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This review is taken from PN Review 80, Volume 17 Number 6, July - August 1991.

VERSIONS AND PERVERSIONS Federico Garcia Lorca, Poet in New York translated by Greg Simon and Stephen F. White, edited by Christopher Maurer (Penguin) £6.99
Eugenio Montale, The Coastguard's House, English versions by Jeremy Reed (Bloodaxe) £7.95

It was once the fashion to speak of Poet in New York as the crown of Lorca's achievement, albeit principally among those approaching him in translation. As a collection it certainly makes an immediate impact, although the forces generated are such as to leave one very nearly disqualified from attempting an objective assessment. José Bergamin, who first edited the volume in Mexico in 1940, described it as 'un libro fronterizo', a book at the edge, or at the furthest possible remove from the comforts of familiar pieties: 'the words', says Bergamin, 'do not possess the same clear and exact value they have in his best poems'. This is undoubtedly the case, though the idea that Lorca had 'become a child once more' prompts the thought that the poet himself would have been reluctant to draw a line between childhood and maturity. Christopher Maurer's 'Notes on the Poems', which are more scholarly than is customary in Penguin's International Poets series, pay a proper homage to Bergamin and the editorial difficulties he confronted in publishing Poet in New York after Lorca's death; Maurer rejects the two-part structure proposed by subsequent experts in the field, whilst pointing out that the first edition contains every kind of error that could be expected from the circumstances in which it was produced. In addition he supplies a twenty-page introduction that judiciously separates fact from fiction in the way that Lorca, half in love with his own legend, would surely have regarded as the best kind ...


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