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This item is taken from PN Review 82, Volume 18 Number 2, November - December 1991.

News & Notes
Howard Nemerov, the third American Poet Laureate, died in July at the age of 71. As the Laureate's mantle suggests, Nemerov was throughout his literary career the author of occasional verse. Although he always regarded himself as artistically subversive - the title of one of his best known lyrics Make Love Not War has colloquial immediacy and a period feel - he became widely regarded as a conservative whose allegiance was to Yeats, Eliot and Auden rather than Williams and Pound. It seems likely, however, that the reorientation precipitated by New Formalism will find a place for Nemerov in the heart of its narrow - and narrowing - tradition. Nemerov's unfashionably compact diction tended to contain complex experiences within a single vivid image. The Snow Globe allies childhood fears of the dark, sleeping with the light on, with the illness of his sister Diane Arbus, whose suicide in 1971 affected him deeply. Preoccupations with death can be traced further back to Nemerov's experience of combat as a pilot in the Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. This period also provided much of the raw material for his prose fiction, including The Homecoming Game (1957), later filmed as Tall Story. Nemerov's Collected Poems were published in 1977, receiving the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award in the following year.

Trained as an accountant, jailed as a subversive, a successful and honest politician, a poet and idealist, Antonio Jacinto, who died in Lisbon in June aged 67, was a man of contradictions. Not the least of these was his presence as the only white minister in the Angolan government. His most popular poems are now part of the folklore of independent Angola, many now remembered as songs. He played a part in his country's liberation, seeing Marxist revolution as the only way to overturn Portuguese rule. He received the Angolan National Prize for Literature in 1985 for his book Surviving Tarrafel, a memoir of his incarceration in 1961, at the start of the Angolan uprising, and was also awarded the Lotus Prize of the Afro-Asian Writers' Association. Reflecting on the failure of Marxism in Eastern Europe and elsewhere, he nonetheless regarded it as the most powerful force for progress.

The poet Terence Hands died in a road accident in July at the age of 61. A modest writer, unambitious in the best sense, his one published collection of verse As It Was (1964) appeared under the Seizin Press imprint, especially revived for the purpose by Robert Graves in 1964. Graves's patronage may not have helped Hands's independent reputation, despite a joking reference to his very tall contemporary as the only living poet he could look up to. Hands exaggerated his own clumsiness, satirizing himself in Hansey as a 'lank ,dissembler'.. The poems are not, however, marred by an excess of self-consciousness or self-hatred; the tone is quietly sincere and bears witness to Robert Ney's description of 'a sharply insistent modern intelligence making sense of an almost impossible Romantic tenderness'.

The death of Youssef Idris in London at the age of 64 leaves the world of Egyptian and Arabic letters much the poorer. He is seen, along with the Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz, as pivotal in the emergence of a modern Arabic literature. By adapting classical Arabic to vernacular usage he provided the emergent culture a contemporary voice. He is regarded as the master of the short story in Arabic, imbuing the form with a much needed abrasive, even cruel, naturalistic force and style. His trilogy of essays, Towards a New Arabic Theatre, almost single-handedly created the concept of a modern Arab drama. Rejecting generic European derivatives, he called for a return to traditional indigenous forms - those of the Middle Eastern shadow and puppet theatres and of the AI-Samer (festive) and Al-Hakawati (storyteller) forms. His play Al-Frafeer (The Flip Flop) created a drama that satirised the barrenness of the political and social ideologies of the time. Though he championed indigenous causes and traditions, his patriotism never became parochial nationalism. His intellectual radicalism, his commitment to human rights, democracy and individual liberty estranged him from Nasser's government, and he was jailed in 1954. Also unusual was his commitment to women's rights. House of Flesh had an all-female cast, his novel (then screenplay) The Taboo depicted a peasant girl confronting the absurdity of conservative Egyptian high-society.

He was honoured with Egypt's highest civil award whilst on his death-bed, and leaves behind 9 plays, 11 novels, 11 short story anthologies and 15 non-fiction books.

Terence Kilmartin, the distinguished translator, and literary editor of the Observer (1952-1986), died in London aged 69. Born in Ireland in 1922 he did not attend university (the war intervened) but became fluent in French as the result of a private tutoring post. He was already working for the Observer when David Astor appointed him to the literary editorship. His 34 years in this position were marked by almost legendary intelligence, thoroughness and modesty. He commissioned pieces from many 'unknowns', including Philip French, Anthony Burgess, Martin Amis and Julian Barnes. Their tributes evince much respect and affection. When approached by Chatto and Windus to oversee a 'spring clean' of Scott Moncrieff's version of A la recherche du temps perdu, Kilmartin felt that he had to extend his remit. Despite many reservations he was proved right. His overhaul left many wishing that he had attempted an original translation of his own.

I am a 19th-century writer', declared Isaac Bashevis Singer, who died in July, shortly after his 87th birthday. Bored by 20th-century authors whom he considered incapable of telling a story, he thought their various prescriptions for humanity ineffectual.

'At best art can be nothing more than a means of forgetting the human disaster for a while,' he said. In accordance with this philosophy and an admiration for Dickens, Singer wrote tirelessly for newspaper serialization and gave a number of stirring public readings. The 'impassioned narrative art' praised by the 1978 Nobel Committee is at its most exhuberant in blockbusting sagas like The Family Moskat (1950) and The Slave (1960). Singer emigrated to New York in 1935 to join his brother, the writer Israel Joshua, whom he regarded as a spritual father. Israel Joshua's son, Joseph, translated Singer's later work, including the biographical Love and Exile (1984). A posthumous novel of pre-war Warsaw will be published in the Autumn under the title Scum. Singer, whose work remains one of the few authentic memorials to the 20th-century catastrophy of Polish Jewry, learned to regard the holocaust fatalistically - history was a series of holocausts.

Although he refused to enter a synagogue, even on the Day of Atonement, Singer maintained a truculent relationship with God: 'I believe in the Almighty - but I protest.'

Among the recent momentous events in the Soviet Union the publishing debut of the hardline chairman of the Supreme Soviet, Anatoly Lukyanov, may well have been overlooked. Lukyanov, whose long-standing friendship with Mikhail Gorbachev deteriorated following accusations that he harboured secret presidential ambitions, issued a book of poems officially described as 'not at all weak'. Lukyanov has long courted the friendship of intellectuals. He is reported to have assisted in the conversion of Boris Pasternak's country house into a museum, forbidden until the advent of glasnost.

What have the 30 year task of publishing the 37 volume critical edition of Verdi's scores, the bestseller A River Runs Through (soon to be filmed by Robert Redford), the biology classic Animals Without Backbones, the almost a century old Chicago Manual of Style, and the irreverent How To Lie With Maps, got in common? The answer, of course, is the University of Chicago Press, which published them first, publishes them now, and will publish them in future. The biggest American university press is one hundred years old this year, and has something to celebrate. Not only is it profitable; it is entirely self-supporting (and has been for the last 35 years). Under the directorship of Morris Philipson, the press has maintained its catholic mix of the unusual and the essential, as well as assimilating. Some of Philipson's astute ideas. It now brings out 250 new books a year whilst retaining a backlist of 2800. One of Philipson's ideas is the publication of senminal works translated into English, another is the instigation of a trade paperback scheme, which lowers prices and increases readership. Malraux is the latest author to benefit from both of these schemes.

Philipson is proud to be a living illustration of 'the fact that the character of a press is determined by the publisher making selections on the basis of his conceptions of art and serious thought'. It shows that publishers do not 'make' books 'the way Campbells' makes soup'. Despite the buoyancy with which the press enters its second century (university motto: That which enriches knowledge enriches life), Philipson does have one note of caution: because of the increasing 'semi-literacy' of the United States, 'the market for the general interest book will evaporate'. He will no doubt continue to ensure at least that the books get published.

The British Centre for Literary Translation, based since its formation in 1989 at the University of East Anglia, aims to expand its operations. It offers bursaries and residential accommodation for literary translators both 'into and out of English', arranges conferences and seminars, provides a resource centre for interested parties, collects all manner of related data and ambitiously aims to house an extensive Library of Translation. Information from: Mrs. B. Ranwell, School of Modern Languages and European History, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ.

Index on Censorship will shortly announce details of its latest poetry competition. The judges will again be Ted Hughes, Ruth Fainlight and Alan Ross. The magazine itself is now into its twentieth year and 'the task of opposing censorship, printing banned work and campaigning for the release of writers, editors and publishers throughout the world continues'. For more information about the competition, back issues, recent publications and campaigns: Index on Censorship, 39c Highbury Place, London, E2 6PR.

Charles Tomlinson has been awarded the Cittadella Internazionale prize for his Italian selected poems, Nella Pienezza del Tempo. Awarded every two years the presentation took place in October in the town of Cittadella itself.

Alfred Cohen's Recent Works were exhibited at the Rye Art Gallery, Easton Rooms (31 August-24 September). The exhibition included a striking series of portraits of the writers who spent time in or around Rye at the turn of the century - James, Conrad, Ford, and Wells. Alfred Cohen scrutinized their photographs, and paid them intelligent homage, reimagining them in subtle yet incisive charcoal studies. Eric Homberger said, 'the drawings are superb … they are bold, strong images … each embodies a powerful act of interpretation'. They are a new venture for Cohen, better known for his glowing oil paintings of commedia del 'arte figures, flower pieces, and coastal compositions. Also represented at Rye were paintings of the Norfolk coast, sparkling miniatures of shop-fronts (at once celebrating and gently mocking the threatened national institution of the small shopkeeper), and also - another new subject - vibrant landscapes of Cyprus. This exhibition revealed a masterly painter, constantly experimenting with new techniques; one whose imaginative vision is as full of energy as ever.

More news about magazines: The Reid Review has arrived, its first issue a satisfying mix of poetry, plays, short stories and news of plans to serialize novels. Its intention is to 'publish the very best work from new and established writers from all over the UK.' Contributors and subscribers: 8 Mendip Court, Avonley Village, Avonley Road, London, SE14 5EU.

Staple, a magazine of New Writing, has evolved from respectable beginnings into a perfect-bound, handsomely designed, regularly issued (thrice yearly) publication which can actually now pay contributors. Dedicated to stories, interviews and poetry - no reviews - it promotes an Open Poetry Competition and a First Editions publication scheme. Details from; Staple, Derbyshire C.H.E., Mickleover, Derby, DE3 5GX.

For those who still haven't subscribed, The Rialto continues on its serene, impressive way. Well illustrated, devoted solely to poetry, and with a satisfying breadth of contributor. Only £2.50 per issue. Contact: The Rialto, 32 Grosvenor Road, Norwich, Norfolk, NR2 2PZ.

This item is taken from PN Review 82, Volume 18 Number 2, November - December 1991.



Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to editor@pnreview.co.uk
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