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This article is taken from PN Review 12, Volume 6 Number 4, March - April 1980.

A Mug's Game? Donald Davie

Donald Davie

MICHAEL HAMBURGER did not take notes, and so he misremembers. Fortunately I have kept notes of what I said at Cambridge, and (tedious though this is) I fear I must transcribe them. Expressions in quotation-marks are from the opening remarks of our Chairman, Sydney Bolt.

1. I agree "that political judgements of poetry are admissible, and even that the full value of poetry is denied when such judgements are withheld". But in very many cases such judgements, though admissible and necessary, are not possible. For instance I know that every poem I have written in the last twelve years is coloured by my appalled and very belated recognition that the unswerving purpose of some Englishmen called Benn or Foot or David Owen is to make over British society in the image of present-day Bulgaria or East Germany. From some of the poems I have written and published in these years, this might be deduced; but from most it could not be deduced, or not with any certainty, despite the claims of some Marxist critics to have evolved techniques of sufficient subtlety. In my experience it is within my power to make such sentiments either overt or covert, as I please.

2. "The mystique of fascism". "Fascism" can be defined, though I'm not sure that "mystique" can. But I don't propose that we embark on such a definition now. (If we did, we should of course find that ...

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