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"Chinese poetry, as we know it today, is something invented by Ezra Pound." - T. S. Eliot

[Ezra Pound] worked on and for poetry as others might work on a major scientific discovery or a drawn-out military mission. Thus, as Sieburth reminds us in his introduction to The Pisan Cantos, when, on May 3, 1945, Pound was arrested at his home in the hills above Rapallo, he immediately put a small Chinese dictionary and a copy of the Confucian classics in his pocket. Working as he then was on his Confucian translations, he knew that, wherever the military police were taking him, he would need these books.
From Pound Ascendant by Marjorie Perloff. Ezra Pound's ability as a translator of Chinese poetry has long been disparaged by sinologists, such as George A. Kennedy in Fenollosa, Pound and the Chinese Character. Other academics have sought to defend him. Two examples are Zhaoming Qian's Ezra Pound's encounter with Wang Wei: toward the "ideogrammic method" of the Cantos and Stephen Tapscott's In Praise of Bad Translations: Ezra Pound and the Cultural Work of Translation (pdf). Eric Hayot draws the contours of this long-running debate and explores its significance in Critical Dreams: Orientalism, Modernism, and the Meaning of Pound's China. Pound's Cathay in full and a public domain audiobook version (iTunes link).
posted by Kattullus on Apr 30, 2009 - 16 comments

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