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Memorials

131

and frank features had appeared in German and British newspapers presenting Michael primarily as a grower of rare apples, an eccentric recluse who wrote poems on the side. In films, too, that were sensitive and unintrusive, his apples glowed with a wild, subaqueous, and oddly indeterminate intensity. The joke – though the laughter was thickening to choke on – was that phrases like ‘grower of mainly obsolete apple varieties’ had begun to replace the grisly epithet ‘better known as a translator’ as a signal that Michael’s poems might be sidelined, subordinated, receiving shorter shrift than they deserved. For it was in poems that he knew he had not come apart. Here still – again and again – he made a whole. The whole was the missing link. He so rarely felt the aesthetic and moral seriousness of his project was met with any equivalent seriousness of response. Rarely in Britain, anyway (where he could no longer rely on his new books attracting a single review). This was a source of desperation – a source too of his ‘Moralities’ (he might as easily have called them ‘Frustrations’): polemics and invectives that formed the satiric, fraying fringe of his poetic core. The cultural infra-structure for the production of serious responses of the kind he needed had been maimed, as he saw it, by pseudo-democratic and commercial concerns to which he could not adapt, and he would rail against a lack of human decency on all sides. He saw much of his own life’s work, in consequence, as an anachronism. Of his critical work as a mediator of German and European literature, Reason and Energy or The Truth of Poetry , for example, he wrote that he had hoped to address not an academic community but ‘the common or general reader’, even while he knew that any general reading public ‘was already beginning to dwindle away, even in the 1950s’. Yet his own life and work interrogated arbitrary categories of time and place. He was deeply serious when he saw the silent boy who had left Berlin in 1933 and the old man with an antiquated Oxford drawl – German and Englishman, translator and poet – as one.

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