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Un tiempo que no pasa: nuevos ensayos by Antonio Colinas (review)

From: Hispanófila
Volume 168, Mayo 2013
pp. 156-158 | 10.1353/hsf.2013.0036

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The hardcover volume Un tiempo que no pasa collects over sixty of Spanish poet Antonio Colinas's (La Bañeza, León, 1946) critical essays on world writers, past and present. The chapters are a mix of reviews, articles, and lectures from throughout Colinas's prolific career as both literary creator and critic. This volume is number five in a series of similar compilations by contemporary Hispanic literary figures published by the University of Valladolid. Showing a centuries-old statue alongside a city bus, the book's cover photo reflects one of the themes of this book: that some elements of art and literature are timeless and carry on, becoming essential parts of the present.

In the introduction Susana Agustín Fernández, a notable Colinas scholar (Inventario de Antonio Colinas, 2007), summarizes Colinas's work as literary critic and poet. The subjects of the following reviews and articles, most from 3-5 pages in length, are organized by geography, language, or era. As Agustín Fernández notes, Colinas's critical prose is itself non-academic and non-traditional, yet elegant and poetic, alluding to his vocation as a poet (21). The majority of the works reviewed are by or about poets, however, Colinas often finds a way to uncover the poetic elements in other prose or academic works (16). He also conveys a deep sense of personal attachment to many of the texts, communicated through an intimate, often conversational tone. For Colinas, in addition to a shared poetic quality, what connects the reviewed texts or writers is the idea that all disciplines (literary creation and criticism, philosophy, religion, science, the arts, etc.) are part of one indivisible body of knowledge (22-23). Un tiempo que no pasa is, in effect, a collection of interdisciplinary literary criticism, united by Colinas's "amor a la escritura y a los libros, a la poesía y a la literatura de sentido universal" (232).

In the first essay, originally a speech given by Colinas at a library event in 2007, he chooses and explains the selection of his "essential" books — those that have greatly influenced him or which he believes can teach greater cosmic understanding. A large part of these are poetry, but they also include religious and cultural texts (Bible, Book of Tao), novels (Stendhal, Dostoyevsky, Pasternak), and classics of psychology and philosophy (Jung, Montaigne).

In "Nuestra propia lengua," Colinas imparts his knowledge of and personal experience with several contemporary figures from Hispanic literature, often enriching his reviews of their work with elements of biography and autobiography. For example, we read several articles on poets which combine real-life elements with sensitive and informed criticism of their literary production: remembering time spent with Pablo Neruda or listening to Octavio Paz, participating in tertulias with Paco Umbral or receiving literary encouragement from Antonio Gamoneda. Historical details accompany his reviews of poetic anthologies such as those by Rubén Darío and Juan Gelman, giving brief but holistic contexts that make them available to anyone. Colinas's reviews of prose works, in which he comments on the content as well as the quality of edited editions, include one of literary criticism — Michael Nerlich's study of Los trabajos de Persiles y Segismunda, which sheds new light on this often overlooked work. Two other articles comment on the works of Elliot Paul and Miguel Delibes, the authors of a Civil War history in Ibiza and post-war travel accounts, respectively. One of the last articles reviews a work of music-history and criticism by Eugenio Trías. The style and content of this first section of Spanish-language works and authors is exemplary of the diversity of works reviewed in subsequent sections of Un tiempo que no pasa, and considering the personal connections and influences revealed here, may be the most significant section in the book for scholars of Colinas's work or of Spanish literature.

Colinas is often generous with his praise for the editions, both literary and critical, on which he comments, as well as for any translators, anthologists, and editors involved. The section "Las voces de los clásicos" contains reviews of three book-length translations of Greek and Latin verse...

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