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Miroslav Holub: In Prague

14 June 1990
... protest about my presence in Warsaw. The Polish Foreign Secretary put the démarche in cold storage for four days, however, and when the festival was over, he informed them that there was no Holub on the scene. So it was easy to become a political phenomenon by means of a mere reading of mere poems. When fighting dull intellect, you always feel more significant than you really are. And now we ...
14 June 1990
Selected Poems 1990 
by D.J. Enright.
Oxford, 176 pp., £6.95, March 1990, 0 19 282625 5
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Life by Other Means: Essays on D.J. Enright 
edited by Jacqueline Simms.
Oxford, 208 pp., £25, March 1990, 0 19 212989 9
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Vanishing Lung Syndrome 
by Miroslav Holub, translated by David Young and Dana Habova.
Faber, 68 pp., £10.99, April 1990, 0 571 14378 4
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The Dimension of the Present Moment, and Other Essays 
by Miroslav Holub, edited by David Young.
Faber, 146 pp., £4.99, April 1990, 0 571 14338 5
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Poems Before and After: Collected English Translations 
by Miroslav Holub, translated by Ewald Osers and George Theiner.
Bloodaxe, 272 pp., £16, April 1990, 1 85224 121 7
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My Country: Collected Poems 
by Alistair Elliot.
Carcanet, 175 pp., £18.95, November 1989, 0 85635 846 0
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1953: A Version of Racine’s ‘Andromaque’ 
by Craig Raine.
Faber, 89 pp., £4.99, March 1990, 0 571 14312 1
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by Jean Racine, translated by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 81 pp., £4.99, March 1990, 0 571 14249 4
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... of ordinary life. The uncertainty and self-awareness which Davie sees as circumscribing seem to me converted into an equivocal, laconic humour that proves continually thought-provoking and affecting. MiroslavHolub is not only Czechoslovakia’s best-known poet: he is also an internationally respected immunologist. Like the American poet William Carlos Williams, whose work he greatly admires, Holub has ...

Chemical Common Sense

Miroslav Holub

4 July 1996
The Same and Not the Same 
by Roald Hoffmann.
Columbia, 294 pp., $34.95, September 1995, 0 231 10138 4
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... The ‘courage of not knowing’ is in fashion among artists nowadays and the new democracies of Central Europe excel in it. Science is almost a dirty word, or, at best, simply one of many ways to acquire knowledge. Publishers and editors seem to believe that the broad public underwent a mutation after 1989 when they started to hate molecular genetics, taking up instead with psychedelic phenomena and ...
18 March 1999
Collected Poems of Vasko Popa 
translated by Anne Pennington.
Anvil, 464 pp., £12.95, January 1998, 0 85646 268 3
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... century, and the most translated: his Selected Poems were first published by Penguin in 1969, as part of its series of modern European poets. Popa was then usually grouped with Zbigniew Herbert and MiroslavHolub, two other astonishingly original East European poets, whose work was plainly unlike anything being written in Britain and the United States. Encountering in Popa an exotic blend of avant-garde ...

Their Witness

Donald Davie

27 February 1992
The Poetry of Survival: Post-War Poets of Central and Eastern Europe 
edited by Daniel Weissbort.
Anvil, 384 pp., £19.95, January 1992, 0 85646 187 3
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... and Hungarian poetry of the last forty years but for English poetry too; and it can hardly be expected that I should be even-handed about this, nor that I should venture judgments of Vasko Popa or MiroslavHolub on the basis of poems selected by, and translations commissioned by, a person so deeply self-deceiving as Weissbort reveals himself to be. Yehuda Amichai, learning from Weissbort in 1986 about ...
23 May 2002
The Invasion Handbook 
by Tom Paulin.
Faber, 201 pp., £12.99, April 2002, 0 571 20915 7
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... also, as ever, rough, demotic (Northern Ireland slang or dialect) and exotic (lots of German words, passages in French). At a guess, I would say that in developing this style he has been affected by MiroslavHolub, whom he greatly admires, and who can sound like this in English: Inside there may be growing An abandoned room, Bare walls, pale squares where pictures hung, a disconnected phone, feathers ...


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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... their situation that makes them attractive to a reader whose formative experience has been largely Irish.’ Poets like Zbigniew Herbert, ‘neither vindictive against art nor occluded to pain’, or MiroslavHolub, whose awareness of the ‘bounded condition’ of life in the Eastern bloc ensures his ‘inner freedom’, can teach us not to be abashed. The terms of Heaney’s own reckoning with Irish ...


Tom Paulin

1 August 1985
On the Contrary 
by Miroslav Holub, translated by Ewald Osers.
Bloodaxe, 126 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 906427 75 4
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The Lamentation of the Dead 
by Peter Levi.
Anvil, 40 pp., £2.95, October 1984, 0 85646 140 7
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Collected Poems 
by Peter Levi.
Anvil, 255 pp., £12, November 1984, 0 85646 134 2
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by Douglas Dunn.
Faber, 64 pp., £7.50, March 1985, 0 571 13570 6
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Poems: 1963-1983 
by Michael Longley.
Salamander, 206 pp., £9.95, March 1985, 0 904011 77 1
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Making for the Open: The Chatto Book of Post-Feminist Poetry 
edited by Carol Rumens.
Chatto, 151 pp., £4.95, March 1985, 0 7011 2848 8
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Direct Dialling 
by Carol Rumens.
Chatto, 48 pp., £3.95, March 1985, 0 7011 2911 5
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The Man Named East 
by Peter Redgrove.
Routledge, 137 pp., £4.95, March 1985, 0 7102 0014 5
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... from a familiar form of conservative quietism, but it is important to remember that in certain other societies quietism and political frustration are not opposed attitudes or states of mind. In MiroslavHolub’s Czechoslovakia; the poet and the critic know that the act of writing is both necessary and absurd. This is the sharp, precise point of ‘Swans in Flight’, where the swans circle ‘and ...

What’s this?

Ian Sansom: A. Alvarez

24 August 2000
Where Did It All Go Right? 
by A. Alvarez.
Richard Cohen, 344 pp., £20, September 1999, 1 86066 173 4
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... his own death and vulnerability for and on himself’. At the same time, as editor of Penguin’s series of Modern European Poets in Translation, he was championing poets such as Zbigniew Herbert and MiroslavHolub, whose preoccupations were more wide-ranging and, in many ways, more urgent. What seems to have characterised Alvarez’s tortuous path is his continual rolling back of the many false claims ...


Marina Warner: Baba Yaga

27 August 2009
Baba Yaga Laid an Egg 
by Dubravka Ugrešić, translated by Ellen Elias Bursác, Celia Hawkesworth and Mark Thompson.
Canongate, 327 pp., £14.99, May 2009, 978 1 84767 066 3
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... and the novella Soul, use the apparent innocence of the folktale form to indict the conditions of existence in Soviet Russia (though he didn’t escape censure). The same stratagems were used by MiroslavHolub in Czechoslovakia and Danilo Kis in Yugoslavia. Ugrešić has been circling this territory for a while. In her new book, the tradition of upside-down, modernist myth-making or ironical fable ...
18 April 1996
... grounds. Research by Pöppel shows that the conscious now’ is about three seconds long: this is the most we can hold together at any one time, experientially speaking. ‘In this sense,’ writes MiroslavHolub, ‘our ego lasts three seconds.’ His claim is tangential to mine. I don’t think that the brevity of the ‘conscious now’ necessarily contributes to the sense of hiatus or newness, for ...

Bad Dreams

Robert Crawford: Peter Porter

6 October 2011
The Rest on the Flight: Selected Poems 
by Peter Porter.
Picador, 421 pp., £12.99, May 2010, 978 0 330 52218 2
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... bay is mine I am Miss Stein (pronounced Steen) and this sea is green That’s Porter, ventriloquising Gertrude Stein; but it could easily be one of the voices of Morgan. Yet where Morgan, like MiroslavHolub, chose to stay in his native land whether or not he was happy with its literary or party politics, Porter’s relationship with Australia was more problematic. Morgan could write a confident ...

On Luljeta Lleshanaku

Michael Hofmann: Luljeta Lleshanaku

4 April 2019
... not playing up to them, uncluttered and for the most part unforced; they carry Lleshanaku into the proximity of the great 20th-century poets of Central and Eastern Europe: Akhmatova, Herbert, Holub, Szymborska, Zagajewski. What is the more striking about this is that it seems to have been done largely without books, or without external knowledge. This fact emerges less from the poems themselves ...

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