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This review is taken from PN Review 17, Volume 7 Number 3, January - February 1981.

HARD, WISE AND KIND Vasko Popa, The Golden Apple (Anvil) £4.25
Günter Grass, Selected Poems (Penguin) £1.25
Andrei Voznesensky, Nostalgia for the Present (Oxford) £3.50

In the past fifteen years, poetry translation has become a growth industry. It is perhaps ironic that it has been easier for English translations of poetry, particularly from Eastern Europe, to find publishers than translations of foreign novels. The results of the expansion have been uneven. A jagged, rhythmless translateze has marked the worst. The best, while inevitably not wholly perfect images, have conveyed the power of the original. The three books under review illustrate the range and richness of the literature which the best translation now brings to us.

The first substantial selection of Vasko Popa's work was published in England by Penguin in their pioneering Modern European Poets series. The thin volume whetted the appetite. In 1978 Carcanet published Anne Pennington's versions of his collected poems, a major enterprise. Popa is a poet who well deserves the tribute. His fascination with game and fable and nightmare lends his work a vitality which comes over well in Anne Pennington's sympathetic renderings. But-as the translator recognised in her preface-what was hard to convey was the closeness of Popa's poetry, in both style and substance, to the Serbo-Croat folk tradition. The Golden Apple helps to do just this. It consists of translations from Popa's own selection from Serbo-Croat folk literature. But the book does much more than serve as a background to the work of a major poet. It is full of interest in its own right. The translations (by Anne Pennington and Andrew Harvey) reproduce the energy ...


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