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This item is taken from PN Review 54, Volume 13 Number 4, March - April 1987.

News & Notes
Many new adult immigrants to Israel, in the period around the establishment of the State, had to learn Hebrew from scratch. One of them was Dan Pagis. But very few needed to acquire, or could have acquired, his virtuoso knowledge of the language. For Pagis who died in Jerusalem on June 29 at the age of fifty-five, not only became one of the three or four leading Hebrew poets of his generation, he also ended up as Professor of Medieval Hebrew Literature at the Hebrew University and was a world authority in this field.

Thanks to excellent translations by the American poet Stephen Mitchell Pagis became one of several Israeli poets to acquire a reputation outside their homeland, and after his Carcanet/Menard book was eventually published by Penguin Books and the Jewish Publication Society of America. Introducing the latter book, Robert Alter suggests that the magnificent flowering of poems in Pagis's new mother tongue was the result of a 'radical displacement of his native tongue' - German. We may want to compare this to the radical displacement within that native tongue itself which is found in the poems of Pagis's fellow Bukovinan, Paul Celan. This is not to say that Pagis abandoned or rejected German culture. Its language had become foreign but not alien.

The poetical landscapes of this powerful and authoritative writer strike one with the full force of perceptual revelation. The poems are witty and recondite, playful and eloquent, colloquial and sensuous, prophetic and quotidian, necessary and gratuitous. Some of them are modern midrashim - often on holocaust themes - others science fiction. Born in Bukovina in 1930, Pagis spent three years in a concentration camp in the Ukraine. At the age of sixteen, after two lifetimes elsewhere, he went to Israel and worked for some years as a teacher on a kibbutz. He was married, with two children. The loss through his untimely death to his family and friends, to poetry and scholarship, is immeasurable. Anthony Rudolph

Arthur Cohen, who died in New York in October at the age of 58, was best known in Britain for his novel An Admirable Woman, suggested by the life of Hannah Arendt. As well as the founder of Meridien Books and editor-in-chief of Holt, Rinehart & Winston, he was the author of four other novels, including A Hero of Our Time, and several works on Jewish philosophy and history, with studies of Martin Buber and theological reflections on the Holocaust. Before his death he completed, for publication in 1987, A Handbook of Jewish Religious Thought and a set of three novellas, Artists and Enemies.

Henry Reed died in December, a writer of many parts - and his parts have been named extensively elsewhere. Not for us to write a 'Sunday Evening Postscript', but perhaps he wouldn't have minded an invocation from 'Chard Whitlow': 'Oh listeners, / And you especially who have switched off the wireless. . . pray for me also under the draughty stair. / As we get older we do not get any younger.'

A chess magazine in Moscow recently published a 2,000-word extract from the memoirs of Vladimir Nabokov, and praised him as a master of language and metaphor. This is the first time that any work by Nabokov has been officially published in the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, the literary journal Novy Mir has published ten letters by the poet Nikolai Gumilyov, who was shot in 1921 as an alleged 'counter-revolutionary'. In May this year, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Gumilyov's birth, a selection of his poems was published in a Soviet magazine for the first time in 65 years. A volume of his verse is reportedly being prepared for publication in the USSR. (Index)

For the first time since 1951 the printing of Bibles is to be allowed in Rumania. The authorities have sanctioned an annual printing of between 2,000 and 10,000 copies of the Cornilescu Bible, used particularly by Baptist churches. South Africa has 'un-banned' more arcane versions: José P. Miranda's Marx and the Bible, and Anthony Burgess's Clockwork Testatment. (Index)

Philip Larkin's life and work have been celebrated in an exhibition originally mounted at the University of Hull, but for the past month in the Library of University College, London. It was a revealing and vivid display in the way that few such memorials are: mainly because of Larkin's own wit as a correspondent, seen to advantage in the letters and whimsical drawings. We noted that the royalties from the Fortune Press's editions of The North Ship and Jill amounted to one cup of tea at Victoria Station. Melancholy unpublished poems will probably be included in a forthcoming Collected: but do we really need the proposed biography?

The Czech Josef Skvorecky, who has been teaching at the University of Toronto since 1968, has founded with his wife 'Sixty-eight publishers', to print the work of Czechs and Slovaks, whether still living in Czechoslovakia or abroad. They published the poetry of Seifert before he received the Nobel Prize; their most recent book is the Memoirs of Martina Navratilova, which they maintain is a considerably better version than the American. For a list of their publications, write to Sixty-eight Publishers Corp., Box 695, Station A Toronto, Ontario M5V 1G2, Canada.

Donald Davie's fine reading for the new Canto series of poetry cassettes has just been selected for Gramophone's prestigious annual 'Critics Choice' list. This is something of a breakthrough for spoken poetry and some vindication of the belief that tapes can help to introduce poetry to a wider audience. Mary Postgate, the magazine's spoken-word critic, says: 'I found Davie a surprising and disarming poet and his cassette a delight.' The tape, which links with Carcanet's 'Poetry Signatures' selection of Davie's poems, costs £4.95 (plus 25p p&p) and is available from Canto Publications, 443 Christchurch Road, Bournemouth BH1 4AB.

The British Airways Commonwealth Poetry Prize goes from strength to strength in terms of entries - 500 from 49 countries - and publicity. Vicki Raymond (Australia) won the award for best first-time published poet, with her collection Holiday Girls. The regional finalists were from Australia, Andrew Taylor, Travelling; from Jamaica, Lorna Goddison, I am becoming my mother; from Scotland, Iain Crichton Smith, A Life. The overall prize for the best poet was shared between Vikram Seth (India) for The Golden Gate, and Niyi Osundare (Nigeria) for The Eye of the Earth. Entries may be submitted in any of the official Commonwealth languages (with a translation), though this excludes Gaelic.

An award of £1500 for the Saltire Society/Royal Bank of Scotland 'Scottish book of the year' has been made to Stuart Hood for his novel A Storm from Paradise. Described by the publishers (Carcanet) as 'a Marxist view of Scottish society in the years immediately before the First World War', it was compared by the judges with Madame Bovary, The French Lieutenant's Woman, The Rainbow, and A Scots Quair. Carcanet thought it was good too.

The Arts Council has decided to move the Poetry Library from its present home at 105 Piccadilly to the Royal Festival Hall. Comprising 30,000 volumes, this claims to be the most comprehensive and accessible collection of 20th-century poetry in the English language. It will move in about six months' time to the Waterloo Room on the fifth floor of the Royal Festival Hall. This is meant to harmonise with the South Bank Board's plans to develop a programme of literary and literature-based activities.

Further information from: Sue Rose, Press Officer, Arts Council, 105 Piccadilly, London W1V 0AN. Tel: 01-629 9495 ext. 217/218.

Congratulations to John Ash, one of ten writers to receive a $25,000 Whiting Writer's Award in New York at the end of October. An end to all that xeroxing in the Corn Exchange?

This item is taken from PN Review 54, Volume 13 Number 4, March - April 1987.

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