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This item is taken from PN Review 193, Volume 36 Number 5, May - June 2010.

Letters from George Steiner, Don Share
Do You Play the Balalaika?


Many years ago, I visited Lukács in Budapest.

I queried his denunciation of Doctor Zhivago.

Lukács retorted: ‘A dishonest book. Pasternak attributed to Zhivago some of the finest poems in modern Russian literature. Thus giving to Zhivago’s anti-communist stance a formidable authority. Shakespeare would have given us the amateurish, possibly mediocre lyrics of a country doctor. Pasternak cheats.’

The argument seems to me sophistic. It is also profound.

Churchill College, Cambridge

Curiouser and Curiouser


How odd to see Steve Burt claiming again that ‘most American poets, alas, are not reading contemporary British poetry’. Reader Neuman in your letters section is quite right to object, though he might have made a stronger case. It has quite simply never been easier for American poets to read work by their UK colleagues. Books published by Carcanet, Bloodaxe, Faber and Faber and others are more easily obtainable here than ever before (thanks, in part, to conveniences like The Book Depository and Amazon), and such poets as Simon Armitage, Don Paterson, Alice Oswald, Robin Robertson, and Carol Ann Duffy have American publishers. I must add that hardly an issue of Poetry goes by without a poem or review - or at least some mention of - a British poet; and as our circulation ranks as about the highest of any literary magazine in the USA, Steve’s claim seems quite odd to me.

Well. I had to get that off my trans- Atlantic chest!

Senior Editor, Poetry, Chicago

A further exchange relating to Steve Burt’s lecture can be found on pp. 67-70

This item is taken from PN Review 193, Volume 36 Number 5, May - June 2010.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to
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