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This item is taken from PN Review 113, Volume 23 Number 3, January - February 1997.

News & Notes
The greatest Scottish-Gaelic poet of this century - some say the greatest Scottish poet of the century tout court - SORLEY MACLEAN died in November. He was 85. Born on the island of Raasay in 1911 into a family in which Gaelic traditions - especially of song - survived, he was a native speaker who met with English only when he went to school. He took a first class degree in English at Edinburgh, served in North Africa in World War II and was wounded three times. In the 1960s he was instrumental in preserving the teaching of Gaelic in Scottish schools. His first book was published in 1943; the love poems explore the tension between private passion and need and political responsibility. This book and the figure of MacLean are at the heart of the Gaelic renaissance. Celebrated in the pages of PN Review, his last contribution was to the Calendar of Modern Poetry (PNR 100), where he selected six of his poems to characterise his work: 'Calvary', 'A Highland Woman', 'The Cry of Europe', 'Dogs and Wolves', 'Heroes' and his most celebrated poem 'Hallaig': '…From the Burn of Fearns to the raised beach/that is clear in the mystery of the hills,/ there is only the congregation of the girls/ keeping up the endless walk,// coming back to Hallaig in the evening,/ in the dumb living twilight,/ filling the steep slopes,/ their laughter a mist in my ears,// and their beauty a film on my heart/ before the dimness comes on the kyles…' 'The poem,' he reflects, 'is doubly and sometimes trebly symbolist, and I think it is full of the sadness of all human existence.' Slower and sadder in his last years, he was loved on both sides of the border by fellow poets, readers and audiences, for whom his poems and translations were brought alive in readings at once powerful and modest: readings in which what mattered was the poem, and the language that survives through it.

The Argentinian poet ENRIQUE MOLINA died in November. A contemporary of Sorley MacLean's, and junior to the poet Ricardo Molinari who died in July at the age of 98, Molina was a sparring partner of Borges' and like Borges kept what distance he could from politics. His obituarist in the Independent suggests that his poems are unlikely to travel into English; yet Latin America is aware of having lost one of its most distinctive voices, one that found its note through the example of Rilke, Breton and Rimbaud, and - in Stephen Tapscott's words - is 'the great Argentine poet of interiority. His poems explore an emotional terrain of desire and loss and compensation…'

DIANA TRILLING, the writer and formidable widow of Lionel Trilling, died in October at the age of 91. Her later years were clouded in controversy as she declared that she disliked 'the image of Lionel as someone immune to profanation' and helped to demolish that image.

South African poet DOUGLAS LIVINGSTONE died in 1996. 'His passing was as deep a loss to us,' writes Gus Ferguson of Carapace and Snail Press, 'as was that of Norman MacCaig, in January, to Scottish poetry.'

The Japanese 'poet and anarchist' ONO TOZABURO died in October. He was 94. James Kirkup's Independent obituary describes his trajectory - rather more Marxisant than anarchist - and laments the relative neglect in recent years of this poet of the Osaka cityscape and the 'deserted and disordered landscape' of a self-consuming modern Japan.

JOHN FULLER received the Forward Poetry Prize for his collection Stones and Fires (Chatto). The Best First Collection award of £5000 went to Kate Clanchy for Slattern (also Chatto - a shame the Chatto list has been run down). The best Individual Poem prize of £1000 went to Kathleen Jamie for 'The Graduates' (TLS).

A special issue of Critique, marking that review's fiftieth birthday, recently appeared In Paris (Critique: Cinquante ans, 1946-1996 - August-September 1996 - Editions de Minuit, 98f). Last year saw the fiftieth anniversary of Les Temps Modernes, founded by Sartre in 1945. Nicolas Weill, writing in Le Monde of 20 September, suggests that the emergence of a number of high-quality journals in France immediately after the war could be seen as an attempt at an intellectual response to an unprecedented catastrophe.

Georges Bataille launched Critique in June 1946 as a forum for essay-reviews which would cover both French and foreign work, and he remained its editor until 1962, when John Piel took over. Critique kept a much lower political profile than Les Temps Modernes, though it did publish pieces by Raymond Aron and by Raymond Barre, then a young economist. The journal is best known, however, for its involvement with three major intellectual enterprises in which literature and philosophy met and sometimes clashed. Home to the nouvelle critique of Barthes, Jéan-Pierre Richard and Jean Starobinski in the mid-1950s, Critique evolved in the 1960s into a key site of structuralism and post-structuralism, publishing major pieces by Derrida, Deleuze and Foucault. Displaced from this role by other journals, particularly Tel Quel, Critique took on a more philosophical cast, becoming the main channel for the French discovery of Anglo-Saxon analytical philosophy, especially through the work of Jacques Bouveresse.

There have been notable issues of Critique in the last two decades, but the journal has seemed to lag behind in some significant fields - for example, always relatively unconcerned with history as a discipline, it has failed to keep up with the burgeoning of the 'new history' and the explosion of interest in historiography.

After Jean Piel died in 1996, it seemed that Critique might fold, but its new editor Philippe Roger regards the special issue as both a celebration of the journal's past and an affirmation of its future. The issue republishes - in the original typeface, with misprints - eight texts by Bataille, Blanchot, Leiris, Deleuze, Foucault, Barthes and Piel which first appeared in the journal, and eight new texts which respond to these, some from well-known authors such as Tournier and Lyotard, others from youngsters like Judith Revel. The editor says that, by mixing known with young voices, his team wishes to renew a link with what is both a socially useful function and a vocation of Critique: to give intellectuals between 25 and 35 'la revue de la "prèmiere chance'''. (NT)

The new magazine Metre is most welcome. Edited from Dublin, London and Prague by (respectively) David Wheatley, Hugh Maxton and Justin Q!1inn, and costing £15 for three issues (Department of English, Trinity College, Dublin), the first number includes new poetry by Conor O'Callaghan, Vona Groarke, John Burnside, Gwyneth Lewis and Denise Riley, among others; Seamus Heaney's memoir of Joseph Brodsky, Derek Mahon's translations of Ponge, reviews and other features. The design is austere and tasteful; an independent internationalism distinguishes the young editorial team.

The British Centre for Literary Translation with the British Comparative Literature Association announce the 1997 Translation Competition. Poetry, fiction and prose from any language are invited. The pecuniary rewards may be modest, but this competition has become a major feature in the translation calendar and provides a unique and welcome catalyst. There is a special Danish prize this year. (Further details from Mrs Christine Wilson, Translation Competition, BCLT/EUR, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ.)

On 14-15 July 1997 a conference on TRANSLATION AND POWER will be held at the University of Warwick. Themes to be touched upon include Translation and: empire, gender, identity, media, censorship, Subjectivity, and History. 300 word abstracts of proposed papers should be sent to Professor Susan Bassnett, Centre for British and Comparative Cultural Studies, University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL.

BRITISH AND IRISH POETRY, 1945-1997 - COMMUNITY AND CONSENSUS is the title of a one-day conference to be held at the Department of English, University of Sheffield, on 15 March. Speakers include Neil Corcoran, Patrick Crotty (on Sex, Dissidence and the Modernisation of Irish Poetry), Ian Gregson (on Ted Hughes and Masculinity), Sean O'Brien and Neil Roberts. Politics, gender and other issues will clearly be to the fore; perhaps before the conference occurs a few female voices may be added to the roster. Since 1945 women have had something to say and might prefer to say it in their own voices. For further details write to David Kennedy, Department of English, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN.

This item is taken from PN Review 113, Volume 23 Number 3, January - February 1997.

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