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the Complete Review
the complete review - poetry

The Rampage

Miroslav Holub

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Title: The Rampage
Author: Miroslav Holub
Genre: Poetry
Written: 1997
Length: 84 pages
Original in: Czech
Availability: The Rampage - US
The Rampage - UK
The Rampage - Canada
  • Translated by Dana Hábová, David Young, Rebekah Bloyd, and Miroslav Holub.
  • Published in 1997, Faber & Faber let this volume go out of print faster than the ink dried.
  • A number of the poems in this collection were previously published in Intensive Care (Oberlin College Press, 1996).

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Our Assessment:

A- : a dark but powerful collection

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Sunday Times A- 22/3/1998 Sean O'Brien
TLS . 15/5/1998 Tim Kendall

  From the Reviews:
  • "Holub's gallows humour might be glib were it not so clearly a way of clarifying and discarding prejudice and of trying to get the measure of Creation - its scale and variety, its horror and fascination." - Sean O'Brien, The Sunday Times

  • "As a commentary on life, The Rampage is almost irremediably bleak. But like his poets in "the Autumn Orchard", Holub tempers his disgust with clandestine celebration." - Tim Kendall, Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Combining science, myth, and a strong sense of history, Holub again presents his readers with his sharply observed take on the world. There is some scientific detachment in his description of horrors but there is also genuine feeling behind all his irony. His smile is more wistful than indulgent, as he points out how things were (and are), only gently suggesting how they might be (recognizing that man in his infinite foolishness rarely does the right thing). Science can help clarify, but Holub does not offer it as a solution, well-aware of the threats it too poses.
       In Pompeii Little Red Riding Hood "drags her gift basket" down the street -- "such a beautiful moment", Holub intones. Oblivious to a "geology / that ended with Empedocles" the Pompeians lives serenely untroubled by science. But the reader knows what came next. There are many such moments in Holub's poetry, and specifically in this strong collection.
       The collection is divided into five sections -- The Wall, Freedom, The Pied Pipers, Masterpiece, and The Rampage -- , Holub's concerns extending to both local and universal history, and always to man's folly. The section on freedom is obviously colored by the changing of the guard in what was Czechoslovakia. Holub's embrace of new-found freedoms is tellingly wary. He offers The Moth and how it confronts freedom as an example:

Freedom makes
the moth tremble
for ever. That is,
twenty-two hours.
       The Pied Pipers section offers warnings as to what our world has become, a pessimistic outlook and none too generous commentary on modern civilization. But it is not all fatalistic negativity that Holub expresses -- the implication that we can do better is always there.
       The Rampage section is the culmination then, with dark poem titles such as Head-Smashed-In, The Slaughterhouse, or Intensive Care Unit. Again it means to serve as warning.
       A clever man, Holub's expression impresses throughout. The poetry is finely and carefully wrought -- and one suspects that even with the many translators at work on this collection (and including the author's own input) the English versions do not entirely do justice to the Czech originals.
       Holub is clearly one of the most successful modern poets at merging science and literature, and, given the importance of science in this age, his work seems especially significant. He certainly deserves a wide readership, and it is pleasing to see that these poems appeared in some 25 periodicals before being collected here -- newspapers and magazines as diverse as The Independent and Prairie Schooner, the TLS, New Statesman, and the Tel Aviv Review, where hopefully many a reader's eye stopped over these brief but powerful verses.
       It is regrettable that the book passed out of print with such alarming speed. We hope that the reason is that a nice collected edition of this master poet's works is in the works.....

       The collection is strongly recommended

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Reviews: 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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