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This review is taken from PN Review 74, Volume 16 Number 6, July - August 1990.

TRANSLOCATIONS IN BLACK
Black Letters Unleashed edited by Malcolm Green, Anthology no. 6 (Atlas) £6.99
Paul Celan: Selected Poems translated by Michael Hamburger (Penguin) £7.99
Paul Celan : Biographie de jeunesse by Israel Chalfen, translated by Jean-Baptiste Scherrer (Plon) 95F

Anyone casually scanning a bookseller's catalogue might be forgiven for supposing Black Letters Unleashed an anthology of Afro-Caribbean writing. Even with the actual volume to hand this mistaken impression could be triggered by what looks like a Voodoo idol on the cover. On discovering that Black Letters is nothing of the kind, and on feeling cheated, it seems safe to assume one would be immediately disqualifying oneself from membership of the audience which the publishers have in mind. Black Letters, its real concerns revealed by the subtitle '300 Years of "Enthused" Writing in German', sets out to be provocative, and advertizes the fact by describing its contents in small white letters set at right angles to the main title, printed in red. The proprietors of the Atlas imprint hold the Surrealist spirit in high esteem, and one is obviously being invited to see these design features as a kind of homage to André Breton's Anthologie de l'humour noir (1940), the analogy reinforced by a cover image of a figure who seems to have literally died laughing. Yet the subtitle, the colour scheme and the witty reference to a distinctive but long defunct German typeface - here imitated by the daring expedient of using 'Bold' as a base throughout - point decisively away from any ...


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