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This review is taken from PN Review 16, Volume 7 Number 2, November - December 1980.

DIE STRASSE OHNE NAMEN German Poetry 1910-1975, tr. Michael Hamburger (Carcanet) £8.00

Most English poets and readers of poetry (if there are still any readers except professors who are not poets) owe an enormous debt to Michael Hamburger, not only for his own poetry, but for all he has done to make European, and particularly German poetry available to us. There is a special helpfulness about his writing which is very uncommon; few writers about modern poetry have been both so penetrating and so comprehensive, so ramified and smouldering without the loss of common sense. We have had his East German Poetry since 1972; it was a revelation. There was an earlier, similar anthology with French translations which in some ways I preferred, but that was a special issue of a periodical, and I have never seen another copy but one I bought by chance in a Paris bookshop.

This much more substantial collection is intended to be used with East German Poetry (Carcanet) as its supplement. For certain poets, Brecht for example, that is an essential caution. Without the early collection this one would seem thin in certain areas. One needs to have both. But the new volume is far wider in its scope, and thrilling. It is a full, convincing presentation of many styles and movements of poetry, with effective translations facing the text. The selections are highly intelligent and where I disagreed with them I still found them seductive. The mass and authority of this book are a remedy against prejudices even as deep and cranky ...


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