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This item is taken from PN Review 58, Volume 14 Number 2, November - December 1987.

News & Notes
When Norman Nicholson died earlier this summer is was, although an international loss, a particularly English one, and a loss felt especially in Millom where he had spent almost all of his life. The small town in Cumberland, its community, history and landscape, he had made the framework for a language of metaphor and values throughout his writing and most vividly in his poetry. His poetic dramas and his critical writing owed much to T S Eliot. His poetry was informed by a continuity from Wordsworth and Cowper in which morality and imaginative vision are located in particular places and communities, people's relationships with the natural world and the world of their work. In his later poems he developed a tone that was anecdotal and colloquial, not casual but an idiom to catch moments in personal and public histories. He evoked an environment, revealing its forms, exploring its social and natural erosions, giving an account of the gains and losses within it. His poetry turned reminiscence and elegy to an appropriate celebration.

The Buchner Prize has been awarded this year to Erich Fried, the Austrian poet living in England. The award, worth 30,000 DM, specifically recognizes his own poetry and his translations of Shakespeare. Resident in London since 1938, a broadcaster for the BBC's German service for sixteen years, Socialist, poet, novelist and essayist, he is a prolific writer who must be accounted one of the outstanding German-language poets of his time. A telling advocacy of this view is in Michael Hamburger's recent collection of essays on post-war German literature, The Second Flood.

J M Coetzee is the first South African writer to be awarded the Jerusalem Prize for 'The Freedom of the Individual in Society'. Earlier recipients of the prize-there have been thirteen - include Ignazio Silone, Milan Kundera, Octavio Paz, Max Frisch, V S Naipaul, and Jorge Luis Borges. The jury characterized Coetzee as a novelist defending freedom and dignity. The poet Yehuda Amichai was a member of the awarding panel. A new novel by Coetzee, entitled Foe is to be published in January 1988.

The Arvon Foundation announces its international poetry competition. With a first prize of £5,000, five prizes of £500, and ten of £250, it is probably the largest poetry competition in the UK. The closing date is November 30th. Entry forms are available from Kilnhurst, Kilnhurst Road, Todmorden, Lancashire OL14 6AX.

The Public Lending Right is administered from Stockton-on-Tees where there's not a lot of conspicuous consumption. Last year PLR paid out £2,402,000 to 11,010 authors, almost half of which was in payments of less than £1,000. Perhaps reflecting on the earlier struggles for PLR the Registrar records his disappointment that some 'writers of good literary quality' have not yet registered, even though there is no longer a legal fee. Writers who are unsure whether public library loans of their books make registration worthwhile are invited to phone 0642 604699.

John Bayley, Joseph Brodsky, John Fuller, Edward Mendelson, Peter Porter and Edward Upward are among the founder members of the newly instituted W H Auden Society which will sponsor lectures and seminars internationally and will be closely involved with the series Auden Studies from the Oxford University Press. The series will include unpublished material by Auden and related writers and is also inviting scholarly articles and notes. Contributors, and indeed would-be members of the society, are invited to write to Katherine Bucknell at 70 Lexham Gardens, London W8 5JB.

Classic magazines are working through their histories, or are being worked through them. Partisan Review have felt obliged to recall, in the editorial to the current edition, how they reorganized in 1937 to put some distance between their starting point 'close to the Communist Party' and their insistence on being 'an independent journal of opinion , open to the best literary and political currents of the age'. The editorial statement fifty years ago affirmed that the magazine 'will not be dislodged from its position by any political campaign against it. . . conformity to a given social ideology or to a prescribed attitude or technique will not be asked of our writers.' The re-affirmation was deemed necessary after their 'postponement' last year of a symposium on an essay by Michael Ledeen which sharply criticized US foreign policy. Editorial disagreement had resulted in Daniel Bell's withdrawal from the board, the 'Irangate' scandal opened with Ledeen's name mentioned, and the whole project 'took on different meanings than it had before'. Since then the intention to 'start afresh at a later date. . . is precisely what polemical and one-sided press reports have made it difficult for us to do.' Since then the editor William Phillips has been in hospital but the next issue of the journal will publish an interview between him and Steven Marcus which, the editors hope, will clarify some assumptions.

Much engaged with history since its launch in 1945, indeed busy constructing its own and others' histories as a way of life, Les Temps Modernes is the subject of a new historical analysis by Howard Davies (published by Cambridge University Press). Davies recognizes, insists, that Les Temps Modernes presents acute problems for its historian, not just because it engages so many intellectual disciplines but also because it set out precisely to question the directions and methodologies of those disciplines - doing this, too, not as a calm hermeneutic but caught up in, pitching itself into, political storms. He doesn't propose a history of Sartre's work or a sociology of French intellectual life - though he reveals much about both of these - but rather to turn Sartre's own ways of thinking (a 'synthetic anthropology') on to the magazine. The effects, and difficulties, of this approach will be examined in a forthcoming PNR review.

One of the attractive consequences of the 'Poetry Live' business has been its prompting of publications for the occasion. Notably, Anvil Press and The Turret Book Shop have published a selection from Ivan V Lalic's The Passionate Measure. Francis R Jones' translations, a cover by Josef Herman, and the Arc & Throstle Press (Todmorden) have served Lalic particularly well.

A double-issue (Numbers 21 and 22) of Translation Review has emerged. PN Review and The Kenyon Review share the cover alongside Soviet Literature and the Chinese-English magazine Renditions. Besides its regular list, extensive and annotated, of recent translations into English, the magazine has several essays on the nuts and bolts of particular translation projects. Less of a translation than an assault - a 'per-version' - is Zukovsky's rendering of Catullus: 'O th'hate I move love. Quarry it fact I am, for that's so re queries. . .' The version's odi et amo relationship to the original, and to other versions, is the basis of an essay by Paul Mann which offers a combative guide to translation-theory-or, at least, to its rhetorics - and also interrogates the magazine's own position in this fraught field. The editorial too takes up an embattled tone on the bi-cultural needs and bi-partisan problems in the criticism of translation, heightened by the asymmetries in publishing: there are every year about 3,900 books published from English into German alone, while from all languages into English there are only 1,800. The editors point to cultural isolationism in the USA (the magazine is published by the University of Texas) but the problem isn't unknown in the UK.

The current issue of The Iowa Review (Volume 16, Number 3) is an H. D. Centennial issue, in a distinguished collaboration with the journals Agenda, Contemporary Literature, Poesis, and Sagetrieb. In addition to reprinting 'Fortune Teller', the missing chapter from her autobiographical fantasy The Gift, the issue includes pieces by family and friends, writers and publishers, critics and cataloguers. It is a generous compilation of scholarship and evocation, interpretation and invocation. Particularly remarkable is a construction by Diana Collecott in which she offers 'to tell it slant', re-reading H. D. in a double matrix of quotation and counter/complementary quotation.

PNR doesn't have a 'Books Received' column, but we have received from Anvil Press Slow Chrysanthemums, an anthology of Korean poems written in Chinese from the ninth century to the beginning of the twentieth. The translations are by Kim Jong-gil, with concise notes and introductory essay. The English versions accompany the Chinese texts (typeset in Seoul), and the book is appropriately dedicated to the memory of William Empson. Brocade River Poems (Princeton University Press) is Jeanne Larsen's version of the poems of Xue Tao, a government hostess, papermaker and Taoist churchwoman from the Tang Dynasty. This too is a bi-lingual edition, with extensive - if sometimes redundant - notes. Lyrics from the Chinese (Malvern Publishing) is a re-print of the translations by Helen Waddell which have been out of print for forty years.

Barthes, Eco, Iser, Josipovici, D W Harding are invoked in a new attempt to provide a pragmatics for their paradigms. Contexts is Heinemann's manual for teaching fiction in schools. Fiction finds its role in providing alternative worlds and cultures for the cognitive and affective development of young people. The reading process is the tentative moving over and back over the text, negotiating the unspoken, building provisional meanings as the narrative progresses. In the classroom the pupils learn how to do this better, gaining from each other's responses, and directed (presumably) by the skilled teacher. To these ends, the manual selects thirty novels considered appropriate for several age-groups (thus Of Mice and Men for the 14-year olds). For each novel there are a summary, pre-reading exercises, tasks for 'keeping track' of the action, the characters, the 'ideas' - different tracks, different tasks - and then post-reading activities. These tracking activities seem largely to involve transposing the 'content' of the novel into other genres, other media, other representations - for instance, posters, book-jackets, news-reports, charts & diagrams, film-scripts, diary entries, limericks, obituaries. No doubt there are useful suggestions here for the hard-pressed teacher, and there is both virtue and necessity in working with and round the book as well as through it; but this manual seems another instance - albeit better designed than some-of turning a novel into a variety of Theme Park where your ticket confers free rides and ingenious activities, each alluding to a mythic package (a Camelot) whose significance fades into an umbrella for the activities themselves.

An essay in El Urogallo begins 'Nowadays coming across a Spanish novel that does not contain Faulknerian echoes, nor aims to surpass South American magic realism, nor to emulate the historical reconstructions of Graves or Yourcenar. . . is a genuine novelty.' In Spain they have such problems. Nowadays coming across an English novel that doesn't emulate Waugh, Amis, Drabble. . .In the same issue a hard-pressed judge for the Spanish Critics' Prize records that, when awarding it to La orilla oscura, he felt 'we were fulfilling one of those obligations which from time to time justify the work of those who, in the words of Steiner, when looking behind themselves see the shadow of a eunuch.' We have the Booker Prize.

This item is taken from PN Review 58, Volume 14 Number 2, November - December 1987.



Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to editor@pnreview.co.uk
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