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This review is taken from PN Review 53, Volume 13 Number 3, January - February 1987.

TEMPERING EXASPERATION Hugo Claus, Selected Poems 1953-1973, edited by Theo Hermans (Aquila Poetry), £9.95, £5.95 pb.
Mircea Dinescu, Exile on a peppercorn, translated by Andrea Deletant and Brenda Walker (Forest Books), £5.95 pb.
Lyubomir Levchev, Stolen Fire: selected poems, translated by Ewald Osers (Forest Books); £5.95 pb.

What UNESCO calls the 'languages of limited diffusion' are obviously entirely dependent upon enlightened enterprises of the kind here reviewed. Aquila continue their adventurous policy of introducing new names from the less-frequented pockets of European poetry with a selection from seven of the volumes published between 1953 and 1973 by the prolific Flemish poet, Hugo Claus. Theo Hermans contributes, in addition to his translations, a helpful introduction which makes it clear that Claus is too various a figure to be easily categorized, especially when his novels, short stories, plays, essays, libretti and film scenarios - not to mention his paintings and translations, and his work as a theatre director - have to be left out of account. Too volatile also, perhaps, since Claus confesses to feeling 'disgust' and 'exasperation' at what passes for 'contemporary society' and would obviously be content to be considered a 'hit-or-miss' artist as long as he was certain he had registered at least one of the former for every ten of the latter.

Not unnaturally, Claus treats earlier versions of himself which he has transcended as targets quite as worthy of critique as anything not his own. He would hardly, perhaps, have been driven to diversify his activities beyond poetry if he had believed more in gradual evolution than in chancing his arm. He was subsequently to criticize his early experimental poetry for its 'hotch-potch of images' and 'accidental beauty'. This confers special interest upon one of the 'Oostakker Poems' of 1954, which ...


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