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This review is taken from PN Review 69, Volume 16 Number 1, September - October 1989.

WAR AND THE FEMININE, VARIOUSLY DRAWN OUT Marko the Prince, translated by Anne Pennington and Peter Levi, with introduction and notes by Svetozar Koljevic. Duckworth) £19.50
The Battle of Kosovo, translated from the Serbian by John Matthias and Vladeta Vučkovik, with a preface by Charles Simic. (Aquila) £9.95 hb, £5.95 pb
Alan Jenkins, In the Hot-House (Chatto & Windus) £4.95
Tony Conran, Blodeuwedd (Poetry Wales Press) £3.95

Fermentation épique - one is glad to learn this eloquent French term from John Matthias's introduction to The Battle of Kosovo. That gradual accretion of episodes which perhaps finally at the hands of a single genius like Homer, gave rise to the Iliad, to Beowulf and to the Song of Roland, never ran its course in those areas of Eastern Europe that were once part of the Turkish Empire, and these accounts of the destruction of the Serbian nation have remained discrete and at times cheerfully contradictory. On one important matter, as well as some lesser ones, they are - perhaps against historical actuality - agreed; it was the Battle of Kosovo, in 1389, where Tsar Lazar and the flower of the Serbian nobility were killed and the Turkish sultan, Murad, also died, that was the downfall of the Serbs. But it is not my concern to rehearse the history of what Svetozar Koljevik, in his profoundly perceptive The Epic in the Making (Clarendon Press), one of the great works of literary scholarship of our time, calls "the richest oral epic material in any single European language, comprising a continuous tradition of more than three and a half centuries of epic singing"; nor to discuss the interest shown in these lays by Goethe, Herder, Scott, Coleridge, Pushkin, Mickiewicz and Grimm, as well as by such important 20th century composers and writers as Béla Bartók, Zoltán Kodály, Ivo Andrik, Ivan Lalik and Vasko Popa, beyond remarking that this interest testifies ...


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