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This review is taken from PN Review 211, Volume 39 Number 5, May - June 2013.

Into the World beyond Death marina tsvetaeva, Phaedra, with 'New Year's Letter', and Other Long Poems, translated by Angela Livingstone(Angel Books) £11.95

There have been many translators of Marina Tsvetaeva's poetry since 1971, when - with the generous help of literals made by Angela Livingstone and some others - my first versions of her poems came out from Oxford University Press. For the most part, later translators centred their books on the same key poems. So it is exciting (though hardly surprising, since her work in Russian runs to many volumes) to find in this book Tsvetaeva poems which are for the most part new in English.

Professor Livingstone has already published several of Tsvetaeva's essays -notably her extraordinary 'Art in the Light of Conscience' - and a fine version of her long poem The Ratcatcher. This new collection of Tsvetaeva's work, however, is altogether more ambitious.

Livingstone always puts her own passionate linguistic precision at the service of the poets she translates. Her aim is fidelity, rather than the creation of a new English poem, and she not only honours the rhythmic shape of the original, but avoids any attempt to smooth out Tsvetaeva's rich wilderness of images. This is a decision particularly evident in the long poems here.

Tsvetaeva's work for the theatre has not attracted much attention, even though it is suffused with the same 'fiery intensity of feeling' as her poetry. Not one of her nine plays was performed in her lifetime. And yet Phaedra, the first in a trilogy of plays with Greek themes, is surprisingly successful as drama: direct, ...


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