Review by Jeanne Lesinski

by Edith Grossman

W.W. Norton
500 Fifth Avenue
New York, N.Y. 10110
ISBN 978-0-393-06038-6
224 pp., $26.95 hardcover

Dear Mr. Green,
Thank you for sending me Edith Grossman's collection of poems from the Spanish Renaissance (late 15th through 17th centuries) The Golden Age: Poems of the Spanish Renaissance. It is a beautiful book on many levels. Elegantly designed and printed on high-quality paper, it is a feast for the eye. The original version of poems by Jorge Manrique, Garcilaso de la Vega, Fray Luis de León, San Juan de la Cruz, Luis de Góngora, Lope de Vega, Francisco de Quevedo, and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz sit side by side with their translations. Each section begins with a historical portrait of the poet whose works follow.
Grossman is a well-known translator of modern Spanish works by Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa and a best-selling translation of Don Quixote. In her introduction to the collection, she complains of English-speaking readers' overall lack of knowledge about Spanish poetry. Although students regularly read works from the same time period by other poets of the European tradition, those in Spanish have been neglected. Grossman did not intend to create a textbook or exhaustive anthology with this collection; instead, she chose from among her favorites poems of the period. In fact, she stretched the geographical boundaries by including Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a Mexican woman. As a translator, Grossman had to choose what was most important among the formal aspects of these poems, which are written in meter and rhyme, so she opted to retain the meter, loosening it somewhat to sound more natural in English.
Unfortunately, I am unable to review this work, primarily because so much praise has already been lavished upon on it by the likes of Harold Bloom (who calls her the Glenn Gould of translators) and Carlos Fuentes, who wrote in the New York Times Book Review,  "Nothing is harder . . . than to render a classic in contemporary idiom yet retain its sense of time and space. . . . Edith Grossman delivers." What else is there to add, except perhaps, that even a reader with less than fluent Spanish knowledge, like me, can find The Golden Age very satisfying.
Yours truly,
Jeanne Lesinski


Jeanne Lesinski is the author of numerous articles for magazines and reference books. With international artist and designer Pierrick Gaume, she recently collaborated on The Humanoid Industry, a book on the use of human-shaped objects in automobile and household products design. Lesinski’s  poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the anthology Poem, Revised as well as the journals Pennsylvania English, Tusculum Review, Tarwolf Review, and Drash, among others.





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