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This item is taken from PN Review 38, Volume 10 Number 6, May - June 1984.News & Notes
Michael Hamburger has observed that poets record their lives 'not in terms of dates, events, careers, but of "sunlight, and how it fell' '. However, his sixtieth birthday on 22 March is worth recording, not least because the occasion is being marked by the publication of his Collected Poems. So much of his phenomenal energy has been invested, through brilliant critical writings and translations, in the cause of other poets' work that his own verse tends to be overlooked. In addition, his mistrust of cleverness and meretriciousness has led him to write a poetry with little surface attraction.
Michael Hamburger's principal insights into his poetry are to be found modestly scattered throughout his private correspondence rather than in his published criticism. His reply to some observations of mine concerning the 'realism' of his poetry deserves to be made public for the benefit of those approaching the Collected Poems: 'I always try to get through to essences, so that my realism isn't an end in itself, any more than autobiography can be an end in itself for me. What I aim at are very simple words, images, situations that are somehow transparent, so that the complexity remains under the surface. People who look only at the surface find banality in my verse. That is a risk I take.'
No matter how under pressure he may be, earning a living from his literary work and supplementing it with produce from his Suffolk garden, he deals patiently and promptly with his vast correspondence, encouraging and assisting friends and fledgling poets alike. In wishing many happy returns to this writer and translator of rare integrity, his readers and friends share the hope that he will be allowed more time in the decades ahead to concentrate on his own poetry. As he once wrote: 'it is easier to be a young poet than a middle-aged one, and to be an old poet is the greatest achievement of all':
To be slow, to take time
And what the sun has to give,
Not to fall
In late summer, in autumn gale,
Ripening, is all.
The death of JULIO CORTAZAR, the Argentinian prose experimenter, novelist and story writer was announced in February. Born in Brussels in 1914, he grew up in Buenos Aires and studied in Argentina. Later he made his home in Europe. His early work appeared in the legendary magazine Sur, edited by Victoria Ocampo in Buenos Aires. It was the focus of Latin American literary culture, the pacing-ground for most of the major writers who have since become known in Europe as establishing a distinctive and inter-related Latin American literature. He was a fine critic, with essays on English, Spanish and French writers to his credit, as well as pieces on boxing, jazz, painting and so on. His poems are not the best part of his work, but his prologues to them are wonderfully lucid. Though his work did not achieve the wide success of Marquez', his writing may prove more durable, not least because his talent matured in a difficult political world in which he refused to accept for long any of the solving ideologies and was concerned, especially in the beguiling 1979 volume of marginalia, dialogues and thoughts, with the theme of literary freedom, Un tal Lucas.
INGOAPELE MADINGOANE, the leading young black South African oral poet, was arrested and charged with possession of undesirable publications after a police search of his home. He was due to appear in court in Johannesburg on 21 February, Index reports (No. 133). The South African press call Madingoane 'the poet laureate of Soweto'. He is a member of the Johannesburg branch of PEN and a founder of the African Writers' Association. His book Africa My Beginning was published in Britain by Rex Collings in 1980.
On 16 January, the Paris-based International Committee for Support of Charter 77 awarded its Jan Palach prize to the samizdat Information Bulletin which has been coming out in Prague since 1978. The day after it was reported, the apartment of Anna Sabatova, co-editor of the Bulletin, was raided by the secret police. The founding editor of the monthly Bulletin, still nominally the editor, has suffered long prison terms for his pains. The raid on Mrs Sabatova's flat will not, it appears, interrupt publication for long.
Dr VACLAV SVERAK died on 3 January at the age of 63. Dr Sverak was born in Vienna, studied at the universities of Freiburg and Prague (where he later lectured) and came to Britain to teach in 1968. His rich European background is reflected in the diversity of his work as a translator into English from Czech, French and German. He also composed satirical and more serious verse in English, though this work has yet to achieve wide circulation here. Copies of his work may be obtained from A.H.Jackson, History Department, The University, Manchester M13 9PL. A self-addressed envelope (A4) and 95p with orders.
PN Review is pleased to be able to invite readers to this year's LONDON BOOK FAIR, offering them a concessionary entrance fee by special arrangement with the organizers (see the advertisement in this issue). PN Review will be at the Carcanet Press stand (497). This is the first time that the general public has been invited to the Fair which has hitherto been regarded exclusively as a trade event. It is instructive for book-lovers to come to this jamboree, which this year includes various literary and semi-literary events.
NICHITA STANESCU, the Rumanian poet who was in the forefront of the revival of Rumanian poetry in the post-Stalinist thaw of 1964, died on December 13 1983. Born in Ploiesti in 1933, he lived in Bucharest. His poems have been published in Britain by Anvil Press Poetry who issued The Still Unborn About The Dead in 1975. Stanescu has been known in England since his appearance at the International Poetry Festival in 1971. A tribute by Peter Jay, his English publisher, will appear in PN Review 40.
The death of PAUL DE MAN means that Yale has lost its most rigorous-and for some, its most rebarbative-deconstructionist. De Man's writing moved with agility between deconstructive 'close reading' and sophisticated discussion of rhetorical and philosophical issues, and reached positions similar to Derrida's in its own way. His Allegories of Reading (1979) explored the play of figural language in the texts of Rousseau, Nietzsche, Rilke and Proust in order to suggest how 'rhetoric radically suspends logic and opens up vertiginous possibilities of referential aberration'. But de Man is probably best sampled through the influential essay 'The Rhetoric of Temporality', which is included in the second edition of his Blindness and Insight, now issued by Methuen at £7.50. (NT)
RARITAN, a new quarterly review published from Rutgers University (165 College Avenue, New Brunswick, NJ 08903 U.S.A. $12.00 four issues) seems a remarkably ambitious venture, judging from its attractive prospectus. Richard Poirier is the editor in chief, and he is assisted by several distinguished academics. The magazine promises to ask certain questions: 'What are the hidden assumptions at work that determine cultural, political, and artistic preference? Of what importance to the conduct of life is contemporary theoretical writing? Is the United States, in relation to Europe, still an intellectual colony? How do we create opportunities for the emergence of new forms of knowledge and intellectual inquiry?' The terms are broad, and if there is a sense here in which creative work is being squeezed out by criticism, some of the criticism advertised looks like being first rate.
GABERBOCCHUS PRESS was acquired some time ago by a Dutch publishing house which has just issued a catalogue of the wonderful Gaberbocchus originals still in print. It is worth writing for to De Harmonie, Singel 390, 1016 AJ Amsterdam, Holland.
This item is taken from PN Review 38, Volume 10 Number 6, May - June 1984.