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This review is taken from PN Review 45, Volume 12 Number 1, September - October 1985.

MUSIC OVER THE UNIVERSE Rene de Costa, Vicente Huidobro: The Careers of a Poet (Clarendon Press) £19.50

The Chilean poet Vicente Huidobro is little known in Britain, despite his energetic involvement in several important literary movements early this century. For his brilliant poetic intelligence Neruda considered him 'one of the classic poets of our language', a judgement difficult to refute after reading Professor de Costa's account, which reveals an artist of originality and high sensibility who certainly deserves to be more widely appreciated. The book contains a concise account of Huidobro's success as a literary figure in three capitals, Santiago, Madrid and Paris, with an analysis of his ideas and the impact made by his main works.

Rene de Costa has had access to the poet's personal papers which, he concedes, have greatly helped in assessing this complex artist. Born in 1893 as heir to a rich aristocratic family, Huidobro's first published collection was burned for its anticlerical tone while he was still at a Jesuit college. After founding several literary magazines, in which the heady influence of Modernism can be discerned, he goes to Europe in 1916, to join ranks with Cubism and Dada. Soon we find him in close rapport with Pierre Reverdy and Juan Gris, and friendly with Lipchitz, Max Jacob, Picasso, Apollinaire and Tristan Tzara. After early difficulties he masters French, in which he composes many of his poems; an example is quoted from 'Hallali', published in Madrid in 1918:


From which cemetery of heroes
Did these crosses take flight
To ...

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