rsz moody


an interview by Roxana Preda


Your early studies reflect the academic values of two countries on two continents: who were the preferred writers of your formative years and how did you engage with them?


Let me take this up from the pre-academic in order to get at what was primarily “formative.” I was born in New Zealand in 1932 in a small country town where my father then had his law practice and where my mother had been a school teacher.  My childhood coincided with the Great Depression, and my early adolescence, now in the capital city, with World War II.   Etched deep along with many other images from that time is the newsreel of the liberation of Belsen in April 1945.  Outside schooling there was a various experience of how the non-academic live by way of all sorts of holiday jobs: in market gardens, car and tyre factories, on building sites, surveying forest resources, being a human calculator in the state betting agency, even a desk job in a government department.  Also through three months compulsory military training.  And always there was the presence of the hills and mountains and native forest, ocean beaches, Wellington harbour and its bays, the songs of native birds, a fostering natural world.

“Academic values” began early, with the simple joy of losing oneself entirely in a book, or in concentrated study.  At university in Christchurch – three years English and French with one year of Latin for the BA, then an MA in English.  The disciplines were international.  At the same time there was a strong sense of commitment to the growing literature and to the general culture of our own country.  New Zealand poetry and prose fiction, along with painting and music, were thriving and maturing, creating a distinctive consciousness of the young country’s history and condition.  Within the university the live arts were perceived and felt to be making a contribution to the life of the nation, and as a student one was stimulated to view literature as a current and socially relevant activity, as well as historically and academically.

Preferred writers?  At that time people were more influential than books, though I read anything that came my way.  There were mind-opening teachers; and a constant conversation with student friends, a mutual educational process.  Influential writers?  Yes, Eliot; the Eliot of Prufrock and The Waste Land, and Ash-Wednesday too -- those poems seemed to express my own adolescent feelings, my “illusion of being disillusioned” as Eliot put it.  The Quartets, then a new work, were something else, matter for study and a long essay assisted by critics.  We read Claudel with enthusiasm. A friend gave me Rilke’s Notebook of Malte Laurids Brigge, and I took to his Duino Elegies and to his Sonnets to Orpheus and other poetry (all in translation). Pound’s Personae and ABC of Reading I discovered for myself, and treasured, possibly unconsciously as an antidote to Eliot. 

A New Zealand University scholarship for study abroad afforded two years at Oxford, 1953-55. Ransom’s “Philomela” comes to mind –

            I pernoctated with the Oxford students once,

            And in the quadrangles, in the cloisters, on the Cher,

            Precociously knocked at antique doors ajar,

            Fatuously touched the hems of the hierophants,

            Sick of my dissonance.

But no, it wasn’t really like that for me – it was a rich and various time intellectually.  Oxford was international and one rubbed minds with highly intelligent Americans, Indians, Australians, Scots and Irish, South Africans, Canadians, other New Zealanders, as well of course with the natives.  And there were the known names: Tolkien lecturing on Gawain and the Green Knight; C. S. Lewis on Milton; Helen Gardner on Donne; F. P. Wilson on Jacobean drama.   Feeling I hadn’t read enough to settle into research I opted for the undergraduate degree which meant a reading course from Anglo-Saxon through Middle English and on to 1830, that being the end date of the Oxford course.  So I did my translation of half of Beowulf; applied de Rougemont’s Passion and Society to Troilus and Criseyde; did not get on with The Faerie Queene, which shocked the examiners in my viva; read all of Shakespeare; displeased Helen Gardner by preferring Marvell to her favourite Donne; and so forth.  The discipline was the weekly essay read to one’s tutor, who might question and comment, or (more commonly in my case) say after he had patiently heard me through, “fetch yourself a sherry from the cupboard, my dear fellow”, followed by, “and what’s it to be next week?”  It was an excellent training for a literary journalist and reviewer.  As for “academic values”, the scholarly ambience favoured literary history, editing and annotating, and appreciation.  Some of the young dons and research fellows were drawn to the kinds of criticism cultivated elsewhere, as in Cambridge or North America.  There was a nervousness under the ancient spires about the upstart Americans, Pound and Eliot, who carried on so tiresomely about culture, not having (it was said) one of their own. 

I spent a third year in Oxford, teaching ten- and eleven-year-olds at the Dragon Prep School, and writing stories and a novel in Bodley’s Upper Reading Room in the late afternoons.  I was finding out how to write such things instead of just writing about them.  One thing I was sure of, I did not want a university life.  Working in a French-speaking country for a time seemed a good idea so I looked about in Geneva and made a contact or two and waited for something to turn up, meanwhile supply-teaching in an East End of London primary school, a far cry from the Dragon.  Then the failed Hungarian revolution produced a flood of new refugees and I was offered the job of Assistant Information Officer with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva, where, as it turned out, everyone spoke English most of the time.  A privileged two years there, writing and putting out information about refugees and realizing that the real work was being done by the people in the field, brought me to the conclusion that there might after all be something to be said for a university career.

So to a lectureship at the University of Melbourne English Department in 1959.  There were sympathetic and genteel older colleagues in the scholarly and belle-lettristic tradition; and there were sympathetic and ruthless younger colleagues very alive to American literature and criticism, some who had been to Cambridge and absorbed Leavis, and some who were seriously good poets. And there were students eager for intellectual challenges and constructively challenging in seminars.  Altogether, while that little world with all its creative tensions held together, it was more intellectually stimulating and formative than anything I had known previously.   Critical close reading, “practical criticism” out of I. A. Richards and Leavis, was the effective discipline, with the American critics and theorists, Wellek & Warren, and Blackmur, and Cleanth Brooks, and Allen Tate assisting.  And one taught, as well as the classic texts of English literature, Dostoyevsky and Chekhov, and Faulkner with Joyce, and Pound with Eliot.   But it was not altogether approved of that I should write a critical introduction to Virginia Woolf for a series called “Writers & Critics” – Leavis was dismissive of Virginia Woolf and Bloomsbury.  A critical introduction to The Merchant of Venice for a series called “Studies in English Literature” was looked upon more favourably. 

I don’t recall having any inclination to write about Eliot or Pound at that time.  I spent my sabbatical year, 1965, in Oxford reading up sixteenth century humanism and drama.  I read every extant play text from the earliest up to Shakespeare, which was an intensely interesting exercise, later to be composted.   It is probably as well that some projects are not carried through to publication but are consigned to mental compost. 

I joined the York English Department in 1966, the fourth year from the foundation of the university.  It was a time of innovation and openness to new ways of teaching and examining; and the staff enjoyed a great deal of freedom to pursue and to contribute their individual interests and approaches within a collegial ethos.  I developed a special paper on Modern American Poetry, and an MA by dissertation on Pound.  And one could keep one’s undergraduate teaching fresh by going outside one’s special interests and taking on new period papers from time to time.  Over the years I taught every paper from Middle English to Twentieth Century American Literature. Happy days!  The staff:student ratio in the beginning was 1:8, and that allowed for the teaching to be primarily by weekly tutorial and seminar, with lectures an option for course enrichment.  There was no pressure to publish. And of course no requirement to engage in group research projects and to bring in funding.  There was simply the enlightened expectation that a university teacher was a responsible and self-motivating intellectual who did not need to be driven by external sticks and carrots, whips and scorns, to engage in research and publication.  It was a good place to be, though by 1999 when I retired much had changed, with more hollowing out to follow.  Courage to the resistance!


For more than twenty years T.S. Eliot was your main interest: your monograph T. S. Eliot Poet (1979, 1995) a collection of essays (Tracing T.S. Eliot’s Spirit, 2008) and a collective volume (The Companion to T.S. Eliot, 1995). What first attracted you to Eliot?


For first attraction see the third paragraph above.  What started me writing about Eliot was an invitation in 1968 to write “an up-to-date critical treatment of Eliot” for Hutchinson University Library.  Natural by-products in 1972, the 50th year of The Waste Land, were organizing a major exhibition in the university library of associated manuscripts and books, and the series of lectures given at York by a dozen invited speakers and collected as The Waste Land in Different Voices.  By 1974 my still incomplete draft towards the book had already outgrown the limits of the commission and it was amicably agreed that we should cancel the contract leaving me free to offer it to another publisher.    Cambridge University Press took on the finished work in 1977, and the book appeared in 1979. 

I wanted to come to terms with Eliot, to get free from him.  And the way to do that had to be by understanding his work as thoroughly as I was able, to work through him in order to get out the other side -- to engage with him somewhat after the spirit of Blake’s engagement with Milton –

            Thy purpose & the purpose of thy Priests & of thy Churches

            Is to impress on men the fear of death, to teach

            Trembling & fear, terror, constriction, abject selfishness.

            Mine is to teach Men to despise death & to go on

            In fearless majesty annihilating Self, laughing to scorn

            Thy laws & terrors, shaking down thy Synagogues as webs.

If that sounds rather grim the experience of writing the book was on the whole rather enjoyable.  The method was critical elucidation of the oeuvre from first to last, and there was pleasure in the process of making out its meaning and development.  And much of the book was written in pleasurable surroundings.  I began the first notebook on a folding table in the shade of an acacia in Corsica, and did much of the writing during summers in Provence to the accompaniment of cicadas.  There were memorable moments.  One in particular was opening the bound typescript of Eliot’s then unpublished 1926 Clark Lectures on a grey morning in King’s College Library, having no idea what was in them since few had seen them and no-one had described them, and finding on the first page a sentence which brought my thinking, click! into clear focus.   There was also a salutary lesson: I had been stuck too long in a chapter that just would not come right, and it dawned on me at last that the problem was that I had too clear an idea of what I thought I had to say and needed to drop it and start afresh from Eliot’s text, without preconceptions.


Looking at the articles you published during the same period, Pound was a strong current running underground. Was it a matter of keeping the balance between the two poets?


 “A strong current”, yes, but not altogether underground.  I was bringing Pound into my teaching and graduate supervision.  And Terry founded Paideuma in 1972, and that was a focus and stimulant. Then he started in 1975 what became the series of Ezra Pound International Conferences, that was at Orono, with further Pound conferences there in 1980 and 1985; and ten conferences in the series were organized in England between 1976 and 1991.  I attended all of those except the first and second of the ones at Orono, and I organized the one at York in 1984.  There was an active community of interest and it was good to be part of that. 

There was a general sense of the need for an authoritative text of The Cantos, and also that it was time for a full-scale edition of Pound.  I mentioned this in 1981 in conversation with Michael Black who headed the Publishing Division of Cambridge University Press, and he was keen to explore the possibilities.  CUP had their collected editions of Lawrence and Conrad under way, and he believed such projects were what a university press should undertake.  On the model of those editions, there would be a scholarly edition, and the newly edited and corrected texts would be made available to Pound’s established publishers for their own editions.  Michael had me draw up a proposal as a basis for discussion and we began sounding out interested parties.  Mary de Rachewiltz and Hugh Kenner gave strong backing to the idea, and Hugh agreed with enthusiasm to accept responsibility for the Cambridge edition of The Cantos.  But James Laughlin reacted violently against the whole idea, saying that he was Pound’s friend and publisher, that he kept his books in print at all times, and that it would be disloyal to Pound’s memory to allow any interference with his own way of publishing him. He threatened to sue, even, I was told, to sue me.  So the possibility of a well-edited collected edition, which might have been complete by now, was killed off.  And how little of Pound’s work is currently in print, and how very little one finds in even the best bookshops. On the current Faber list there are just five titles: four permutations of the shorter poems, a Selected Cantos, and the rest is blank, not even a complete Cantos, and none of the prose at all.  New Directions have kept some of their early editions in print in paperback, along with their version of The Cantos, and have had Richard Sieburth edit a New Selected Poems and Translations and an annotated edition of The Pisan Cantos.  But there is no authoritative complete edition of the works of Ezra Pound, as Michael Black so rightly thought there should be.

You asked about keeping a balance between Eliot and Pound.  It was probably more a shift of primary attention from Eliot to Pound after the Eliot book came out.  But then Eliot came to the fore again around 1988, the centenary of his birth, when there were invitations to lecture in America, India, Japan and elsewhere – several of these were collected, along with other essays commissioned about that time, in Tracing T. S. Eliot’s spirit: essays on his poetry & thought (CUP, 1996).  And then I was commissioned to edit The Cambridge Companion to T. S. Eliot (1994), and that kept me thinking about Eliot for a while, but not to the exclusion of Pound.  It was also in 1988 that I was invited to write a critical biography of Pound for the Blackwell series. I was gathering materials for that throughout the 1990s, but started writing it only after I retired in 1999, and then it became a full-time occupation. 


Your Ezra Pound: Poet is and will be Pound’s biography for the new millennium. What was the main impulse behind it? Was it the complexity of Pound’s life, your awareness of him as a “hero of his culture,” as you call him, or maybe dissatisfaction with the existing biographies?


It was really just a matter of seizing the opportunity to write a full-scale study of Pound, life and works, the full story, with the emphasis where it belongs on “Ezra Pound: Poet”.  I had been reading him, teaching him, writing about him for decades as occasion or the interest of the moment allowed, but here was an invitation to attempt to see him whole.  I probably exceeded the Blackwell brief by going into the archives and drawing as much as I was able from the masses of unpublished material, all of that on top of the mountain of published material.  The consequence was that the book outgrew the stipulated length – I was already in sight of that by the time I had reached 1920, with so much more to come.  It would need to be two volumes, I thought, and that was too much for the Blackwell format, so I returned the advance.  That was in 2004.  In 2006 the project was taken on by OUP, as a two-volume work, which was allowed to grow into three.  There is so much variety as well as complexity to the life and works, and so much interest and challenge, that the work had to grow to that length to do any sort of justice to the whole man and his work.  In the end it fell naturally into three divisions: lyric, epic, tragic.


Which Pound biographies did you find more useful and which were the ones you detested?

I detested none, none are to be dismissed, and I found in each something I needed. 


In the preface of your first volume you stress your reliance on documents and say: “I have refrained from speculation and have ignored hearsay” – what have been the leading theoretical principles of your biography writing?


Eliot said something to the effect that the only method for criticism was “to be very intelligent.”  I like that as a principle – absolutely non-prescriptive, yet very demanding.  I don’t have or subscribe to a theory as such, though I suppose I do have some principles.  That everything I wrote should be based on some demonstrable, preferably documented, evidence – hence no speculation, and no uncorroborated hearsay.  Also, to be particular, and let any generalization emerge from the presentation of the particular details or facts.  Of course biography is fiction, but (as Leon Edel put it) the biographer is a novelist on oath.  The challenge is to select from the vast mass of raw material the significant or interesting fragments and to arrange them into a telling narrative.  It must be readable, that’s certainly a principle.  And above all there is the imperative to do justice, to bring out so far as one can “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”  And the truth, as Pound maintained, is in the particular.  It is also likely to be not simple, and to contain contradictions.  Follow the evidence, be skeptical of received opinion, and avoid preconceptions. And go in fear of abstractions and generalizations, the big words that can be so facile and can do so much harm. 


What do you consider the right balance between narrating the events of a life and analysis of poems? Does the life story reflect on the analysis, or rather the other way round? And was this balance different in Eliot’s case?


The Eliot book was very deliberately not biographical in the simple sense. For one thing, not enough was known about Eliot’s life.  My object was the life of the poet in his poetry, the life of the mind not of the man.  Only at the end, when Eliot makes explicit a relation between his personal life and The Elder Statesman, does the critique comprehend both.  Some of the essays in Tracing do bring in biographical material.  Of course in Eliot’s case, far more than in Pound’s, the personal life does always enter into the work. But the relation is never simple, and one has to avoid confusing either with the other. As I wrote in the preface to the second edition of TSE: Poet, “The poetry does not give us the facts [of the life], having generally altered the facts out of all recognition. And for that reason the facts cannot account for or explain the poetry – the poetry is always going beyond the facts. If "biocriticism" consists in reading the poetry as autobiography, and using biographical data to explicate poems, then it risks making chimerical findings.”  In that rather severe statement of principle for that book there was an element of reaction to Lyndall Gordon’s biocritical practice.

In Pound’s case there is no constant relation between the life and the poems.  In the early poems some are certainly direct expressions of personal feeling, for instance “In Durance”; but there is also a good deal of trying out attitudes and styles, masks and personae, more or less impersonally.  Or the personal investment is in practising as a poet, which is another kind of impersonality.  As Peter Nicholls noticed, in vol. 1 the real drama of Pound’s existence is in and around his poetry. The cantos before Pisa are characteristically impersonal, in that they are (with the odd exception) not related to the events of his life.  But there is of course a continuous relation between his prose preoccupations and the cantos, and his prose activities are at least a relevant context for the poetry, though not necessarily explicative.  But this is to shift from the personal life to the thinking activist, and the poet is also distinct from the activist: you can’t simply read either into the other.  I therefore kept my treatment of the poems separate from the life-and-thought, while locating that treatment in the context of the relevant life-and-thought.  And again one has to say that the most vital part of Pound’s life was in the conceiving and composing of his poetry. 


What interested you most in Pound’s life during the London period, what were the main questions about his youth that you were aiming to answer in the first volume of your biography?


I don’t know that I came at it looking for answers, rather in a spirit of discovery.  There was so much personal and literary incident in that period, and a lot of development to follow through.  It was all very interesting and exciting to work out, lots of good material and of different kinds, and lots needing to be freshly and clearly understood -- such as Imagisme, his relations with Poetry, and with The New Freewoman and The Egoist (with Dora Marsden and Harriet Shaw Weaver to be sketched in), and the war, and Orage’s New Age; and his relations with Yeats, and Hueffer/Ford, and Eliot; and of course the evolution of his poetry up to the three ur-cantos; and so on, and so on.  It was marvelous to have all this to sort out and to write up day after day, piecing out my mosaic, writing my novel.


There is a seven-year hiatus between volume one and two of Ezra Pound: Poet. During this time you worked on Pound’s Letters to His Parents together with Joanna Moody and Mary de Rachewiltz. What new insights emerged while working on that volume and were there gains for your biographic work apart from the obvious ones of reliable items of information?


Our work on the letters began in 2006 and the book was published in 2010.  Joanna did the heavy work, transcribing and editing the text, and I looked after the notes etc., and the editorial business.  What became vols. 2 and 3 got drafted between 2006 and 2013.  I had read through the letters in the Beinecke in 1994 so they weren’t new to me -- I had drawn on them in vol. 1 from my notes and photocopies.  The advantage for vols. 2 and 3 was that I could refer my citations to the published text.  Otherwise I guess it was the annotating of the letters that benefited from the research for my own book, rather than the other way round.


In reading the second volume of Ezra Pound: Poet, I was astonished and moved by the depth of your discussion on Pound and music in Le Testament and further, on the role of music in The Cantos. Do you find that musical principles operate even in cantos with political and economic content, like say, the Adams Cantos? And if they do, in what way?


My discussion of Pound’s musical compositions owes everything, after Pound himself of course, to the work of Margaret Fisher and Robert Hughes. As to the role of music in The Cantos, well Pound did say, “history set to music”; and he did try to explain to Yeats what that meant, invoking an analogy with fugue, but Yeats didn’t want to know.  “[T]heme, response, counter-subject”, Pound elaborated to his father; and in the late interview with Pasolini he said, “it’s music. Musical themes that find each other out”.  It made sense to take him at his word and to try to figure out in what way the cantos are composed on musical principles.  And let’s not forget that there is a precedent in the form of The Waste Land, a form discovered by Pound’s criticism, and then developed in Four Quartets.  There is also a very helpful discussion in Kay Davis’s Fugue and Fresco: Structures in Pound’s Cantos.  One of her chapters is about ring-composition in certain cantos, and another analyses the fugal pattern of canto 63, the second of the John Adams sequence.  I found that parts of canto 79 are in ring-composed counterpoint; that in the first movement of canto 41, a contrast between John Quincy Adams and Napoleon is developed after the manner of a sonata; and that canto 41, in which the “Jefferson / Nuevo Mundo” sequence culminates in a treatment of Mussolini, is in the form of a fugue.  So yes, the composition is on musical principles throughout, whatever the content.  It is a way of organizing the material on the basis of likeness and difference, or by association and dissociation.  It’s the principle of the ideogram applied to large structures.  I don’t think the reader needs to be constantly conscious of the musical structure in order to appreciate the poetry, any more than is the case with pure music.  But it is necessary to be aware that the material is organized, not thrown together at random.  One important difference, as against Pound’s economic prose, especially when he is in his propagandising mode, is that the musical organization demands a very particular order of attention, and one which is antithetical to propaganda.  Very simply, it shows, it doesn’t tell; it demands that the reader be constantly differentiating and discriminating, comparing and contrasting, discovering the significant relations of more or less discrete items, and having a mind for the developing structures and overall form.


In The Epic Years you had to present the most difficult and thorny question of Pound’s allegiance to Fascism and anti-Semitism throughout the 1930s. In his book on the Malatesta Cantos (1991), Lawrence Rainey suggested that Pound’s fascist turn was much earlier than previously supposed, namely in his research and composition of the Cantos 8-11 in 1922-23. My strong impression in reading your second volume was that you did not consider Pound a Fascist; rather you showed that: he had a great trust in and admiration for Mussolini’s leadership; he was a Confucian and Jeffersonian; he believed, as a Social Crediter, that wars and economic injustice were the result of the current capitalist financial system, which he called usury; and finally, he was anti-Semitic, with a special animus against high-profile Jewish bankers. Am I reading you correctly?


“Pound’s allegiance to Fascism,” “Pound’s fascist turn,” such formulations close down all the important questions: let’s rather say, “his relations with Fascism,” and keep the matter open.  And let’s keep in mind that Fascism in the 1930s was distinct from Nazism in not being anti-Semitic.  And we should keep in mind also that Italian Fascism was never as atrociously barbaric as Nazism – the tendency to lump them together as “fascism” is a serious falsification of history. 

Yes, I do disagree with Lawrence.  He argued that Pound was drawn to Fascism in 1923 by a love of violence.  But the evidence shows that what really got him interested then was Nancy Cox McCormack’s impression that Il Duce was “a creative force evolving and directing the beginnings of a renaissance.”  Was the dictator interested, he wanted to know, “in the procedure of Sigismundo Malatesta in getting the best artists of his time into Rimini”, that is, in making “Italy the intellectual centre of Europe … by gathering ten or fifteen of the best writers and artists.” It is worth noting that there, as in the Malatesta cantos, it is not the condottiere aspect of Sigismundo which figures as a creative force.

In the preface to vol. 3 I wrote, with deliberate provocation, that, inevitably, Pound was perceived as a Fascist, though in truth he was not one; and then I added that the matter of his involvement with Fascism was too complicated for any simple judgment.  I was making the point that it won’t do to say without qualification, “Pound was a Fascist”.  It won’t do fundamentally because “Fascism”, and even more lower case “fascism”, are almost entirely meaningless terms, as Orwell was observing already in 1944.  In common use they are simply terms of abuse without specific content, but charged with hostile prejudice and an unearned sense of moral superiority.  They stop critical thought; and if one asks, in a spirit of open-minded enquiry, but what exactly do you mean by “Fascism” and “fascist,” and what precisely did Pound make of Fascism, people get angry and assume that one is evading or defending “Pound’s Fascism.”  An intellectually responsible judgment has to follow from a properly detailed investigation; and it should allow for a more complicated, more nuanced, finding. 

We are not so absolute when it is Communism that is in question. There we allow for fellow-travelers and sympathizers.  We denounce McCarthy’s witch-hunt, as Arthur Miller did, complaining of its lack of nuance; we sympathize with the victims, we do not brand them “Communists.” Beatrice and Sidney Webb published Soviet Communism: A New Civilisation? in 1935 or thereabouts, “a popular fellow-traveling book” according to a reviewer in the LRB, although what Soviet Communism had on its record was already far  more barbaric than anything perpetrated by Mussolini’s Fascists. Even those members of Communist parties who remained loyal to Soviet Communism up to, and even beyond 1956, are allowed to be respected historians or philosophers or writers.  Consider Eric Hobsbawm and Pablo Neruda. The “Cambridge Spies,” Philby, McLean, Blunt, really did give their allegiance to Communist Russia, yet they are not red-branded “Communist” as Pound is black-branded “Fascist”.

Pound did not give his “allegiance” to Fascism.  Behind that word is the implication of “swearing allegiance.”  There was a ceremony for that, and Pound did not participate.  He did not join the Fascist party.  He did believe that Mussolini’s Fascism was right for Italy under its then conditions, and he was far from alone in that. But his allegiance he gave to the United States as established by its democratic Constitution, and he never wavered from that. He never suggested that America should be Fascist, but consistently called on it to be true to its own Constitution. And he believed in the Confucian ethic. The Italian Fascists themselves regarded him not as a fellow-Fascist but as an American sympathetic to their Fascism, and during the war as a “collaboratore,” an ambiguous word, but one which recognized that while he worked with them he was not fully one of them. He wanted the Axis to win that war, but largely for his own reasons, basically his belief that Mussolini’s economic and social programs were directed by a will for social welfare and distributive justice. And he offered criticism. But those who only want to prosecute and condemn don’t want to know the specifics of his relations with Fascism.  Several reviewers of volumes one and two, though by no means all, distinguished themselves in that way.

For the hostile reviewers and critics it is always and only “Pound’s fascism,” their needle is stuck in that groove, “fascist.fascist.fascist.fascist. fascist . . .”  they go on.  It stops consideration of Pound’s Americanism, his Confucianism, his internationalism, his crusade for economic and social justice, his music, his poetry, the breadth and depth of his culture, his private life. It blots out all the things that are positively relevant to our present social, economic, and environmental disasters. I suppose that’s the intention; it is certainly the consequence.

Yes, “he believed . . . that wars and economic injustice were the result of the current capitalist financial system, which he called usury.” One can add an emphasis on current, and remember that he said, “re usury . . . the cause is avarice,” and elsewhere, “the root is greed.” One even reads in mainstream journals and newspapers these days, that greed, specifically financial greed, is not good after all, and that it is the dominant power destroying societies, civilizations, and life on earth. Pound could help in raising consciousness about that, if only his work wasn’t blacked out.

And yes, he became anti-Semitic, and in his case that did grow out of his economic crusade.  I say “became” rather than simply “was” because the process is worth studying.  He knew better, he resisted, and yet it became for a time an uncontrollable obsession, a moral and intellectual failing that became a disorder of the mind. To observe that process is not to excuse it, but to better understand it. And of course there isn’t a necessary connection between the economics and the anti-Semitism: one can learn from the one and reject the other.  


In reading volume II, I loved your initiative of interlacing the narrative with pages detailing the political moves of the Nazis during the 1930s: I found this method a great way to dislocate our perspective from a too narrow focus on the Italian situation. Pound read papers in several languages and was certainly informed of what was happening in Germany after 1933. You dwell on Pound’s obsession with usury during this period and it is easy to see that “usury,” connected as it is with the legalization of anti-Semitism in Germany, was a political propaganda concept which had a Nazi rather than a Fascist lineage. Are you suggesting that Nazi propaganda may have influenced Pound during the latter part of the 1930s?


“Obsession” implies that his concern was unreasonable, that it is to be classed with his anti-Semitism, and I don’t accept that.  His economic thinking, drawn from professional economists and consonant with the thinking of many current economists, makes very good sense.  The formative contexts were the 1914-18 World War, and the 1929 Wall Street Crash and ensuing Great Depression. I don’t know of any connection between the formation of his economic ideas and the legalization of anti-Semitism in Germany in the 1930s. When he approved of Schacht’s economic program it was in terms of its being in accord with what he already thought. There would have been a connection in Hitler’s mind when he declared in Mein Kampf that the struggle was against “loan-capital,” but so far as I know Pound picked that up quite late, in 1937, from Wyndham Lewis’s Hitler which he got around to reading only in that year.  Mein Kampf he appears not to have read until 1942.  I can see no reason to suppose that his economic crusade in the 1930s was Nazi inspired or influenced – i.e. I do not think it had “a Nazi lineage.”  Indeed the suggestion that a concern with usury had Nazi origins ignores a “lineage” which runs back to the Torah, and runs through Dante, Aquinas, Muhammad, Cicero, Aristotle, to name but a few; moreover the association of usury with Jews was not a Nazi invention. Once into the war Pound’s political propaganda as regards usury and the Jews certainly corresponded with Nazi propaganda and very likely was intensified by it.  Even so, there was a distinction.  The Nazis were using usury to justify their anti-Semitism; Pound was using anti-Semitism to attack usury. It’s a distinction that makes little practical difference.


In distinguishing the Italian laws against Jews from the German ones, you quote Mussolini opposing the Jews to the Fascist “faith” (The Epic Years, 259, 260).


The paragraph dealing with those laws introduced in 1938 needs to be read as a whole. The laws did not oppose “the Jews” as a race to the Fascist faith.  The sentence referred to reads:  “Jews were identified as typical members of the bourgeoisie, which had been condemned by Mussolini as 'a spiritual enemy of the Fascist faith' on account of putting individual interests before those of the corporate state” (259).  But not all Jews were to be so identified.  And not all Jews were to be subject to the laws – there were a number of exempt categories.  Nonetheless the laws did discriminate against and persecute Jews, not so much for being Jewish as for being under suspicion of maintaining a separate non-Fascist or anti-Fascist identity.


What is your position on Matthew Feldman’s argument that Pound’s allegiance to Mussolini and Fascism was of a religious nature?

I dealt with this in some detail in MIN I.4.  In brief, his argument has no substance. The terms “allegiance” and “religious” in that formulation should be handled with care.


And can we accommodate that to Tim Redman’s view that Pound was the supporter of a “left-wing Fascism”?

That argument doesn’t deserve house-room in Tim’s evidence-based account of Pound’s relations with Italian Fascism. As for “left-wing,” I would want to know what’s in the small print under that label – and the same goes for “right-wing.”