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Approximately Nowhere (Faber Poetry) [Paperback]

Michael Hofmann
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

19 April 1999 Faber Poetry

A number of the poems in this collection by Michael Hofmann show him returning to the subject of his father, the German novelist Gert Hofmann, whose relationship with his son was also the principal subject of his celebrated 1986 collection, Acrimony, and of a memorable television documentary that appeared at that time. In 1993, however, Gert Hofmann died, and the poems written since then replace the combativeness and acerbity of the earlier book with a more complex tone: frankness and factuality are still important elements, but they are tempered now by grief, pity, pain and bemusement.

Readers will note other differences, too: among them, a greater sense of formal freedom, a more flowing and abundant style of poetic discourse, an ever-sharper receptiveness to brilliant and brittle observations, and an increasing variety of tones, from the droll to the remorseful and the delirious. Above all, they will be delighted to learn that Michael Hofmann, whose outstanding talents were evident from his very first collection has found ways of putting them at the service of a more mature, profound and revelatory view of the world.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber; First Edition edition (19 April 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571195245
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571195244
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.2 x 0.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,175,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Michael Hofmann was born in 1957 in Freiburg, Germany, and came to England in 1961. He has published four volumes of poems and won a Cholmondeley Award and the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize for poetry. His translations have won many awards, including the Independent's Foreign Fiction Award, the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the P.E.N./Book of the Month Club Translation Prize. His reviews and criticism are gathered in Behind the Lines (2001).

Product Description

Amazon Review

Approximately Nowhere signals a turning point for Michael Hofmann, as the poet queries where the death of his father in 1993 has left him, both personally and poetically. Hofmann rose to prominence in 1986 with Acrimony, a scathing and often heartbreaking collection of poems to his father, the German novelist Gert Hofmann, who throughout the poet's youth reigned like an angry god over the family home. With extraordinary emotional and intellectual acuity, Hofmann's poems evoke his father's monolithic presence through the smallest gestured and still-life details: the elder Hofmann's ironic "tenderness for a butterfly", his demands for tea that he leaves cold, a permanent arrangement of dried flowers "withered to articulate straw / that my father half-inched, / like a spindly triffid on the steel table."

The new poems addressed to his father in Approximately Nowhere exhibit more pity than bitterness for "kleiner papa", as well as the self-assured ability to do the unthinkable--depart prematurely from his father's funeral. One poem aptly summarises the odd but effective range of emotions governing this new collection: "scattiness, contempt, emulousness, laughter, the hysterical use of the present tense." Hofmann's voice links the two generations: the weighty, learned, book-bound inheritance of his father versus the more anarchic voices of the young, who wish to "tear down the bookshelves and inherit the earth." While some poems are addressed to a coterie of poets, others are attuned to the more free-form voices of bar-room talk and suburban isolation. Throughout, Hofmann's primary poetic role--as a rapt audience to his own pain--remains clear and unchanging. --Gillian Forbes Pachter


"Michael Hofmann is one of the best poets writing in English."--Helen Dunmore, "Observer" "It is probably impossible to produce poetry of this quality that is tuned more precisely to the timbre of the present than Michael Hofmann's. Rapture is the only adequate response."--Geoff Dyer, "Guardian"

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Writing of high quality. 31 Jan 2000
By Patrick
Very much enjoyed reading this book having been slightly put off by Robert Potts' remarks, something along the lines of 'an absence of motivation at the heart of these poems'. They are manifestly of a high technical standard, demonstrating controlled diction in particular. They have a delightful way of linking pairs of words in different languages to create the sense of being with a man spending a lot of his time translating. Overall the impression is of a life that redeems/renews itself by finding, in triumph, one special word a day. Outside the writer's isolated room a large, unfriendly city gets on with its affairs in complete indifference, making the artist's determination seem all the more admirable and strange.
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