Dominic Cavendish on literature

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The Independent Culture
Among the more interesting specimens produced by the cross-fertilisation between literature and film in recent years are the film-poems of Tony Harrison (right). The hard man of Leeds is now just as likely to be thought of as a televisual pioneer as he is a lewd-tongued, classically-informed redeemer of verse drama.

With hindsight, Harrison has been on a collision course with the screen for ages, and not only because of its popularising potential. Having turned a contemporary ear to Greek tragedy, in 1986 he started to put the image- conscious 20th-century through his epic filter, declaring television to be "one of the spectres at the feast". Over the past decade, he has taken on such vast themes as the Gulf War and the fatwa on Salman Rushdie.

His best known film work is probably The Shadow of Hiroshima, a document- awry on the 50th anniversary of the dropping of the A-bomb, in which we hear the spirit of a man incinerated in 1945. The technique is assured, the verse at times rewinding or panning effortlessly from reported fact into reported thought. The film's achievement is to give visual substance to a sentiment expressed in one of his early poems (Allotments), recalling VJ day, where the speaker in bed "felt street bonfires blazing for the end of war". On Thursday at the South Bank, the man himself will talk about his attempts to elicit as much feeling from the passive TV diner as from the serious reader.

Also showing at that complex: "Fiction International", part 2, in which the best-selling Chinese-American author Amy Tan flies in to read from her third novel, The Hundred Secret Senses. She joins the prolific Edna O'Brien and Mordecai Richler in an evening celebrating the art of storytelling.

Fiction International QEH Wed 7.30pm, pounds 7; Tony Harrison, Purcell Rm Thur 7.30pm, RFH, South Bank, London SE1 (0171-960 4242) pounds 6

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