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( 1949 )


The Prospect of Nothing

János Marno (b. 1949), the secret favorite of contemporary Hungarian verse, has arrived in what is perhaps his life’s finest phase of poetry. In his new work, The Prospect of Nothing (A semmi esélye), “The poem / slowly assumes its body temperature.” Just what is its temperature? Somewhere between a slight, albeit hypnotic fever and an alarmingly high, painful one. Marno’s verse is characterized by rich, dense metaphors; inner rhymes that burst suddenly upon the scene; harried digressions; and, from the deep, the ceaseless murmur of lines and fragments from works by Rilke, Celan, and Holan. This volume’s lyrical subject is on the road all day long, as it were: getting about, seeking, getting to the bottom of things. Seeking itself and seeking the world, in which it is at home with the Freudian concept of the uncanny (Das Unheimliche; literally “un-home-ly”). Its observations are simultaneously banal and cosmic. The Prospect of Nothing is built up of carefully structured cycles of verse. Of these, the most compelling is perhaps Marno’s collection of “Anna” poems, in which a surreal world takes shape around the figure of the woman whom these poems summon and conjure into life. Ever since his first book of poetry, Narcissus is Readying (Nárcisz készül) Marno’s lyrical likeness and reflection has been that Narcissus who himself looks into the mirror—which is to say, a mirror’s mirror image is a mirror. And Marno’s poems scratch indelible lines upon this surface; for example, that the prospect of nothing at all is in fact (the) all.

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