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This review is taken from PN Review 2, Volume 4 Number 2, January - March 1978.

WHO EATS WHOM Nichita Stanescu, The Still Unborn about the Dead, translated by Petru Popescu and Peter Jay, Anvil Press, £1.00.

The cover design for Nichita Stanescu's The Still Unborn about the Dead, a drawing by the author, depicts a circle of six dog-like creatures each devouring or issuing the next. The design has a rough uncomfortable symmetry suggesting voracity in nature but also possibly some circular unity. It is part of the restlessly convoluted view of the world which Stanescu's title suggests and which dominates his poems both in its blacker and more positive phases. In 'The Slit Man' of the 'Elegies' he


quite simply sniffs out existence
and is born by allowing himself
to be swallowed by it.

It is not known who eats whom.


But in the later sequence 'Metamorphoses' he reiterates, 'There is a single great life/in which we take part', and yet he still finds the ambiguities of inversion necessary for the sequence's reposed conclusion, 'Death is the state of before/you are given birth.' So if this ending is to be taken as repose then it is characteristic that it resides in contradiction. Stanescu's world is perpetually turning itself inside out. In his poems 'the room floods out through the windows' and 'It is the trees that see us/not we them.'

In his introduction to this volume Petru Popescu evokes the vast disintegration of Romania's history, both modern as experienced by Stanescu in the Second World War, and ancient, and suggests that the 'absurd' tendency in Stanescu's work is a reflection ...


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