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This report is taken from PN Review 25, Volume 8 Number 5, May - June 1982.

Letter from Paris Stephen Romer
October 1981

In a recent PNR editorial, C. H. Sisson made an eloquent appeal on behalf of French literature. Noting the diminishing number of English translations from the French, he suggested that literary relations between the two countries were at a low ebb. This phenomenon, which he is not alone in noticing, has I think deeper causes than those of economic hardship. There exists at this time a real literary estrangement between the two cultures, of which the falling number of translations is a direct result-as indeed were the recent unfortunate events in the English faculty at Cambridge. The misunderstanding, obstinacy and general acrimony surrounding those events made any real discussion of the issues impossible-especially as the fiercest passions were aroused by matters other than literature. Nevertheless, the affair lit up the awful rift that exists between two distinct schools of criticism, the one essentially French, the other essentially English. Now, it is scarcely surprising that this estrangement should have started to work its effects in the creative sphere of translation, since the critical and creative endeavours are often interchangeable in a text of French modernism. Too many loose aspersions have been cast on both traditions-and the French are by no means without guilt: certain of them, I am persuaded, have dismissed the English tradition and all it holds valuable with scarcely a second thought. But it is not my intention in this letter to add to this wall of negativity-rather, to try and pass through it. In admitting ...


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