Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
John McAuliffeBill Manhire in Conversation with John McAuliffe
(PN Review 259)
Patricia CraigVal Warner: A Reminiscence
(PN Review 259)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Christopher MiddletonNotes on a Viking Prow
(PN Review 10)
Next Issue Gwyneth Lewis ‘Spiderings’ Ian Thomson ‘Fires were started: Tallinn, 1944’ Adrian May ‘Traditionalism and Tradition’ Judith Herzberg ‘Poems’ translated by Margitt Lehbert Horatio Morpurgo ‘What is a Book?’
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
Reader Survey
PN Review Substack

This item is taken from PN Review 42, Volume 11 Number 4, March - April 1985.

News & Notes
The French poet PIERRE EMMANUEL (Noel Jean Mathieu) has died at the age of 68. Born in the Pyrenees in 1916, he spent part of his early childhood in the United States. Though he wanted to stay in his native town of Gan and study Latin, he was 'condemned to become an engineer'. He chose his pseudonym when he became an impassioned Roman Catholic writer, and his first major book, Tombeau d'Orphée (1941) marked the beginning of his highly ambitious attempt to fuse the classical and Christian matter that most engaged him: Christ and Orpheusa-a Christ like Guido Reni's figures, suffering the ravages of our time, and an Orpheus singing in despite of his fate. Pierre Emmanuel was a writer of the Resistance and worked side by side with the Communists, but after the war rejected Communism and was rejected by many of his fellow poets, among them Aragon, who dismissed not only the later but the early work as well. A determining force in his life was the poet and novelist Pierre Jean Jouve, whom he met in the mid-1930s. Pierre Emmanuel was a familiar figure on the American lecturing circuit and elsewhere. He received many honours (including an honorary doctorate from Oxford). As well as poetry, he wrote a novel and a fine autobiography. Among his ambitious poetic work are his epics Babel (1952) and Jacob (1970), but it is his earlier work that retains most force today.

The rumour that VAT will be applied to books and journals in Chancellor Nigel Lawson's next budget has gained such wide currency that it must now be regarded as a probability, unless the joint representations of the main associations in the book world can deflect the plan. The immediate effect on individual book-buyers, libraries and schools would be a sharp increase in the price of books. The Chancellor-if he thinks in these terms at all-perhaps feels that much publishing cannot be regarded as the provision of educational resources. It is not possible to distinguish at point of sale between Bleak House bought for pleasure and Bleak House bought for study. The result of a blanket provision in the medium term will be a small increase of revenue for the Exchequer and a decline in the provision of books in schools and libraries-a de facto cut in the buying power of institutions and individuals of whatever the percentage the Chancellor applies. It may be less than 15%, but once the principle of VAT on books is admitted, upward adjustments will follow. The VAT Campaign Executive, chaired by Viscount Macmillan and including a distinguished array of senior people in publishing and bookselling, has its work cut out for it. Failure could involve bookshop closures and a steep reduction in literary and educational publishing. A weakened home market entails a weakened export market. The Publishers' Association president Philip Attenborough says he feels 'optimistic enough to believe that no British government can be seriously contemplating taxing books. It is unthinkable that this country will ever tax knowledge, ideas, education, religion and the whole wealth of human experience as embraced by books and learned journals.' Clearly it is not unthinkable, but it is surprising that Nigel Lawson, of all Chancellors, should contemplate it.

Another yellow paper on CULTURAL POLICY has reached us from the Council of Europe (No. 3-4/84), and we quote part of a curious report that reveals quite clearly the state of the language in which cultural policy is assessed and conducted. 'The situation of cultural workers is a topic with which the European Communities have dealt with since years. Various studies have been prepared by the Cultural Sector and the interim report on the social situation of cultural workers was adopted by the European Parliament in November 1980. It is also envisaged to put forward draft proposals designed to improve the situation of cultural workers. This, it is hoped, will provide increased investment and employment in the arts. However, because of the legal as well as financial limits on Community's action in the cultural sector, the member States themselves will remain the major source of direct financing. The Commission for its part will be concentrating its action on new legislation which will simplify the legal and fiscal framework in which the cultural workers operate.'

DAMBUDZO MARECHERA, the Zimbabwean writer who won the 1980 Guardian Fiction Prize, was detained in Harare by the Central Intelligence Organization after giving an outspoken interview on 29 August, during the Zimbabwe International Book Fair. What he said to the two Dutch journalists who interviewed him was no different from his repeated criticisms of Robert Mugabe's government-that it has failed to live up to its socialist promises. He and the journalists interviewing him were arrested. He remained in custody, uncharged, under the emergency powers in force since 1980. His detention was not reported until after the Book Fair had closed. The Writers' Union and the Book Fair organizers took no action on his behalf. His publishers made no attempt to find him a lawyer. A controversial figure, he had not been detained under the emergency powers before and the response to his detention was almost as disheartening as the detention itself. (Index AW 21)

OPERATION TIGER was mounted by officials of HM Customs and Excise on 10 April of this year against Gay's the Word bookshop in Marchmont Street, London. Managers and employees of the bookshop were interviewed at length (some in their own homes), and invoices, accounting records, address lists and correspondence were removed, along with imported book stocks. The 800 volumes which were taken away represented a substantial part of the shop's stock. Some 600 books were returned nearly two months later, when the Customs issued a formal notice of seizure against 22 of the titles originally taken.

Under the regulations, the Customs officers were able to confiscate only books imported from abroad. Among those seized was the American edition of Aphrodisiac, an anthology collated from the American magazine Christopher Street which has been published in this country by Chatto & Windus. The local product can be legally sold (the Customs have no jurisdiction over UK publications); the imported book cannot. Operation Tiger raises a number of unsettling issues. Long before action was taken against the shop, consignments of imported books were held by the Customs without warning or notification. The removal of crucial day-to-day documentation and address lists is hard to justify. Most troubling of all is the decision of the authorities, in the words of The Bookseller, 'to use the Customs and Excise's powers over the "prohibition of indecent or obscene articles"-enshrined in the Customs Consolidation Act 1876'. The Bookseller pertinently asks: 'Why was the Obscene Publications Act not used instead? What advantages did the authorities stand to gain by working through Customs and Excise?' The answer is plain: the Customs have wide-ranging powers under the Writ of Assistance to enter and search any premises, domestic or commercial, and to take away what they wish 'in connection with any items subject to prohibition or duty'. The Writ can be used at the discretion of any of the 22 Collectors in the land. Articles are detained and can be kept indefinitely. Eventually they are returned or a Seizure Notice is issued. There is then a process of appeal. The Customs officers can also request that the Post Office opens mail coming in to the country, treating such mail as 'imports'. Is it conceivable that the term 'imports' might one day be extended to cover 'foreign rights purchased', so that the Customs officers can treat British editions of foreign books as though they were imports?

Under the Customs and Excise powers, the decision whether works are indecent or obscene is left to the Customs officer, who is given no suitable guidelines. Such cases come before magistrates courts and are not given the benefit of jury trial. Use of the Customs instead of the Obscene Publications Act ensures that precedents are not set: an acquittal of the prohibited material would lead to a liberalizing precedent.

The Customs and Excise were also responsible for carrying out the prohibition on the importation of books from Argentina decreed after the Falklands conflict.

The Belgian monthly magazine 25 has devoted issue 84-85 to Algerian poetry in the French language and includes work by Jean Sénac, Bachir Hadj Ali, Rabah Belamri, Tahar Djaout and others. It is available at 200BF from 36 rue des Ramons, 4200 Ougrée, Belgium.

The centenary of the birth in Montevideo of the French poet JULES SUPERVIELLE is being marked by an exhibition (on until 26 October) at the Maison de la poésie in Paris. Manuscripts, letters and printed books are on show, and soirées are scheduled in which leading contemporary poets-Pierre Seghers and Alain Bosquet among them-will participate.

ENTAILLES, the ambitious French magazine, includes in its most recent number (available from BP 1132, 34008 Montpellier at 36F, subscription 120F) an homage to Robert Ganzo and one of the most important of Octavio Paz's recent essays.

STEPHEN TUOHY (86 Hurst Street, Oxford 4) has established a second-hand book and periodical business specializing in printing and typography ('ars artium omnium conservatrix'), the history and making of books, publishing and book-selling, bibliography and examples of fine printing. Catalogues are issued and out-of-print book searches undertaken.

The Dictionary of Literary Biography has expanded its coverage of British poetry. Volume 27 in the series-an enormous undertaking-is entitled POETS OF GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND and runs to 393 pages ($80.00 from Gale Research Co., Book Tower, Detroit, MI 48226 USA). The book includes heavily illustrated biographical/critical essays on 44 poets of the period. Edited by Vincent Sherry, this volume is a welcome addition to an increasingly valuable series.

A recent exhibition in the Cecil H. Green Library at Stanford was devoted to the careers of YVOR WINTERS and JANET LEWIS. The illustrated catalogue of the exhibition is available ($15.00 to Administrative Services Office, Stanford University Libraries, Stanford, CA 94305 USA). Written by Brigitte Carnochan and with an introductory memoir by N. Scott Momaday, the catalogue 'provides an intimate look at the lives and art of two of America's most noted writers'.

The Australian magazine HELIX in its 18th issue includes an editorial on the Literature Board of the Australia Council which threatens to withdraw funding because the magazine does not carry two thirds of creative Australian writing over four issues. The editor Les Harrop argues that such a condition impoverishes his and other journals, depriving them of a freedom that Helix, at least, has exercised to excellent effect.

This item is taken from PN Review 42, Volume 11 Number 4, March - April 1985.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to
Searching, please wait... animated waiting image