much of; certainly his private journals make painful reading. And, for all the unrealized potential that might subsequently have brought Heym fame as a dramatist or short story writer - areas of experiment assiduously covered by Bridgwater - one also cannot help but feel that, as a poet, Heym is best-served by the kind of rigorous exclusion ...


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