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This item is taken from PN Review 129, Volume 26 Number 1, September - October 1999.

News & Notes
From Robyn Marsack, our Scottish correspondent, comes news of recent poetical developments in Scotland. 'As the Members of the Scottish Parliament agreed by a narrow margin to go ahead with the new building by a Catalan designer, just up the road from Holyrood a new building was triumphantly opened on 18 June: the Scottish Poetry Library. And a lovely thing it is, designed by Malcolm Fraser to sit neatly between old buildings on the Canongate, letting in as much light as possible and - if you crane your neck - a view of the Salisbury Crags behind. Pat Kane, in The Independent, has nicely described it as a "baronial haiku": solid stone stairs and untreated oak beams within a steel rectangle that contains over 18,000 books of Scottish and international poetry. Tessa Ransford, the Director, has been tenacious in pursuing this vision, finally realised with the help of the Scottish Art Council's National Lottery Fund and a considerable donation from the Michael Marks Charitable Trust. Alaistair Darling (a Lewis man on his mother's side), the constituency MP, opened the building; poems and speeches alternated, and the presiding spirit of the occasion seemed to be that of Iain Crichton Smith, the Lewis man who knew about stone and loved the light.'

One of America's largest and oldest academic presses, the University of Chicago Press, is about to say goodbye to its Director, Morris Philipson who has been with the company for 32 years. Philipson's publishing style (it was the only job he ever wanted to do) has made him almost indispensable at an organisation said to be the envy of the scholarly publishing world. He has overseen the Press's expansion from an annual turnover of £4 million to one of over £40 million. In addition to increasing the physical size of the Press, Philipson has done much to raise its prestige worldwide, resulting in his being the first academic publisher to win the PEN American Center's Publisher Citation, which stated that he had 'raised the University of Chicago Press to its place as the best university press in the country'. A national search committee convenes this month to select Philipson's successor. Their task is not an easy one.

MAN HA GARREAU DOMBASLE - known as Germaine Massenet when she was a young woman - died at Deauville on 3 August 1999, at the great age of one hundred and one. Her literary activity spanned much of the twentieth century. Born at Calais on 11 June 1898, she founded a literary review, Muse, in 1916, which published, among others, Henri de Régnier, Leconte de Lisle and Francis Jammes. Meeting Rabindranath Tagore after the First World War, she translated some of his works, and in 1927 she published Les Amours de Radha et de Krichna, a translation from the fifteenthcentury Bengali poet Chandidas. In 1936 she produced her first novel, Sati, which Benjamin Peret praised and described as 'surrealist'. Her husband, Maurice Garreau-Dombasle, allied himself in 1940 with de Gaulle, who appointed him representative of the Free French first in the USA and then in Mexico; Man'ha herself welcomed exiled French writers to New York, forming friendships with André Breton, Saint-John Perse and Jules Romains, and, when she and her husband moved to Mexico, she befriended Octavio Paz. It was also while she was in Mexico that she published another novel, Masque. A copious letter-writer, her correspondents in the 1950s included the American science fiction writer Ray Bradbury, whose Fahrenheit 451 she adapted for the stage. In 1984 she published a series of stories, Mahéve, and a collection of poems, Images, came out in 1987.
[Le Monde, 6 August 1999]

A recent article by Régis Guyotat and Natacha Vallet in Le Monde (6 August 1999) describes a circuit of writer's houses in Ile-de-France and Normandy which has become a tourist attraction since the end of the 1980s - though it seems that the spirit of the author is difficult to apprehend at some of the sites. The route includes the château at Vascoueil in the Eure, where Michelet wrote some of his work; the retreat of Mallarmé at Vulaines-sur-Seine, where he would escape from the fans who visited him on his open Tuesdays in Paris; and - the surprise of the circuit - the mill at Saint-Arnoult-en-Yvelines owned by Louis Aragon and Elsa Triolet, which they bought in 1951 and progressively enlarged, ending up with almost five hectares of land - an accumulation of bourgeois property which, unsurprisingly, did not please all their Communist Party comrades. But apparently the mill bears no trace of the furores of Communism or Surrealism - there is only the basketwork of Elsa and 28000 books, as if to reinforce the image of Aragon as the lone artist, a twentieth-century Victor Hugo. The mill, left by Aragon to the nation at his death in 1982, and open to the public since 1995 under the joint administration of the state and the French Communist Party, will eventually house all Aragon's manuscripts and it will be developed, as Aragon wished, into a centre for creative work and research as well as a place of pilgrimage for literary tourists. As Guyotat and Vallet point out, some of the more footloose and sexually deviant writers are excluded from the circuit: Gide, whose wife's Villa Montmorency is inaccessible to the public, but whose own apartment in the Rue Vaneau, with its piano and library, has been preserved; Genet, who lived for much of his later life in cheap hotels like the Rubens near the Gare de Lyon, seeking low company in seedy cafés and bars; and de Sade, whose residence - a cell in the Bastille - was not one of the most desirable and has long since disappeared. But the article implies that perhaps these are the fortunate ones: how would those writers who are included in the circuit, who now inadvertently help to comprise 'literature' as a commodity for tourists, have felt about being put into guidebooks as bodies are put into coffins and about having to endure processions of coaches which disgorge crowds in shorts and polka-dot dresses? 'La littérature n'est-elle pas le contraire de sentiers obligés?'

From Selwyn Pritchard, an appreciation of STANLEY MIDDLETON: 'On August the first he was not beginning his fortieth novel, not because it was his birthday, nor because it was a Sunday when normally he would be playing the organ in chapel, but because he was at Bromley House in the centre of Nottingham for the launch of a Festschrift Stanley Middleton at Eighty and the re-issue of Holiday, the novel which shared the 1974 Booker Prize with that of Nadine Gordimer. Stanley Middleton is nothing if not steady. The school he went to at eleven as a scholarship boy, he left as Head of English at sixty-three. To spend a long life in one institution and one area is extraordinary in our times, but among novelists it gives him a unique awareness of what has changed and what has not over the course of the century. He speaks from this base on behalf of the sensible and respectable women and men of the English Midlands and his work has a solid readership around the world. If I go into an Australian library today I am sure to find the last half-dozen of his books. This substantial body of well-read work is what counts as real literary achievement. Twenty-five years ago my wife and I were delighted to have Holiday dedicated to us. At Christmas, with a certain sense of panache, we crossed out "to" and wrote "from" and sent it to our friends. A similar feeling accompanies its re-issue by The Five Leaves Press because the publisher, seeing a painting of mine on Stan's study wall, asked if he could have it for the cover! Stanley Middleton is a man of undue modesty who excused himself from accepting a national honour, and he will no doubt clench his toes in his boots at all this attention, but he cannot avoid the admiration and love of those who know him and the gratitude of readers down the years.'

Gravesiana, the journal of the Robert Graves Society, has recently released its summer issue. Published only twice a year, this informative and totally dedicated 'fanzine' is as full and exciting as ever. With no Graves Conference until next year, this could be the only sustenance for avid followers. Available from Ian Firla, St John's College, Oxford for £15 a year (cheques made payable to Robert Graves Society). Submission in the form of poetry, reviews or articles, all on the theme of Robert Graves, are welcome.

National Poetry Day looms large once more, and Faber & Faber aim to promote both new and classic collections to celebrate this annual palaver. No doubt they will also be celebrating the PBS Choice being awarded to Tom Paulin for The Wind Dog. Those selected as Recommendations for Winter 1999 were; Kathleen Jamie for Jizzen (Picador), Penelope Shuttle for A Leaf out of his Book (OxfordPoets/Carcanet), C.K. Williams for Repair (Bloodaxe) and Hugo Williams for Billy's Rain (Faber). Special Commendations went to Sorley MacLean's From Wood to Ridge (Carcanet), Les Murray's Conscious and Verbal (Carcanet) and Peter Redgrove's Selected Poems (Cape).

Wanted: 1000 artists for 1000 places! The organisers of Year of the Artist (June 2000 - May 2001) are encouraging artists of all skills and talents to apply for funding to be a part of one of the biggest and most ambitious arts projects ever mounted in England. From a budget of at least £5m, the English Regional Arts Board will fund a minimum of 1000 artist-in-residence places throughout the UK and beyond.

This item is taken from PN Review 129, Volume 26 Number 1, September - October 1999.

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