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This review is taken from PN Review 213, Volume 40 Number 1, September - October 2013.

Unbequem r.s. thomas, In zierlichen Schlingen/In Delicate Nooses, trans. Kevin Perryman (Babel) €24 (includes audio CD)

Published to celebrate the centenary of R.S. Thomas (see also 'Letter from Wales', PNR 212), this beautifully designed and produced book is clearly intended for those who still value the book as a physical object, even an art-object. Bound in plain white unlaminated covers and a similarly plain unlaminated card jacket, empty except for the bare minimum of text and a black-and-white photograph of Thomas on the back flap, the aesthetic is one of austerity - in the sense the word had before the politicians got hold of it. On the spacious pages the text (German and English facing) becomes lapidary, each poem a visual as well as a verbal work. The design does full justice to Thomas's spare, incisive style.

The thirty poems form a chronological selection from the full span of Thomas's career, beginning with 'Children's Song' ('Kinderlied') from Song at the Year's Turning (1955) and ending with 'Partner' ('Partnerin') from the posthumously published Residues (2002). The poems are followed by an afterword in which the translator, Kevin Perryman, writes movingly of Thomas and of his own decades-long engagement with his work as translator. As Perryman puts it, 'Im Werk und im Leben war R.S. Thomas radikal und unbequem, und er haderte unentwegt mit dem, was ihm heilig war': 'In his work and his life, R.S. Thomas was radical and unbequem, and he wrestled untiringly with that which was holy to him.' 'Unbequem' is an interesting word here. It means literally 'uncomfortable': we could read ...


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