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This report is taken from PN Review 79, Volume 17 Number 5, May - June 1991.

From the Customs House John Peck
The author of The Poems and Translations of Hï-Lö (Carcanet, 1991) disappeared into China from Europe to practice medicine among reformers in hiding after Tien An Men. Word of my edition of his work, however, like a folktale ball of iron, rolled its way to his threshold. I was able to inform him that three of his translations, of poems by Bertolt Brecht, Martin Heidegger, and Robert Walser, had been blocked by the estates of those writers. The Heidegger estate simply refused to receive requests, having lowered the portcullis against a hostile environment. The Walser estate, while it was quite willing to read from Walser's prose over the telephone, maintained that his verse was untranslatable. And the Brecht estate, from the evidence in hand, seems not to have dealt with the request, but delegated it to the same authority which declared of Hï-Lö's Walser, 'one cannot say that fields of snow "go on and go on", because that phrase refers to extension in time, not in space'. I have also learned that a prominent American Professor of religion who wished to quote two lines from The Good Woman of Sezuan in one of his recent books was prevented from doing so by the Brecht estate.

The International Copyright Convention, and the copyright laws of the several European countries, permit a hundred beds of minor blossom to flourish in the parched accounts of publishing houses. They also defend against more than a hundred monstrosities. Neither of these virtues is in ...


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