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This review is taken from PN Review 57, Volume 14 Number 1, September - October 1987.

FIGURE AND GROUND Ian Hilton, Peter Huchel: Plough a lonely furrow (Lochree Publications, Dundee)

More than any other poet of his generation, Peter Huchel epitomizes the human price paid in the post-war partition of the two Germanies. Brought up on a farm in the country outside Berlin, Huchel was primarily influenced by the intense, slightly narrow, rural values of plain speaking and reticence. Under the Nazis, as Alfred Kantorowicz describes him, he was 'solitary and withdrawn'; under East German house arrest for supposedly 'formalist' tendencies, his friends in Potsdam worried 'just like that time in 1941 when we asked ourselves whether someone like Huchel could survive'. He survived, having finally been granted an exit visa at the age of sixty-eight, first in Rome and then in declining health near Freiburg. In spite of the strengths evident in his poetry, and his extraordinary tenure of the editorship of the journal Sinn und Form, it is difficult altogether to deflect the feeling that Huchel was marked out by fate to be the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. Huchel died, for all his commitment to circumstance as the ground against which human endeavour must figure, one of its victims.

Ian Hilton's study - the first British account of this size and scope - possesses many admirable features which ought to have impressed larger publishing houses than the gallant independent press with limited distribution that has produced his typeset text. Hilton is as thorough as one could wish, both as regards background and in terms of interpreting the terse and ...


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