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This review is taken from PN Review 50, Volume 12 Number 6, July - August 1986.

TRANSITIONS D. J. Enright, Instant Chronicles: A Life (OUP) £4.50 pb.

For more than two decades until the early 1970s, D. J. Enright was mainly concerned in his poetry and prose writings with his experiences as a writer and a teacher in countries war-torn, rapidly changing, and increasingly unsafe for the ordinary person. He wrote of a Japan which was trying to pick up the pieces post-Hiroshima; of the incessant fighting which overran the Indo-Chinese peninsula; of political suspects, some not very political, who vanished in new countries; and of children, the innocent victims of other people's wars - in brief, the world we live in today.

In Instant Chronicles, a sequence of poems and prose passages, Enright returns to some of these earlier events and places, and reviews his memories in the light cast by distance and time. As the past is repossessed, so it is linked to new and pressing realities, such as old age and death, and out of the play of hindsight and insight, the relationship of history and the present moment, the pattern and significance of a life is created.

The years have brought changes inevitably. Recalling the reception he was given upon arrival at Tokyo airport in the early 1950s, he wonders: 'And these days would they bother to ask/What he thought, if he thought, of Japan?' But time distils as well as dissolves, and an incident in Bangkok in which he was wrongfully beaten up by the police survives in a brief poem of eight lines.


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