Books

Pencil Letter

Pencil Letter Irina Ratushinskaya (Estate)
Pub date 12th November 1989
Original publisher Bloodaxe / Hutch (UK)
Publisher (US) Alfred A Knopf

Ratushinskaya, who now lives in London, wrote these poems between her arrest for "anti-Soviet agitation" in late 1982 and her release from labor camp four years later. The work is probably best read as an addendum to her gallant and wrenching memoir of the period, Grey Is the Color of Hope ( LJ 10/15/88). Many of her poems are obviously sustained and effective in theme and imagery, and over those years Ratushinskaya seems to have grown considerably as an artist. It's hard to be sure, however: the collection is the work of ten translators whose eclectic versions of individual poems are often mere trots, semantically and syntactically faithful to the original but stuck somewhere in mid-continuum between initial Russian and intended English. Continuity of voice and vocabulary and much poetry is lost in the muddle.

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