179. (Theodor Fontane)

Effi Briest: a nineteenth-century European bourgeois world that doesn’t have the melodramatic horrors of hell or the hopeless delusions of fatuous romance. The heroine, Effi, does not, cannot, realize how miserable she is; nobody in the novel’s world, not even the narrator, does; but it is obvious and terrible to see. For mof the novel, her misery is felt mostly in the diminished tones of her … Continue reading 179. (Theodor Fontane)

173. (Eugenio Montale)

The final poem in La Bufera e altro, “Il sogno del prigionero,” “The Prisoner’s Dream,” is also the second poem in the section titled “Conclusioni provvisiorie,” “Provisional Conclusions.”  Below is the Arrowsmith translation: . Here, except for a few signs, you can’t tell dawn from night. . The zigzag of starlings over the watchtowers on days of fighting, my only wings, a thread of arctic air, the … Continue reading 173. (Eugenio Montale)

170. (Eugenio Montale)

A second in a series of readings of poems by Eugenio Montale, from his collection La Bufera e altro.  Here, from the fifth selection of the collection, “Silvae,” is the poem ” ‘Ezekiel Saw the Wheel’.” The original title is an English quotation, alluding, believes William Arrowsmith, whose translation I consult, to a African-American slave spiritual. Arrowsmith’s translation: Was it you, strange hand, that snatched me from … Continue reading 170. (Eugenio Montale)

144. (Philip Larkin)

[COMPLETE VERSION.]  A chief complaint against Larkin is the insularity, his reaction to modernism that confuses an affirmation of Hardy’s special and lasting richness with a rejection of the internationalism that characterizes Pound and Eliot. It is the Larkin we see in a conversation with 1964 Ian Hamilton (collected in Further Requirements); asked “Do you read any foreign poetry,” the reply is stodgy and affected: “Foreign … Continue reading 144. (Philip Larkin)

143. (Marina Tsvetaeva)

And, in part, 143. (Elaine Feinstein), since it is Feinstein’s translations (written with the assistance of Angela Livingstone) from the Russian on which I will be relying. Although Livingstone tells us that Tsvetaeva’s voice is “particularly difficult to capture,” Tsvetaeva took a view of poetry that might empower a translator, though it also places a burden of the highest creative expectations on the act of … Continue reading 143. (Marina Tsvetaeva)

140. (William Empson)

William Empson’s poetry has, until very recently, and despite years of trying to read it with some genuine appreciation, been inaccessible to me. I had thought that the trouble was with the density of conceit, the range of reference in the analogies, and the feeling that readers are being asked to sort out crosswords in verse; but the notes in the Haffenden edition cover that … Continue reading 140. (William Empson)

136. (Marlon James)

In its closing chapters, the title of A Brief History of Seven Killings is explained. A journalist has written a seven-part feature for The New Yorker on victims of a murderous rampage in a crack house in Brooklyn in the 80s: “A Brief History of Seven Killings”. When he reads aloud from his account, it is harshly criticized by a man holding him at gunpoint: –Jesus Christ, … Continue reading 136. (Marlon James)