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This review is taken from PN Review 81, Volume 18 Number 1, September - October 1991.

BIG AND LITTLE Luis Poirot, Pablo Neruda: Absence and Presence, with translations by Alastair Reid (W.W. Norton) £25
Edith Södergran, Poems, translated by Gounil Brown with drawings by Joy Griffiths (Zena Publications, Croesor, Gwynedd) £6.95 pb

In the preface to his Memoirs, written in the knowledge that opportunities for addressing the future were diminishing, Pablo Neruda re-emphasized his belief in the poet's entitlement to a multiplicity of lives, and insisted on the protean character of the poetic impulse. He had made it his business, as the South American equivalent of Whitman, to be 'large, and contain multitudes', so much so that in old age he seemed to have been brushed with the magic dust of myth and legend, and scarcely fashioned out of flesh and blood at all, however much his poems gravitated earthwards. There were inevitably compromises to be made at every turning-point in a long and distinguished career lived out latterly in the full glare of publicity, but Neruda had maintained the kind of integrity vital to any serious adoption of so populist a stance. With Neruda's demise occurring so close to the fall of Allende the last link in a common destiny was forged beyond the limits of mundane fact. Yet Neruda had always demonstrated, through the successive reconstructions of his identity, that it was the details of his own personal life which provided him with the raw materials for poetry; he had never scrupled to conceal what others would have considered properly private, or inadmissibly idiosyncratic.

Luis Poirot's homage to his dead friend is by way of snippets of text placed alongside photographs, with the images very much more dominant than the words, as the un-Neruda-like price tag of ...


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