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

THE LOST EDEN Luis Cernuda, Selected Poems, translated by Reginald Gibbons, (University of California Press) £7.50

Luis Cernuda (1902-63) was probably the best poet of Spain's Generation of 1927, which included Lorca, Guillén and Alberti. Octavio Paz has done much to bring Cernuda's poetry to the attention of younger poets in Spain and Latin America where it has been an inspiration through its total honesty, humanity and total dedication to the vocation of poetry. As a young man Cernuda was intensely shy and introverted, yet he had a rebellious streak which reacted against the bourgeois norms of Spain; his brief flirtations with surrealism and communism reflected this early search for greater freedom of expression and being. He was not comfortable with the Generation of 1927: when they celebrated the tercentenary of Góngora by adopting him as their model, Cernuda preferred another Golden Age poet, Garcilaso; when they sought "pure" poetry, free of human, anecdotal content, and veiled in complicated metaphor, Cernuda preferred to make poetry from his circumstances, to employ colloquial language, to avoid ingenious, "unreal" metaphor. His early poetry is melancholy, borrows Classical forms and is ornamented with metaphor but he soon turned to free verse and pared down the language looking for greater precision in the expression of his predicament. The themes are constant: isolation in a prison-like reality, ennui,fading beauty, the difficulty of finding love, a looking into himself for answers not given in the world of reality. The title of his collected poems, La realidad y el deseo (Reality and desire), alludes to the life-long tension between the poet's ideal aspirations ...

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