The Sorrow Gondola

Tomas Transtromer, Translator, Robin Fulton, Translator, John F. Deane, Translator
Tomas Transtromer, Translator, Robin Fulton, Translator, John F. Deane, Translator Dedalus Press $14.95 (52p) ISBN 978-1-873790-48-9
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
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There is no explicit mention in these pages of the devastating recent stroke that severely impaired the ability of Transtromer, one of Sweden's most distinguished poets, to speak, read and write. Nevertheless, this slender volume, published in Sweden in 1996 and the first new collection to appear there since Transtromer's illness, centers unmistakably on the controlled anguish that the 66-year-old poet's physical condition--and encroaching mortality--imposes. ""I am carried in my shadow/ like a violin/ in its black case,"" he writes in ""April and Silence"": ""The only thing I want to say/ glitters out of reach/ like the silver/ in a pawnbroker's."" What saves the collection from morbidness is the formal beauty and remorselessly compressed clarity of the writing. Indeed, the almost telegraphic brevity of the poems is the volume's only concession to Transtromer's handicap. With the exception of the four-page title poem, a meditation on Wagner's final months, most of the pieces are only a few stanzas long, yet they retain all the force of the poet's earlier work. Fulton's translations, while able, are marred by occasional inaccuracies. Alternate versions of some of the poems can be seen in Ecco Press's 1995 Transtromer collection, For the Living and the Dead. (Sept.)
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