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

LIGHTNING CONDUCTED Miguel Hernández, Unceasing Lightning (El rayo que no cesa), versions by Michael Smith (Dedalus Press) £5.70, £3.60 pb.

The giant shadow cast by Lorca falls across all attempts to demonstrate that the field of modern Spanish poetry would still be an exceptionally rich one, even with its symbolic figurehead removed. In the case of Miguel Hernández (1910-42) it is perhaps particularly important to identify the ways in which he differed from Lorca, if only because there are evident affinities between them. In The Death of Lorca, Ian Gibson showed how the Andalusian poet was 'assassinated by an attitude of mind' and - though there were no bullets - prison and tuberculosis proved perfectly capable of achieving a similar outcome where Hernández was concerned. Moreover, since both Hernández and Lorca took the distinctively Spanish view that tradition and innovation need not be polar opposites, it is not surprising that they should occasionally resemble one another poetically. Elements as old as the Cancionero and as contemporary as Surrealism, albeit differently combined, can be found in both of them. Both these poets inspired immense affection well beyond the immediate milieu in which they moved: both were to become legendary figures. But they were of different temperaments and, under more propitious circumstances, would have been unlikely to make common cause. Hernández, of peasant stock from the poor region of Alicante, threw himself heart and soul into the doomed effort to save the Republic, whereas the more privileged Lorca operated at levels difficult to translate into political activity. In death the divisions between them have become more marked, with Lorca an international ...


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