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A Country Without Names by Martin Anderson

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A Country Without Names offers a conspectus of human activity from its earliest imagined days and the formation of agrarian state sedentism to our own day. Its tesserae, gathered from beyond the boundaries of a single country or culture, constitute a mosaic in which might be gleaned all the fury and fatuity of the pursuit of that gilded phantasmagoria of a just and beneficent state.

Whilst a certain sombreness – from Flowering Midnight’s dark elegy for the English pastoral lyric, to the fate of Congo’s Patrice Lumumba in the contemporary, and near contemporary, political parallels animating Under Jui-yi Shan – imbues the collection it should be seen, however, as no more than the corollary of an unsentimental probing of experience, in a collection which is both paean for the natural world and indictment of those human qualities and structures which threaten it.

Ian Seed, reviewing Ice Stylus, the final volume, after Interlocutors of Paradise and Obsequy for Lost Things, in Anderson’s Unsubdued Singing trilogy, noted “its highly charged lyricism … the language … sparse, staccato, pared down to a minimum.” He pointed to “its timeless, archetypal quality”, to “the sense of an epic journey into the darkness of the western psyche … One is reminded above all, in the tension between the aesthetic qualities of the writing and its political, historical and philosophical subject matter, of the work of Ezra Pound … In the current political climate this is a book which may also be read as … a plea to begin anew with a narrative that acknowledges the humility of our place within the universe and our responsibility to it.”

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