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Heartlessness is not enough

Graham Hough, 21 May 1981

Loitering with Intent 
by Muriel Spark.
Bodley Head, 221 pp., £6.50, May 1981, 0 370 30900 6
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Burnt Water 
by Carlos Fuentes, translated by Margaret Peden.
Secker, 231 pp., £6.50, January 1981, 0 436 16763 8
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The Leaves on Grey 
by Desmond Hogan.
Picador, 119 pp., £1.50, April 1981, 0 330 26287 4
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Children of Lir 
by Desmond Hogan.
Hamish Hamilton, 136 pp., £6.95, April 1981, 0 241 10608 7
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Walking naked 
by Nina Bawden.
Macmillan, 220 pp., £5.95, April 1981, 0 333 31304 6
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... Critical reactions to Muriel Spark puzzle me a good deal. The general consensus among reviewers seems to find her riotously funny; and in the midst of this open-hearted merriment I am a skeleton at the feast. Or rather, I can’t find the feast; I feel that I have been at a picnic with people I don’t really know; the sandwiches are made with margerine, the thermos is full of cold tea, there is a nasty east wind; and just as the unluscious viands are spread out, dead on cue, it starts to rain ...

Spanish Practices

Edwin Williamson, 18 May 1989

Collected Poems 1957-1987 
by Octavio Paz, edited by Eliot Weinberger.
Carcanet, 669 pp., £25, October 1988, 0 85635 787 1
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Sor Juana: Her Life and her World 
by Octavio Paz, translated by Margaret Sayers Peden.
Faber, 547 pp., £27.50, November 1988, 0 571 15399 2
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ASor Juana Anthology 
translated by Alan Trueblood, with a foreword by Octavio Paz.
Harvard, 248 pp., £23.95, September 1988, 0 674 82120 3
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... Octavio Paz occupies a unique position in the Spanish-speaking world. He is the foremost living poet of the language as well as being one of the most authoritative interpreters of the Hispanic situation, a pensador in the tradition of Unamuno, Ortega y Gasset, Rodo and Mariategui. Poetry, however, has always been the vital source of his ideas. His work as cultural historian, political essayist and editor of Vuelta, the most influential journal in Latin America today, is rooted in his belief that the poetic conscience must be brought to bear on the central issues of contemporary history ...

The Road to Sligo

Tom Paulin, 17 May 1984

Poetry and Metamorphosis 
by Charles Tomlinson.
Cambridge, 97 pp., £9.95, March 1983, 0 521 24848 5
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Translations 
by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 120 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 19 211958 3
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Conversation with the Prince 
by Tadeusz Rozewicz, translated by Adam Czerniawski.
Anvil, 206 pp., £4.95, March 1982, 0 85646 079 6
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Passions and Impressions 
by Pablo Neruda, translated by Margaret Sayers Peden.
Farrar, Straus/Faber, 396 pp., £16.50, October 1983, 0 571 12054 7
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An Empty Room 
by Leopold Staff, translated by Adam Czerniawski.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £3.25, March 1983, 0 906427 52 5
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... Perhaps all verse translation must begin and end with a version of the Aeneid, or with an essentially Virgilian concept of art’s relation to society? In these islands, the first translator of Virgil was Gavin Douglas, whose Eneados was completed in 1513. Although my Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Literature appropriates Douglas as the earliest translator of the classics ‘into English’, his version was of course written in Scots and is an ennobling monument to Scotland’s separate cultural identity ...

Fuentes the Memorious

John Sutherland, 19 June 1986

The Old Gringo 
translated by Margaret Sayers Peden and Carlos Fuentes, by Carlos Fuentes.
Deutsch, 199 pp., £8.95, May 1986, 0 233 97862 3
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Where the air is clear 
by Carlos Fuentes, translated by Sam Hileman.
Deutsch, 376 pp., £4.95, June 1986, 0 233 97937 9
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Farewell to the Sea 
by Reinaldo Arenas, translated by Andrew Hurley.
Viking, 412 pp., £12.95, May 1986, 0 670 52960 5
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Digging up the mountains 
by Neil Bissoondath.
Deutsch, 247 pp., £8.95, May 1986, 0 233 97851 8
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... Carlos Fuentes is one of those unusual novelists who would make the International Who’s Who even if he had never written a novel. As a public man, Fuentes’s career has been directed to Mexico’s uneasy relationship with the outside world – he was Mexican Ambassador to France from 1975 to 1977. As a novelist, he explores the internal character of his country, in Where the air is clear, his first novel, originally published in 1958, in The Death of Artemio Cruz and in Terra Nostra ...

Tunnel Visions

Philip Horne, 4 August 1988

The Tunnel 
by Ernesto Sabato, translated by Margaret Sayers Peden.
Cape, 138 pp., £10.95, June 1988, 0 224 02578 3
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Pilgrims Way 
by Abdulrazak Gurnah.
Cape, 232 pp., £11.95, June 1988, 0 224 02562 7
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States of Emergency 
by André Brink.
Faber, 248 pp., £9.95, May 1988, 0 571 15118 3
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Moonrise, Moonset 
by Tadeusz Konwicki, translated by Richard Lourie.
Faber, 344 pp., £11.95, May 1988, 0 571 13609 5
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... Troubled countries usually cause troubled minds in their writers, as do troubled families or systems of belief: but while being so troubled may be a powerful incitement to literary production, it may equally get in the way of real achievement. Writers can find themselves facing a dilemma, a choice between fidelity to their own passionate confusions and the possibly spurious lucidity of analytic detachment ...

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