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Judging Pound

In response to:

Pound's Book of Beasts from the June 2, 1988 issue

To the Editors:

Denis Donoghue, reviewing my biography of Ezra Pound [NYR, June 2], asserts that I am soft on Pound, that I evade moral judgments. That doesn’t quite sound like the book I wrote. In my chapter on Pound in Italy, within the space of twenty pages, I describe Pound’s intemperateness, his abrasiveness, his deviousness. I call him desperate, erratic, marginal, a “blind hero-worshipper” caught in paranoid fantasies with a fixated hatred for the world. I say that he maintained with a “relentless and fanatical insistence” the delusion that he could master political questions as well as artistic ones. I describe him as “mean-spirited,” I point to his “imperious condescension and vituperative impatience.” I fully document his bilious hatred of the Jews, and I say that his Jew-baiting was “ugly, coarse vilification, unrelated to fact.” I also use the testimony of family, friends and acquaintances to show how Pound had lost control of his language in a vitriolic maelstrom of his own manufacture culminating in the “shrieking fanaticism” of the broadcasts. Finally, I write that Pound had become a literary monster who “had gone beyond the human community, joined the forces of the dark forests, become an untouchable, stigmatized, outcast, a pariah unable to reach his audience with his voice” (page 278). Does this sound like evasion?

John Tytell

Department of English

Queens College

Flushing, New York

Denis Donoghue replies:

Professor Tytell quotes himself, but not me. I didn’t say that he is soft on Pound. I said that “his Pound—an emanation, a subterranean force, a monster—is always beyond the reach of a merely moral judgment.” I might have quoted his page 278, as he does (“…joined the forces of the dark forests…”) to make the same point.

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