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This review is taken from PN Review 114, Volume 23 Number 4, March - April 1997.

TRACES AND CURRENCY ALEXANDER zHOLKOVSKY, Text Counter Cext: Readings in Russian literary history (Stanford University Press).
GEORGE MONTEIRO, The Presence of Camões: Influences on the literature of England, America and Southern Africa (University Press of Kentucky.

Here are two curious, not wholly successful but intermittently compelling, books of literary criticism that could hardly be more different one from another, even though both could only have been written by professional academics. One would perhaps need a mind as well-stocked as, say, Goethe's - and no doubt equally committed to the notion of 'world literature' - to find every page or every chapter in either book riveting reading; and in spite of the passages or paragraphs which possess a utility beyond the immediate concerns of each author, the abiding impression is that the 'ideal reader' of Text Counter Text is Alexander Zholkovsky, and that the 'influences' traced in The Presence of Camões could only have been unearthed by, and could only matter so much to, George Monteiro.

The very title of Zholkovsky's book proclaims his procedures; in all its manifestations - on the front and back cover, on the spine and on the title page - it is typographically represented as TEXT counter TEXT. In the body of the book Zholkovsky indents and reduces what at first glance look as if they might be quotations, but which turn out to be plot summaries, off-shoots, or arguments parallel to what is presented in standard format. The indented and reduced sections are 'counter'; the remainder is 'text'. But in both discourses 'text' rubs shoulders with, or cuts across, 'text', whether we understand this word as refer~ing to a 'classic' or 'set' work (such as might figure on ...

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