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This item is taken from PN Review 77, Volume 17 Number 3, January - February 1991.

News & Notes
Irina Odoyevtseva, poet, novelist and close associate of Nikolai Gumilev and Georgii Ivanov, died in Leningrad in October at the age of 90, after a second career as living literary monument. It was in St Petersburg that she first came to prominence as a leading member of Gumilev's 'Tsekh Poetov', an apprenticeship which she shared with both Akhamatova and Mandelstam. After a successful first collection, The Court of Miracles, Odoyevtseva was forced into exile, stunned by Gumilev's execution for anti-Bolshevik conspiracy in 1921. In Berlin and then with the Russian community in Paris, Odoyevtseva continued to produce poetry and later a series of novels whose delicacy of touch inspired comparisons with Nabokov. Surviving most of her contemporaries she became lonely and depressed until in 1987 she was rediscovered by admirers of Gumilev and Nabokov who returned her, in a wheelchair, to her home city. There followed a spell of enthusiastic national acclaim. Odoyevtseva lived to see much of her work republished.

Michel Leiris, who died in September at the age of 89, begin his life-long work of autobiographical confession in the 1930s with a book translated into English as Manhood, a delineation of its goal. The desire to be satisfied with himself as a man informs Leiris's intense four volume sequence La règle du jeu ('The Rule of the Game'). A self-conscious member of the Paris bourgeoisie, Leiris continually reproached himself for his inability to act upon left-wing political opinions; sympathy for Castro and later Mao. Had he produced no autobiographical work, a panacea for a less exacting self-esteem would have been Leiris's considerable expertise as an Africanist. His distinguished L'Afrique fantôme was published in 1934.

Patrick White died in Sydney in September. Born in London in 1912, White's unofficial status as the national conscience of white Australia was as credible as any parallel claim since the war. One of his earliest novels, Voss, provides a virulent attack on the idea of Australia as the country of the future, insisting that the future must begin now. Increasingly disillusioned, White sought out personal integrity among a marginalized cast of artists, eccentrics and misfits who populate novels such as Riders in the Chariot, The Vivisector and A Fringe of Leaves, upon which his reputation rests. White himself proved unable to withdraw, both in his later fiction - The Twyborn Affair is a savage assault on western consumerism - and in public; his indignant support for the Builder's Labourers' Union on the steps of Sydney Town Hall in 1972 initiated a second career as public speaker. This loss of privacy was completed the following year with the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature. With endearing irony White used his winnings to endow a Patrick White Prize for neglected authors which, along with his work, survives him.

Dan Davin, publisher and novelist, died in September. Born in Invercargill on the South Island of New Zealand in 1913, not the most propitious setting for the opening of a literary career, he experienced 'the most important of all my rites of passage' at Otago University. It was at Oxford, however, that he began to nurture an impressive range of literary ambitions, as poet, historian and novelist. His historical efforts were short-lived, poetry was a life-long preoccupation, but it is the fiction of the forties which drew most critical attention; books like Cliffs of Fall and For the Rest of Our Lives were marked by his conviction that life is 'a fighting withdrawal'. After serving in Crete and North Africa during the second world war he returned to Oxford, recruited by fellow New Zealander Kenneth Sissam at the University Press. It was here, latterly as Academic Publisher, that Davin gained his formidable reputation as editor and made a major and enduring contribution to English literary scholarship.

Nikos Karouzos, one of Greece's outstanding contemporary poets, died in Athens in September at the age of 64. The author of 14 books of verse and recipient of numerous national poetry prizes, Karouzos's final years were, nevertheless, impecunious. His protean variety and energy recommend him to translators; unfortunately his verbal dexterity and preoccupation with the possibilities of metaphor do not. International recognition is also likely to be retarded by his reluctance to pronounce on his own and others' poetry. This has not deterred others from pronouncing on him - George Kakoulidis has praised Karouzos for exciting a whole generation of writers.

Cloud have issued a fine selection of George Oppen's poems (£6.95), chosen and introduced by Charles Tomlinson. This is the third title in the cloudforms series which is designed to address 'our sense of spiritual disorientation'. Whatever the missionary impulses of the publishers, the volumes that have appeared so far - work by Roger Thorp, Clere parsons and T.W. Sutherland - have been extremely distinguished. These books and the Oppen are available from Cloud, 48 Biddlestone Road, Heaton, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE6 5SL, and are highly recommended.

Published now for the first time in book form (it was first printed in P·N·R 26) Poems 1940-1982 by Seán Rafferty reads as a sequence of seemingly heterogeneous poems. It is quite outstanding. Rafferty shows an impressive control over all of his forms - from the sinewy impressionistic free verse to the firmly handled but jaunty lyrics and couplets. The former especially creates some wonderful effects and dynamic movement. The book is obtainable for £4.50 from Burrow Cottage, Iddesleigh, Winkleigh, Devon.

Congratulations are due to Brenda Walker, editor of the rapidly expanding international literary publishing house Forest Books, on a recent crop of awards: The New Venture Award (for Women in Publishing), a share of the Howard Sergeant Memorial Award (for services to poetry), and recognition from the Romanian Writers' Union for the promotion and translation of Romanian literature over the last eight years.

The Paris Book Festival will take place between 17-19 February. Features include: a first International University Presses convention, a Writers' Festival, and around '30 European Book Awards', an authors' smorgasbord. The main talking-point at this stage is the attendance, for the first time, of the new, independent Soviet Publishers' Association (who account for 75% of the books published in the USSR), with representation too of publishing interests in Eastern Europe - Czech, Bulgarian, Yugoslav, Romanian, Hungarian and 'East' German. Information is available from Salon International du Livre, 34 avenue des Champs Elysées, Paris 8.
Two new regional arts initiatives have been announced. Southern Arts are introducing Write Reaction, a scheme to encourage new writers. For a mere £5 a time 'budding authors, poets and playwrights' can submit their work and have it examined by a 'specially selected professional writer'. Comments, criticism and advice will be given as part of the service. The 'specially selected professional writers' are not specified.

East Midland Arts have produced a series of six videos under the title of Writers in the Region. Each video details a specific genre and one or two practitioners. Contributors include Tom Paulin, Sue Townsend, Jack Trevor Story and Stanley Middleton. For further details write to Jane Spiers, Southern Arts, 19 Southgate Street, Winchester SO23 9DQ; Literature Officer, East Midlands Arts, Mountfield House, Forest Road, Loughborough, LE11 3HU.

Iron Press, of Tyne and Wear, are this year's hosts to the 1991 Poets and Small Press Convention (May 10-12), and are taking over the newly renovated Newcastle Arts Centre for the occasion. The usual stands and displays are accompanied by a variety of entertainments and events. 'The Longest Poetry Reading in The History of The World', from 10am on the Saturday to 3pm on the Sunday, promises to be particularly - well, long. Details are available from Iron Press, 5 Marden Terrace, Cullercoats, North Shields, Tyne & Wear, NE30 4PD.

Tordenskjold is the Danish literary newsletter (in English), now in its third issue. Items include a lead article on the new Danish Literary Information Centre, created to provide 'a more extroverted and better coordinated policy for selling Danish literature to the world outside', an invaluable list of all the Danish books currently published in the major European languages, and a piece on Henrik Nordbrandt, the respected Danish poet, recently awarded the Swedish Academy Prize for Scandinavian writers (popularly known as the 'Little Nobel'). Further details are available from The Danish Writers' Association, Tordenskjolds Gard, Strandgade 6 St., DK-1041, Copenhagen, Denmark.

Ronald Searle, whose biography by Russell Davies has just appeared, is one of the most literate of artists: his critical writings themselves may one day rate a book. For a recent piece in the New York Times he wrote: 'It is an interesting fact that three of the greatest graphic ethnologists of the 20th century - exercising their investigations with outstanding wit and draughtsmanship - are women.' An interesting fact is that the words were cut by the NYT, but P·N·Rprints them here so that Posy Simmonds (UK), Claire Bretécher (France) and Nicole Hollander (USA) shall know how Ronald Searle regards them.


This item is taken from PN Review 77, Volume 17 Number 3, January - February 1991.

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