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Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to editor@pnreview.co.uk

This item is taken from PN Review 26, Volume 8 Number 6, July - August 1982.

News & Notes
The Mexican poet Octavio Paz received the ten million peseta Cervantes Prize for Literature, 1981. The prize was presented by the Spanish Minister of Culture. The panel of judges was evidently divided between two candidates, Paz and Rafael Alberti. Juan Carlos Onetti, who the year before unsuccessfully opposed the giving of the prize to Borges, declared that, like Borges, Paz wrote 'with intelligence, with the head', and was therefore 'too intellectual'-a judgement which does scant justice to the always lucid Alberti who, Onetti said, writes 'with the heart'. Onetti's opposition was not without its political colouring. He disliked, even as he misunderstood and misrepresented, Paz's political stance. Paz is not one to defend himself against critics, but his decision to retain the right to say no, and to retain his critical independence, under the ideological' pressures of the Latin American literary world, has been a hard struggle. It is unfortunate and inevitable that whatever he does-and he is almost as prolific as Voltaire-is presented by his enemies in a political light, and that his historical particularism and his distrust of the ideologies through which he has passed, find hostile reception. Ramon Xirau, the Spanish writer and philosopher who has lived in exile in Mexico since the Spanish Civil War, has written of Paz that 'his work taken togather proves him to be the best Spanish language writer now in full spate. For his poetry which is in a constant state of renewal, for his influence on other writers in English and French, for his always critical and independent approach, for his fundamental analysis of the Mexican character and of human character at large' he is a major figure. Paz is best known in England for his poetry, his civic essays and his literary essays. His is a resolutely historical sensibility. As an editor, Paz has been most influential with two magazines: Plural, whose end was chronicled in early issues of PNR, and now Vuelta, both essential reading for those interested in Latin American culture or in seeing with what lucidity the best Latin American critics -many of them disciples of Paz or liberated by his example-approach North American and European culture and politics. The Cervantes Prize is a just acknowledgement of Paz's oeuvre.
 
The American poet A. R. Ammons was the recipient of this year's much coveted National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry. The book-his sixteenth-for which he was honoured is A Coast of Trees. It was described by the judges as an 'uncommonly eloquent, lyrical meditation on American life today and a reaffirmation of the poetic tradition of Wordsworth and Whitman'. That last rings a little curiously in the English ear-Wordsworth and Whitman? It may be that the judges were working from distant memory, or were seduced by alliteration. Ammons, whose work has been widely praised in America, and has won the mixed blessing of advocacy by Harold Bloom, has not yet decisively made a mark in Britain. The body of work is large, various and distinguished, and a selected poems would be a valuable addition to any British publisher's list.

Other 1981 recipients of the Book Critics Circle Award were John Updike, Stephen Jay Gould and Virgil Thomson.

The Yugoslav novelist, playwright and poet Miroslav Krleza died on 29 December at the age of eighty-eight. One of the major figures of Croatian literature this century, he was a keen Marxist who worked avidly in the cause of socialism in Yugoslavia. As a writer, he challenged and opposed the notion of mandatory socialist-realism, and though much of his work is historical in cast, it seldom falls into the common ideological traps, despite the clarity of its underlying themes. Tito recognised his achievements with honours and important editorial appointments. His earliest published work was poetry, but he is best-known for his novels and dramatic writing.

Edvard Kocbek, the Slovene poet, and one of the most interesting figures in contemporary European poetry, died in November at the age of seventy-seven. He was a central figure in the committee of liberation during the war, and after it Vice-President of the Presidium of the People's Republic of Slovenia. The memoirs he wrote of his years with the Partisans are a remarkable document. He retired from his public positions, but not from public view, after disagreements with the Tito government. His poetry has been translated by Alasdair MacKinnon and by Michael Scammel, but no collection has appeared in English.
 
The European Ministers responsible for Cultural Affairs in the EEC met in Luxembourg last May. They sensed 'the need to foster a new concept of social development, not solely determined by economic considerations, but also recognising the need to enhance the quality of life'. Culture, with a capital K, was on their minds. They adopted six resolutions. Some of them were unexceptionable: investigating culture and the electronic media; encouraging co-operation between European museums, archives and libraries; encouraging the performance of new music-in short, the kinds of cooperation which were promised at the time of accession. The others reveal how 'enhancing the quality of life' involves, at ministerial level, degrading Culture into a commodity and degrading the language of culture, in the process of homogenising it and rendering it harmless. A 'European Declaration of Cultural Objectives' is to be drafted ('European Cultural Charter'); 'the culture industries [sic] and their importance particularly with regard to public involvement' will be studied. The Conference will publish a Report 'eventually'. Meanwhile, for those who cannot wait, various booklets and papers on the use and control of culture in 'creative society' are available from the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.

In good time for the Wyndham Lewis centenary next November, Black Sparrow Press of California have published a handsome new edition of The Apes of God, with Lewis's original cover and chapter designs and an excellent afterword by Paul Edwards. If anything, the book in its Black Sparrow format, issued in paperback and hardback, is more striking than the original 1930 edition, though in physical bulk far less cumbersome. In the Afterword, Edwards puts The Apes in the context of Lewis's career and ideology, and adds a list of the reputed 'real life' originals for two dozen of the characters, ranging from Lytton Strachey ('Matthew Plunkett') and Arthur Waley ('Arthur Wildsmith') to Edwin and Willa Muir ('Eddie and Mrs Keith') and, of course, the Sitwells for the three 'Finnian Shaws'. But Edwards puts the case for the fictional characters as satiric creations in their own right. The new Apes costs $10.00. It can be ordered from the publisher, P. O. Box 3993, Santa Barbara, California, 93105, U.S.A. They project The Wild Body for 1982.
(C. J. Fox)

The Bookseller has published its lists of books recorded for 1981. The total for poetry, including new and limited editions and translations, was 620. This is about 1.45% of books published (43083 in the year). Where overall there were roughly 10% fewer new books and 13% fewer new editions (the latter statistic may seem too modest to many teachers who have found crucial set texts recorded as 'out of print'), the decline in the number of poetry titles as against 1980 (when 786 were listed) is roughly 21%, higher than in most of the other categories.

'Trials' for PLR (Public Lending Right) are scheduled for 1982. Offices have been set up in Bayheath House, Prince Regent Street, Stockton-on-Tees, and the scheme will be run from there. A sum of £300,000 has been allocated for annual administration and a further grant for starting up the scheme will be announced. This money is separate from the £2,000,000 set aside for the payment of authors. The registration of writers' books will begin in the late spring and in the summer loans from sample libraries will begin to be recorded. The exercise is a major challenge to British administrative ingenuity.

The brief relaxation of censorship in China may now be coming to an end. Not only are the wall posters less in evidence, but high-level cautions are being issued which will alert writers at large to the limits they may go to. During the recent National People's Congress the New China News Agency published a long document by Hu Qiaomu on the roll of intellectuals in China. Hu Qiaomu is a leading theoretician and President of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. His view is understood to reflect the official Communist Party leadership's line on cultural policy. 'Bourgeois liberal elements' have been identified as a first step. The drive against these elements affects most seriously well-established intellectuals keen to complete the break with the Maoist era, especially in the area of art and literature, but by extension in the political life of the country as well. Many of them were victims of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) and have only recently been rehabilitated. In this group the Party leadership senses a threat. In particular, Hu Qiaomu deplored art as 'self-expression', and repudiated those who copy foreign fashions and 'cater for the low tastes of a few people'. (Index59)

The Chicago Review (Vol. 32, No. 3) is dedicated to 'The French New Philosophers', providing an introduction, an anthology of the work, and extracts and essays by Guy Lardreau, Jean-Paul Dolle, Christian Jambet, Andre Glucksmann and Bernard-Henri Levy. It is an ambitious issue, attempting to define and place, 'at least for the moment', the young philosophers who emerged from the failures of 1968 and the years of expectation that preceded it with a mistrust of their earlier illusions and a need 'to formulate a quixotic and libertarian liberalism', or what one critical contributor calls 'a politics of the impossible'. The structuralist orthodoxy is clearly at an end; the nouveaux philosophes, however, do not always speak more clearly than those they appear, momentarily, to have supplanted. Their thoroughgoing scepticism is, at times, a bitter tonic. This issue of the Chicago Review is an illuminating and valuable departure for the magazine and will be useful to anyone interested in the emergence of a group of writers who have attracted so much controversy and wilful misapprehension. The phenomenon is distinctly French and is destined, it seems, to travel into other languages less well than the orthodoxy it supplanted. (Chicago Review, University of Chicago, 5700 S. Ingleside, Box C, Chicago, Illinois 60637, U.S.A.-$4.00 per issue; $11.00 for annual subscription-4 issues.)

The Michigan Quarterly Review is projecting for Spring 1983 a special issue on the subject of the Bible guest-edited by David Noel-Freedman and Michael O'Connor. The issue will include poetry and fiction relating to the central themes. Submissions are invited, for receipt before 1 August. Material should be sent to the Michigan Quarterly Review, 3032 Rackham Building, University of Michigan, Ann Arbour, Michigan 48109, U.S.A.)

The Arts Council Poetry Library has published a catalogue covering its collection, edited by Jonathan Barker, with an introduction by Philip Larkin. This useful bibliography is available at £2.95 from the Arts Council Bookshop, and from local bookshops or on direct order from Carcanet Press Ltd., 330 Corn Exchange Buildings, Manchester M4 3BG. The Poetry Library at 9 Long Acre remains one of the most valuable collections of contemporary poetry in Britain.

At the Heath Branch Library, Keats House, in the Borough of Camden, Michael March has organised a poetry festival for the month of February. The first reader will be Basil Bunting. Two planned readings by Polish poets were thwarted by political developments. However, the Festival will include readings by Thomas Brasch, Kurt Bartsch, Bernd Jentzsch, Minoru Nakamura, Ivan Lalic, George Pavlopoulos, Andre du Bouchet and others-including, perhaps, Volker Braun. Special translations have been commissioned for many of the poets and a programme of translations is to be published by PN Review, which is one of several sponsors of the events. The programme, in A4 format, is available to subscribers of the magazine for £1.00 (p+p included). Further details of the readings from Michael March, Heath Library, Keats Grove, London NW 3.

The Canadian poet, novelist and critic Margaret Atwood is the recipient of the Welsh Arts Council's 1982 International Writer's Prize of £1000. The prize is made every two years and has in the past gone to Ionesco, Dürrenmatt, Astrid Lindgren and Derek Walcott.

In Toronto, Margaret Atwood's home town, a Writer's Conference on Human Rights was held in October 1981. Among those present were Alan Sillitoe, Wole Soyinka, Josef Brodsky, Natalya Gorbanevskaya, Yehuda Amichai and Susan Sontag. What seems to have emerged from this diverse conference was a general consensus that-in upholding human rights-a single standard must be applied, and that political considerations ought to count for very little-in short, that there was no qualitative distinction between violations in progressive societies and violations in reactionary societies.

This item is taken from PN Review 26, Volume 8 Number 6, July - August 1982.



Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to editor@pnreview.co.uk
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