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This item is taken from PN Review 64, Volume 15 Number 2, November - December 1988.

News & Notes
Czechoslovakia, twenty years after the 'Prague Spring' and the consequent Soviet invasion, seems to be benefitting little from the glasnost discernible in some areas of Eastern Europe. Recently twenty five Czechoslovak authors living in the West issued a statement to mark the Soviet invasion and to insist on the need for the removal of censorship and for the recognition of cultural pluralism. It was in September 1968 that George Theiner returned to England after working as a translator and editor in Czechoslovakia. His work as writer, translator, editor of Index on Censorship and broadcaster gained an international respect. His death this summer is a loss to the cultural understanding that underpins any political rapprochement between East and West.

Obituaries on the death of Francis Ponge attested to the scale of his reputation in his own country. His lasting appeal is attributable to his unique adoption by successive generations of French writers and intellectuals, from the Surrealists through to figures as diverse as Sartre, Sollers and latterly Derrida (in his recent book Signéponge). He himself, however, apart from an almost de rigueur membership of the Communist Party in the 30s and 40s, largely eschewed adherence to specific movements in the pursuit of his own, singularly coherent poetic project. Unlike the Symbolists' obsession with hermetic poetry, Ponge emphasised the creative process, as a forging of the fundamental relations of language and the objects of reality; his own term réson combined poetic resonance with reason. As such, his aim to construct a 'demeure solide, à plusieurs dimensions, plus durable qu'eux-mêmes' might stand as, but is actually much more than his appeal to posterity. (For a discussion of Ponge's work by John Pilling see PNR no.38).

As PNR 63 noted, the magazine Numbers celebrates Pessoa's centenary in its current issue. John Pilling provides this extended note.

More than half of the issue is given over to poems and prose of Pessoa in impressive new translations by Peter Robinson, Peter Rickard and Clive Wilmer. The 'heteronyms' Caeiro, Reis and de Campos are less dominant here than in the many Selected Poems that have multiplied since the 'rediscovery' of Pessoa, quite rightly given the nature of the celebration. Pessoa in his own person (if etymology can be allowed a temporary triumph over multiplicity) naturally enough emerges from the shadows more decisively than ever before, with generous selections of translated poems, his English sonnets and Inscriptions (also written in English), an intriguing and resourceful version of a little-known sonnet by Camoes and - of particular value - selections from the ambitious unfinished essay Erostratus and from the two volumes of Philosophical Texts. Most of these writings remain as little known in this country as Pessoa remained 'unknown to himself' (in the title of Octavio Paz's essay, also included here). Exceptional interest, however, attaches to the aphorisms and discursive selections from the Book of Disquiet of 'Bernardo Soares', as riveting an alter ego as any of his more familiar surrogate figures. (Numbers costs £4.50 from 6 Kingston Street, Cambridge.)

Travellers to the USA by Iberian Airlines have received three paperbacks as part of their travel package. The book-jackets are cloud-views in tasteful colours but the contents are more challenging: English translations of Francisco Ayala's Los Usupadores (Usurpers), Ramon J. Sender's Requiem por un Campesino Español (Requiem for a Spanish Peasant), and Juan Benet's Nunca Llegaras a Nada (You'll Never Get Anywhere). Passengers glanced nervously at the last two titles. Is this the only airline to promote its national literature? Does the publication date of 1986 indicate a continuing commitment, or Iberian overstocks?

Word leaks from Atlas Press's annual meeting in Paris. As well as anthologies of French Romantic Horror and German Fantastic Writing, 1600 to the Present, there is to be a collection of work from the Collège de Pataphysique, shorter pieces by Raymond Roussel translated by Harry Mathews, and Immaculate Conception by Breton and Eluard.

Reported in the July issue of The List (Edinburgh/Glasgow): an end and a beginning in publishing. Polygon Press, grant-aided by the Edinburgh University Students' Association and responsible to an editorial board of University students, is to merge with Edinburgh University Press. Polygon has had a remarkable and eclectic list, ranging from the novels of James Kelman to translations of Blok and Mayakovsky. EUP's new Secretary, Martin Spencer - recently Editorial Director of Manchester University Press - wanted a more popular imprint to run alongside the academic list, whose fortunes he is energetically reviving. He has plans for titles on contemporary Scottish issues, and will continue to publish the unpredictable and stimulating quarterly, Edinburgh Review. This is one merger that promises well.

'La mer, la mer, toujours recommencée...' Further details are emerging of the colloquium (mentioned in PNR 62) on Valéry's multidisciplinary works. Based in the appropriately marine setting of St Andrews, the contributors invited include Pierre Boulez, the epistemologist Michel Serres, and the pioneer of 'catastrophe theory', mathematician René Thom. There will be papers by Malcolm Bowie on a Lacanian perspective, on religious and poetic mysticism by Christine Crow, and the colloquium is described as addressing 'Music, Mathematics and Mysticism'. The Secretary of the British Association for Valéry Studies is Brian Stimpson (01-876 2242).

PNR readers tracking the momentum of "magic realism" will be interested to know that the Tees-side jobbing printer whose letters provided regional detail for Juan Jesus Rodriguez's novel (PNR 63) had himself been sending stories to the local evening newspaper, under the name J.J. Robinson (Rodriguez's nom de plume for his single naturalistic novel about the Depression in the shipbuilding industry). The current editor of the newspaper has discovered these stories in the archive since reading PNR 63. The question whether they may be Rodriguez's own pieces is the subject of lexical and syntactic analysis in a forthcoming essay in Cockpit (Milwaukee).

It appears from a recent Society of Authors conference that most writers now use computers. The Summer 1988 issue of The Author advertises software that sounds ideal for post-structuralists: it 'randomizes texts in a highly structured way' and 'responds to ideas in a remarkably stimulating way'. There is 'a short story PLOT GENERATOR, each plot randomly produced and different from all others'. Relative autonomy is permitted, if in parenthesis: '(You can add your own ideas, of course)'. And remember that old debate about whether a computer could write a poem? The future is here: this program can produce 'reams of Shakespearian blank verse' and have a 'creditable shot at poetry...'

The current issue of Agenda (26.2) is by way of a festschrift for Peter Dale. Heidegger, Wittgenstein, Simone Weil, Brodsky and Heaney are invoked in a breathless paragraph to start, but the collection continues with a poem-sequence by Peter Dale then appreciations in several forms, including essays by Donald Davie and John Bayley. Agenda is available from 5 Cranbourne Court, Albert Bridge Road, London SW11 4PE.

Underground poetry means one thing in Poland, another in London. Tube-travellers will have their eclecticism enhanced by the current crop: the reproduction of the 13th century Manuscript from Reading Abbey, with the Latin hymn to the same tune, of 'Sumer is Icumen In', then Wilde, Auden, R.S. Thomas, and Carole Satyamurti. Naturally poetry is also displayed at the London Transport Museum. Finding a shop-window for poetry is no mere metaphor in New Zealand where Bill Manhire's poem 'Passengers' will appropriately "rush, float, flash, jump and travel in different directions" across the electronic sign in a bookshop window in Wellington. Whether sanguine or sad. Manhire observes: "This could be the end of poetry as we know it".

Index on Censorship scarcely needs describing or recommending to PNR readers. A poetry competition to raise money for Index has as its first prize a book token for £1000 donated by the London publisher and bookshop Skoob Books. Other prizes include subscriptions to magazines, such as PNR. The judges are Stephen Spender, Anne Stevenson, Jon Silkin and Lucien Jenkins. The closing date for entry is May 1st 1989, and details are obtainable from Skoob Books, 15 Sicilian Avenue, Southampton Row, London WC1A 2QH.

The centenary of T.S. Eliot's birth has been widely noticed. Less attention has been paid to the centenary of the birth of the Finnish novelist Frans Emil Sillanpaa who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1939. His importance is disputed, as is the award: perhaps it was a Swedish intervention in the Moscow negotiations prior to the Soviet invasion of Finland (the other principal contenders seemed to be the historian Johan Huizinga and Hermann Hesse). The current issue of Books from Finland (Helsinki University Library) offers thoughts on these matters as well as Herbert Lomas's translations from the work of the eighty year old poet and novelist Helvi Hamalainen.

Two archival matters merit attention. The newsletter of the National Inventory of Documentary Sources reports that CARAN - the Centre d'Accueil et de Recherche des Archives Nationales - now provides all the research facilities of the national archive in one building, at 11 rue des 4 Fils, 75003 Paris; and CARAN's inventories are being microfilmed and published by Chadwyck-Healey France. In London the archives of the Poetry Book Society, which go back some thirty years to the Society's inception by T.S. Eliot, have now been bought by the British Library and will shortly be available to scholars.

The University of Missouri Press has published a collection of essays Charles Tomlinson: Man & Artist, with a foreword by Donald Davie. Several of the essays previously appeared in PNR. There is also an interview and a comprehensive bibliography of works by and about Charles Tomlinson compiled by the editor of the volume, Kathleen O'Gorman.

Gabrovo, Bulgaria, is where the Golden Aesop statuette and 1500 levs will be awarded to the winner of the Grand Prix at the International Biennial of Humour and Satire. The Gabrovo centre houses a "data bank on the world processes of humour". Moreover it is expected that soon the data bank "will merge, as a substructure, into the international information exchange system in the field of culture". The Biennial is sponsored by the Ministry of Culture, Science and Education, the Bulgarian Artistic Union, and the National Commission for UNESCO; the centre was established in 1972 on April 1st.

This item is taken from PN Review 64, Volume 15 Number 2, November - December 1988.

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