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

IN AND OUT OF THE PICTURE Osip Mandelshtam, Selected Poems translated by James Greene (Penguin) £5.99
Rutger Kopland, A World Beyond Myself translated and introduced by James Brockway with a foreword by Jeremy Hooker (Enitharmon) £7.95
Rabindranath Tagore,I Won't Let You Go: selected poems translated by Ketaki Kushari Dyson (Bloodaxe) £7.95

James Greene's versions of Mandelstam - now to be more accurately accessed as Mandelsh tam, and in Penguin Twentieth Century Classics rather than as one of their International Poets - seem certain to outlive their various competitors, though the approach by individual volume in the cases of Stone, Tristia and The Moscow Notebooks makes for a completeness no 'selected' can hope to emulate. Greene's elevation into Penguin - thus ensuring the best possible circumstances for Widespread distribution - has given him the opportunity to revise The Eyesight of Wasps (Angel, 1989), itself a revision of a revision, making this new Selected Poems by my estimate the fourth and presumably the final item in the series, testimony enough that translation, once begun, is never done. In his new preface Greene indicates that about half a dozen poems which appeared in his second selection have been 'liquidated' (surely a rather grim word to use in these circumstances), of which only the 'Verses on the Unknown Soldier' might have been expected to survive, the other items being for the most part incomplete, the product of this translator's brave (if disconcerting) admission that sometimes whole poems lie beyond his competence. Of the twenty or so that replace these, very few in fact fail to conform to the conventional demand that it must be all, or nothing at all.

As on previous occasions, Greene's versions come with the imprimatur of the poet's widow, and with a warm accolade from Donald Davie. Donald ...


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