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

CATALAN AUSTERITIES Salvador Espriu: Selected Poems, translated by Magda Bogin Norton (£11.95)

There has never been an international brigade combative enough to pay a homage to Catalonia that would make its poets part of the mainstream. Of the three pages on Catalan literature in Martin Seymour-Smith's Guide to Modern World Literature, only a few paragraphs are given over to poetry; and only six entries cover eight centuries in the European volume of Penguin's Companions to Literature. The Princeton Encyclopaedia of Poetry and Poetics, which groups individuals under general subject headings, benefits from an expert assessment by Luis Monguió; proportionately more information and personal detail is offered by the three-volume Cassell Encyclopaedia of World Literature. But not since J.L. Gili's co-ordinated efforts of the early 1960s - a large anthology, and excellent selections from Josep Carner and Carles Riba, all three books published under the imprint of the Dolphin Book Co. of Oxford - have there been translations of essential material, in marked contrast to the growing prominence of the province's capital Barcelona's claims as a cultural centre in the interim. It is against this sketchy background that the efforts of all concerned in providing a Selected Poems of Salvador Espriu have to be registered and evaluated, with the long shadow of the Spanish Civil War - after which Catalan was suppressed - to darken the picture and set the perspective.

The notion that Espriu was and is 'one of the great European lyric poets of the twentieth century' (powerfully expressed here by his friend Francesc Vallverdú) serves principally to ...


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