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The Angel of History Paperback – Unabridged, February 3, 1995
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From Publishers Weekly
Though Forche's ( The Country Between Us ) previous books have been groundbreaking works of political and moral depth, this new volume may be the most remarkable. Ambitious and authentic, The Angel of History is an overarching book-length poem, composed in numbered sections, that invokes the horror of contemporary times in a mode reminiscent of Eliot's "The Waste Land." Much as Eliot's poem refracted WW I, the vacuity of culture and the fragmentation of modern life, Forche considers the Holocaust, Hiroshima and genocide in Latin America--the dismal past that predicates the chaotic present. Her vehicle is the Angel of History, who confronts human cruelty and misery but can do no more than record them, as explained by Walter Benjamin in an epigraph: "The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But . . . the storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward." Though the poetry is powerful, it is not always easily understandable; one must follow the Angel through serpentine lines, a disjointed and oblique nightmare whispered by an indeterminate narrator, and a splintered pastiche that borrows apocalyptic phrases from Elie Wiesel, Kafka, Canetti, Trakl, Char and Valery. But the journey ventured is well worth the occasional wrong turn: Forche has not only created poetry of consummate beauty, but has borne witness to the wounds of our collective history, fulfilling the conviction that "surely all art is the result of one's having been in danger, of having gone through an experience all the way to the end."
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"The "Angel of History" is instantly recognizable as a great book, the most humanitarian and aesthetically 'inevitable' response to a half century of atrocities that has yet been written in English."-- Calvin Bedient, "The Threepenny Review""The poignant "cri de couer" of this singular work most affect all who have an integrity still possible in this painfully despairing time."-- Robert Creeley"I don't think I have ever come across a poem of such length that is nevertheless so beautifully transparent and haunting."-- James Merrill"A dark, richly textured, complicated work...["The Angel of History"] is that great rarity, an altogether new thing."-- Liz Rosenberg, "Boston Globe""Poetry of consummate beauty...reminiscent of Eliot's 'The Waste Land.'"-- "Publishers Weekly" (starred review)
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Top customer reviews
What I think distinguishes The Angel of History from Blue Hour, Forche's next book, is the reliance on concrete narrative for each of the sections. There is lyrical ambiguity, but I'm also aware of which time frame the speaker is in, and I can then use that to understand the book's larger argument, which is that any criticism of war can't be tied to chronology. Blue Hour has a similar aim in my mind, but the abecedarian form of the long title poem relies too much on incidental associations that would tie the sentences together. It makes for pleasurable poetry, but I think it loses the larger impact accomplished by The Angel of History.
Evocative of T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, The Angel of Poetry is a plea to keep memory alive, to keep speaking for the dead. Forche has given us a purpose - as both readers and writers of poetry - a truly sacred task.