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the Complete Review
the complete review - poetry

Interferon, or On Theater

Miroslav Holub

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To purchase Interferon

Title: Interferon, or On Theater
Author: Miroslav Holub
Genre: Poetry
Written: 1982
Length: 158 pages
Original in: Czech
Availability: Interferon - US
Interferon - UK
Interferon - Canada
  • Translation by Dana Hábová, and David Young.
  • Foreword by David Young
  • Almost all of the poems in this collection can also be found in a different translation (by Ewald Osers) in Poems: Before & After

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Our Assessment:

A- : an excellent collection of Holub's interesting later work

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       A collection of Miroslav Holub's later poetry, Interferon, or On Theater contains many interesting new efforts by the poet. There is a great emphasis on the theatrical, and several of the pieces are, in fact, short dramatic scenes that can hardly be called poetry. From Punch and Judy to a puppet show version of Gilgamesh, Holub uses the greater stage for his ideas. Faust figures on a number of occasions, as do other theatrical standard bearers.
       It is a large collection, and not restricted to the theatrical. The poems are also more expansive than, in particular, Holub's early work. Poems such as the title piece are a radical advance on the succinct and ironical early pieces.
       The collection is highly recommended, though it should be kept in mind that a similar collection is available in the larger collection Poems: Before and After, wherein the Interferon poems are largely translated by Ewald Osers. (To confuse matters several of the Hábová/Young translations from this collection are included in Poems: Before and After.)
       There are bizarre differences between the two translations -- the poem titled United Flight 1011 (according to Osers) becomes United Flight 412 in the Young/Hábová edition -- and there are stylistic ones as well. Young/Hábová tend toward the more colloquial American, Osers towards a sometimes dated British. Neither is completely satisfying.
       This Hábová/Young translation must be regarded with some suspicion alone because of David Young's introduction, in which he speaks of "the Sanskrit epic Gilgamesh", a show of ignorance so obscene that we found it difficult to read on with any faith in the translator. The fact that the Gilgamesh epic and the language it was written in figure in Holub's poems -- the very poems Young supposedly translated -- casts an odd pall over the work.
       Nevertheless, Holub shines even through his translators, and this is an excellent, if somewhat dark collection.

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Interferon, or On Theater: Miroslav Holub: Other books by Miroslav Holub under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Poetry under review

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About the Author:

       Czech poet and scientist Miroslav Holub (1923-1998) was one of the major Eastern European poets of the post-war period. He earned both an M.D. and a Ph.D. and was a noted immunologist with more than 150 academic papers to his name. Much of his poetry has been translated into English.

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