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New Left Review I/173, January-February 1989


Erich Fried

Poetry and Politics: A Conversation with Stuart Hood

Erich Fried was not only a distinguished and prolific poet—he said once in a characteristic phrase that he wrote poems the way rabbits have babies—but a novelist, essayist and translator of Shakespeare, Dylan Thomas and Eliot. These achievements have been recognized throughout Europe but are only now beginning to be appreciated in Britain. Fried was remarkable for the fact that as an emigré writer he contrived not to lose his great command of his native language and not to be cut off from social and political developments in Germany and Austria, where he made noteworthy interventions on the Left and had a readership of a size few British poets could aspire to. His career as a poet went through various stages, which included bold experiments with language, but at all times he was essentially a political poet for the simple reason that he was a person who thought and lived politically. Fried was born in Vienna in 1921 into a middle-class Jewish family. As remarkable a young boy as he was an adult—he was a child-prodigy actor—he was precociously aware of the political events of the twenties and thirties: Bloody Friday 1927, for instance, when the Viennese police shot down Socialist demonstrators, the street-fighting under the right-wing regime of Chancellor Dolfuss, and the Anschluss in 1938. It was with the events of 1927 that our conversation began.

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