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This review is taken from PN Review 73, Volume 16 Number 5, May - June 1990.

IN THE OBLIVION OF THE VISIBLE Ivan V. Lalić, The Passionate Measure translated by Francis R. Tones, Anvil £5.95pb

This is the fourth substantial selection of Lalić's poetry to appear in English, and the second published by Anvil; The Works of Love (1981) was reviewed in PNR 30. Of living Yugoslav poets Lalić seems likeliest in the long run to emulate Vasko Popa and receive the accolade of a Collected Poems, in the event of which his principal translator, Francis R.Jones, should obviously be called upon. Jones describes Lalić as 'the translator 's ideal poet' and emphasizes his excellent command of English; the implication, admirably confirmed by the out-come, is that here we have a voice (from beyond the 'Europe' that we characteristically choose to listen to) which has been conveyed with almost all the obstacles to comprehension reduced to a minimum.

The Passionate Measure offers a complete translation of the volume which won Lalić a prestigious Belgrade prize in 1984, and is therefore an optimum opportunity to assess his merits. The title, or echoes of one or other of its elements, occurs several times across poems of differing tonal characteristics, but of comparable quality. Lalić's competing impulses, governed by a desire to maintain 'song' and 'truth' as indistinguishable, guarantee tension, with each poem seeking a resolution of the problems adumbrated at the outset. The impression of a concordia discors is heightened by the presence, at times explicit but more often through covert allusion, of points of reference taken from a very wide sweep of European culture. Mottoes (especially epitaphs from statuary) from classical Latin and ...


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