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PN Review 276
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This item is taken from PN Review 219, Volume 41 Number 1, September - October 2014.

Letters from Adam Czerniawski, Peter Faulkner, Paul McLoughlin, David Ludgate
Tadeusz Różewicz


In your obituary note on Tadeusz Różewicz (PNR 218) you describe him as ‘a perennial Nobel nominee’. The Polish mafia ensured that he stayed that way. To block him it first promoted Miłosz, himself an expert in ruthless self-promotion, then Szymborska. And when Różewicz was still alive, they started canvassing Adam Zagajewski.

Two myths envelop his poetry. Firstly, that it is a despairing anti-poet’s work ‘contaminated by death’, and the immense popularity of his Auschwitz poem ‘Pigtail’ (his most anthologised poem in English-language publications) seems to confirm this. But it also contradicts Adorno’s notorious nonsense that poetry is not possible after Auschwitz. In one of his poems Różewicz emphatically declares: ‘at home a task / awaits me: / To create poetry after Auschwitz’. In fact, he went on to become perhaps the twentieth century’s most prolific poet and over the many years granted him his poetry moved well beyond the war in very many directions.

The other myth presents him as an atheist, and the Polish Catholic Church’s condemnation of him seems to prove this. In her Guardian obituary Katarzyna Zachenter confirms it, but in fact Różewicz was Poland’s most outstanding religious poet of the post-war years, if you don’t confine religious poetry to standard pieties, as Poles tend to do.

You remind readers that PN Review had published three of his poems in my translation. In 2011 Anvil Press published the third expanded edition of They Came to See a Poet, a substantial collection of Różewicz’s poetry in my translation. Over several decades Peter Jay single-handedly published attractively produced volumes of translated poetry, ranging from the classics all the way to Hölderlin, Rilke, Celan, de Nerval, Verlaine, Lalić and Quasimodo, to name but a few. A brave quixotic adventure of great cultural significance.

adam czerniawski

Delights to the Mind


Alexander Hutchison may be right about the book by Peter McCarey he is reviewing (PNR 217), but he hardly encourages confidence when he alludes to Hamish Henderson as liking to say, ‘(quoting Joyce): great blows are delights to the mind’. This is as unfair to the pacific Joyce as it is to Yeats’s rhythmical powers.

peter faulkner
By email

Brian Jones


In his otherwise marvellous review of Brian Jones: New & Selected Poems (PNR 218), Grevel Lindop refers to the Jones family moving from Islington to Catford in East London. In fact, they moved to Greenford in West London. PNR readers interested in Jones’s work may like to know that I shall be reading from the New & Selected (‘being Brian’, as it were), on 11 October at Poetry in the Crypt in Islington.

paul mcloughlin
By email

Pot, Kettle


A little rich, I think, for the editor of PN Review to be complaining about nepotism in the Griffin Prize when fifteen of the contributors to that very issue (PNR 218) are published by Carcanet Press, which he also runs.

david ludgate

This item is taken from PN Review 219, Volume 41 Number 1, September - October 2014.

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