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Two Poems

Brian Oxley, 5 April 1984

... Edwin Muir at Leuchars Junction I think of Edwin Muir in the darkness before dawn at Leuchars Junction commuting to the Food Office in Dundee. Where had he lost his way, the track of vision lost in chaos as Glasgow swallowed once the track of childhood? A precarious order collapsed like those houses in St Andrews bombed last night; Kafka, from an interpreter of divine meanings become a writer of fictions, allegories of invention ...

Locked and Barred

Robert Crawford: Elizabeth Jennings, 24 July 2003

New Collected Poems 
by Elizabeth Jennings.
Carcanet, 386 pp., £9.95, February 2002, 1 85754 559 1
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... innovation; the grain of the language is often a smoother, less arresting version of that of Edwin Muir or George Herbert. It’s hard to believe most of these poems were written in the last quarter-century. One distinguished contemporary poet scowled when I told him I was reading Jennings’s Collected Poems: ‘Life’s too short.’ As I ...

Four Poems

Robert Crawford, 21 February 2002

... El Greco’s Toledo, shining over water, A Scoto-Spanish, kirky Tir nan Og, While Willa and Edwin Muir, in Willa’s mum’s Draper’s shop, talk sex, conscious that past Their douce seaside cosmology of golf balls Where fiddlers jig and ‘The Democratic Butcher’ Places his doggerel in the local rag, Immigrants flit – black ...

Bad Faith

J.P. Stern, 21 July 1983

Franz Kafka’s Loneliness 
by Marthe Robert, translated by Ralph Manheim.
Faber, 251 pp., £12.50, October 1982, 9780571119455
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Kafka’s Narrators 
by Roy Pascal.
Cambridge, 251 pp., £22.50, March 1982, 0 521 24365 3
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The Trial 
by Franz Kafka, translated by Willa Muir and Edwin Muir.
Penguin, 255 pp., £1.75, October 1983, 0 14 000907 8
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Letters to Milena 
by Franz Kafka and Willy Haas, translated by Tania Stern and James Stern.
Penguin, 188 pp., £2.50, June 1983, 0 14 006380 3
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The Penguin Complete Novels of Franz Kafka: ‘The Trial’, ‘The Castle’, ‘America’ 
translated by Willa Muir, illustrated by Edwin Muir.
Penguin, 638 pp., £4.95, June 1983, 0 14 009009 6
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The Penguin Complete Short Stories of Franz Kafka 
edited by Nahum Glatzer.
Penguin, 486 pp., £3.95, June 1983, 0 14 009008 8
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... the ‘Josephine’ story tells us) there is no such thing as art. The republication of Willa and Edwin Muir’s Kafka translations recalls that it was they who made Kafka’s name famous and his texts accessible in the English-speaking world, albeit in a translation which was unduly coloured by their own interpretation of his writings. A more recent ...

England’s End

Peter Campbell, 7 June 1984

English Journey 
by J.B. Priestley.
Heinemann, 320 pp., £12.95, March 1984, 0 434 60371 6
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English Journey, or The Road to Milton Keynes 
by Beryl Bainbridge.
Duckworth/BBC, 158 pp., £7.95, March 1984, 0 563 20299 8
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Crisis and Conservation: Conflict in the British Countryside 
by Charlie Pye-Smith and Chris Rose.
Penguin, 213 pp., £3.95, March 1984, 0 14 022437 8
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Invisible Country: A Journey through Scotland 
by James Campbell.
Weidenfeld, 164 pp., £8.95, April 1984, 0 297 78371 8
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Literary Britain 
by Bill Brandt.
Victoria and Albert Museum in association with Hurtwood Press, 184 pp., £8.95, March 1984, 0 905209 66 4
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... Priestley made his English Journey. A few years later Orwell wrote The Road to Wigan Pier, and Edwin Muir Scottish Journey. Now, as the succeeding wave reaches the bottom of its downward swing, the BBC send out Bainbridge to follow Priestley, and James Campbell records travels which were in the spirit, if not the footsteps of ...

Men at forty

Derek Mahon, 21 August 1980

Selected Poems 
by Donald Justice.
Anvil, 137 pp., £3.50, May 1980, 0 85646 058 3
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by C.H. Sisson.
Carcanet, 80 pp., £2.95, April 1980, 0 85635 332 9
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... reminded, in the end, not of Eliot, but of the less remarkable, though still impressive, figure of Edwin Muir, as in ‘Place’: So we live nowhere, but somewhere there is a place Where life is lived, a kingdom of the blest, Perhaps, in which the programmes are ...

In Bloody Orkney

Robert Crawford: George Mackay Brown, 22 February 2007

George Mackay Brown: The Life 
by Maggie Fergusson.
Murray, 363 pp., £25, April 2006, 0 7195 5659 7
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The Collected Poems of George Mackay Brown 
edited by Brian Murray.
Murray, 547 pp., £18.99, October 2006, 0 7195 6884 6
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... music and the dance of words were the whole meaning.’ Though the poetry of his fellow Orcadian Edwin Muir baffled him, he heard in it a beguiling ‘secret and exact music’. Brown learned much from musical masters such as Tennyson, Hopkins, Eliot and Dylan Thomas, although at his best he could cut free from them and write with a plain clarity: A ...

Total Secret

Norman MacCaig, 21 January 1982

Neil M. Gunn: A Highland Life 
by F.R. Hart and J.B. Pick.
Murray, 314 pp., £15, November 1982, 0 7195 3856 4
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... same kind of simplicity – the kind that’s related to a total honesty and integrity – that Edwin Muir had. This, of course, has nothing to do with shutting your eyes to this and that and being a kind of holy fool. Neither was to be taken in by elegant hypocrisies and well-dressed pretensions. And each had confusions and complexities that made them ...

Hoo-Hooing in the Birch

Michael Hofmann: Tomas Tranströmer, 16 June 2016

Bright Scythe: Selected Poems 
by Tomas Tranströmer, translated by Patty Crane.
Sarabande, 207 pp., £13, November 2015, 978 1 941411 21 6
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... wonder, of the Orkneyman and author of one of the great poets’ prose books (An Autobiography) Edwin Muir, who, come to think of it, also thought about existence in terms of a labyrinth. Tranströmer is neither anxious nor imposing in his poems. There is never the pushiness of ‘Me first, Kingsley, I’m cleverest.’ He never became resentable to ...

Scots wha hae gone to England

Donald Davie, 9 July 1992

Devolving English Literature 
by Robert Crawford.
Oxford, 320 pp., £35, June 1992, 9780198112983
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The Faber Book of 20th-Century Scottish Poetry 
edited by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 424 pp., £17.50, July 1992, 9780571154319
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... been not-quite-obviously-Scottish-enough; he had the cheek to live somewhere else. Andrew Young, Edwin Muir, and several others, have been treated to petty discriminations of a similar kind.’ I suspect that Dunn himself is among those ‘several others’. Graham, it seems, was a drunk; and not a convivial drunk, but sour and contumacious. And he was ...

Flickering Star

Robert Crawford: Iain Crichton Smith, 21 January 1999

The Leaf and the Marble 
by Iain Crichton Smith.
Carcanet, 80 pp., £6.95, October 1998, 1 85754 400 5
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... climate still linguistically fissured in the wake of the quarrel between Hugh MacDiarmid and Edwin Muir; he was also painfully aware of the difficulties of writing for a Scottish Gaelic audience numbering at best 65,000, most of whom would have little interest in experimental contemporary poetry or prose. The title of one of his English poems asks ...

Smiles Better

Andrew O’Hagan: Glasgow v. Edinburgh, 23 May 2013

On Glasgow and Edinburgh 
by Robert Crawford.
Harvard, 345 pp., £20, February 2013, 978 0 674 04888 1
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... of ‘a newspaper-seller standing in the gutter’, a ‘pale rain-flawed phantom of the place’. Edwin Muir, in his autobiography, is riding on the Glasgow tram when he suddenly notices the passengers’ eyes moving in their heads like the eyes of animals. (He was always falling from the Edenic Orkney of his childhood.) Crawford brings us word of Hugh ...

Dazzling Philosophy

Michael Hofmann, 15 August 1991

Seeing things 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 113 pp., £12.99, June 1991, 0 571 14468 3
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... by repetition and work; there is no secret hinge the world swings on the way there is in Edwin Muir, a poet whose name has come up recently in Heaney’s essays. The lines – for once not ploughlines, not lines of verse – have their meaning, just as the sphere or circle of The Haw Lantern did. The meaning is not as intricate, or as deeply ...


David Trotter, 23 June 1988

The Government of the Tongue: The 1986 T.S. Eliot Memorial Lectures, and Other Critical Writings 
by Seamus Heaney.
Faber, 172 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 0 571 14796 8
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... literary experience’ are resuscitating a native Modernism (shakily embodied by early Auden and Edwin Muir). The strangeness secreted within British traditions has been re-invigorated by the East European example, he thinks, and now permeates texts such as Christopher Reid’s Katerina Brac (or, one might add, his own Audenesque reports ‘From the ...


J.P. Stern, 30 August 1990

Unmodern Observations 
by Friedrich Nietzsche, translated by Herbert Golder, Gary Brown and William Arrowsmith.
Yale, 402 pp., £30, February 1990, 0 300 04311 2
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The Importance of Nietzsche 
by Erich Heller.
Chicago, 200 pp., £23.95, February 1989, 0 226 32637 3
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... he should wish to give the impression that he is the first scholar to do so is another question. Edwin Muir’s calling as a poet, the many years he spent in Prague as well as his deep interest in German literature, made him the ideal reviewer for Erich Heller’s first English book, The Disinherited Mind. In his review, which appeared in the Observer ...

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