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PN Review 276
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This review is taken from PN Review 54, Volume 13 Number 4, March - April 1987.

DISPARATE REMEDIES Henry Gifford, Poetry in a divided world (Cambridge University Press), £15.00.

Professor Gifford is well-known for his versions of modern Russian poetry and for his sympathetic readings of what made it great. His book-length study of Pasternak earned him the respect of the specialist and the general reader alike. As his Emeritus title reminds us, he is a comparativist, and committed to the view that 'translation is resurrection, but not of the body'. As a critic he takes truth for his watchword, and at a time of fervent allegiances travels without portfolio. In the Lent term of 1985 he was invited to give the Clark lectures at Trinity College, Cambridge; Poetry in a divided world presents these lectures in volume form.

The academic ordinances require that the speaker deal with 'some portion of English literature', a condition with which Gifford has only obliquely complied, as he acknowledges in his foreword. But rather than scout the rubric for its divisiveness, Gifford has elected to look to Europe and America to find models of an excellence to which English literature, in his view, can no longer lay claim. He has, he tells us, perceived 'ominous signs', and 'chief among them the rise of the so-called "media personality"'. Apparently all that can save us, as 'the politics of literature and the literature of politics threaten to tear apart the fibres of a tradition sustained for more than a thousand years, and to debase one of the world's richest and most sensitive languages', are 'some certainties', of which 'poetry at its most ...


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