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This review is taken from PN Review 210, Volume 39 Number 4, March - April 2013.

Tears, Flowers, Hearts, Blood Cantes flamencos (Flamenco Songs), edited and translated by Michael Smith and Luis Ingelmo (Shearsman) £9.95

A Franco-era tourism campaign famously boasted 'Spain is different'. The slogan successfully tapped into long-held stereotypes in northern Europe about Spain, stereotypes that had echoed for years through travel guides and literary translations: Spain was different to the rest of Europe, an 'exotic' land whose people are 'passionate', 'fierce' and 'simple'. Nowhere are these clichés better confirmed than in the world of flamenco.

Flamenco Songs brings Michael Smith and Luis Ingelmo together again, this time as joint editors and translators. It follows their previous collaboration for Shearsman: the Collected Poems of Gustavo Adolfo Bécquer, which they both edited and Michael Smith beautifully translated. But whereas the collection of Bécquer's poems was an indispensable addition to every hispanophile's bookshelf, offering UK readers a fresh evaluation of one of the great European poets of the nineteenth century, Flamenco Songs adds little to our understanding of Spain and its literature.

The selection in this bilingual edition is ample enough to give a good insight into the themes and scope of flamenco song lyrics, and the translations are effective, if not always conveying quite the same colloquial cadences as the originals. Readers inspired by the cover photograph, hoping to find straightforward lyrics of passion, will not be disappointed. All the clichés of passionate unrequited love or betrayal are contained within these pages, described with a limited stock of images: tears, flowers, hearts, blood, absence and death. At times the love lyrics stoop to the literary lows of the chat-up ...


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