Il Rebus Pound

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From EPOUND-L, the Ezra Pound Discussion List (hosted by the University of Maine), comes a link to an April 14th story in Corriere della Sera concerning Ezra Pound’s politics. The article is framed as a debate between two Italian Poundians, Luca Gallesi and Piero Sanavio, but the real antagonists are CasaPound (Pound House), a center for extreme-right youth in Rome, and Mary de Rachewiltz, who recently denounced the center’s appropriation of her father’s name. That denunciation appeared in a Corriere story published on April 1st (link); the immediate occasion for the new story was CasaPound’s response, which the paper published as a sidebar.

Posters put up in Piazza Vittorio where on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. there will be a rally celebrating the election of Renata Polverini to the presidency of the region of Lazio

Note, by the way, that CasaPound was also in the news recently for having plastered the city illegally with its political posters (the picture and caption to the right come from an April 8th story; link).

The url shared on the Pound list goes to a .pdf of the text as it appeared in print, which we’ve reproduced above — you can see the sidebar at the end of this post; Corriere‘s website also gives a digital version (link). Thanks to Carla Billitteri of the NPF editorial collective, we’re able to offer a quick translation, along with some relevant extracts from the April 1st story. Here and there Billitteri has modified the idiomatic Italian to make the meaning more legible. We’re also thankful to Massimo Bacigalupo for clarifying the context.

Debate Gallesi: He was above all an American patriot. Sanavio: It is wrong to consider him a philosopher.

Fascist or Genius, the Pound Puzzle

Scholars are divided. Meanwhile youth of the right invite the daughter


“Here error is all in the not done, / all in the diffidence that faltered.” Cited from the Cantos, these verses of Ezra Pound can be found as the epigraph to the book Hobbit/Hobbit, a gathering of texts by right-wing youth dating back to 1982, now republished in an expanded version edited by Marco Tarchi with the title La rivoluzione impossibile (Vallecchi, 579 pgs, €18). As one example among many of the interest in the work of the American poet demonstrated by these heretics of neofascism: the late Giano Accame and his Ezra Pound economista (Settimo Sigillo).

Since 2003 CasaPound is the trademark of a group of youth who occupy abandoned buildings and transform them into social centers for the right, harking back to the poet’s ideas and making a show of symbols of fascist origin. They have ignited a reaction from Mary de Rachewiltz, daughter of Pound, who in an interview with Marzio Breda, published in Corriere on April 1st, has rejected any attempt to instrumentalize her father’s thinking.

The youth of CasaPound, by way of their president, Gianluca Iannone, reply, inviting Mrs. de Rachewiltz to visit their site in person to ascertain that their interest in the poet is well-considered and genuine. “Pound’s polemic against usury and the excessive power of banks” — adds Adriano Scianca, cultural spokesperson for the movement — “seems to us totally contemporary and aligned with our vision of the world. When we ask for a social mortgage to facilitate the home-buying of families, we are simply applying a point of the Verona manifesto of the Italian Social Republic praised by Pound in the Cantos: the idea that the right to own a home is not a right ‘of ownership,’ that is a right of real-estate speculatoirs, but a right ‘to own,’ that is a right of workers who are in need.”

But was Pound really a blackshirt author? Luca Gallesi, author of Le origini del fascismo in Ezra Pound (Ares), has some reservations: “I feel sympathy for the youth of CasaPound, but I believe that Mary de Rachewiltz is right to argue that their approach is a bit superficial. The poet was above all an American patriot connected to the American populist movement, which gathered small business and farmers in protest against financial speculators. He saw in fascism a third way, a national and spirital answer to the crisis of mercantile capitalism, but I find debatable the harking back to Pound in the name of a right-wing, Anti-American ideology.”

In contrast, Piero Sanavio, author of La gabbia di Pound (Fazi), has no doubts: “I knew him personally and remember him as a man of great generosity, but from the ideological point of view Pound was organically tied to fascism. He had an authoritarian idea of the State, he supported not only Mussolini but also Franco, and even joined the Republic of Salò. Genial talent from the literary point of view, in politics he was greatly naive. Suffice it to say that he found the positions of Il Duce and that of an enlightened democrat such as Thomas Jefferson overlapping.”

Ready with an objection, Scianca: “The image of Pound as deluded, deceived by fascism, does not convince: his was a conscious choice for which he paid harshly. And it is perplexing that one can praise him as a poet while devaluing his economic ideas, whose validity is demonstrated by the financial crisis.” Sanavio invites a distinction: “Pound was treated in an inhuman way by the American authority and his suffering deserves human sympathy. But he must be read as a poet, not as philospopher, sociologist, or economist. After all, his critique of usury is not original: a similar concept can be found in the writing of Dante and Sant’Ambrogio, even in the Bible.” Gallesi disagrees: “The contemporary economic crisis certainly does not derive from a problem of scarcity, but from mechanisms that privilege the speculative profit and weaken the purchasing power of families. How can we not acknolwedge that Pound was right on the mark in his attack on usury?”

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Before translating the sidebar — shown to the right — here is an excerpt from the earlier story (“Hands Off My Father Ezra Pound“), as it sets up CasaPound’s response:

[Mary de Rachewiltz] leafs through a selection of Italian magazines and realizes that “the black tide of the third millennium” is growing, always in the name of her father: the CasaPound movement. These articles describe “social and cultural initiatives” promoted by the extreme-right network (battles for the home, maternity and self-sufficiency in food and agriculture), but also describe “gatherings organized with martial discipline” by a “holy mob” that distinguishes itself with “leather jackets, shaved heads, and flags with gothic symbols.” And she observes on the internet a sequence from a video exemplifying the taste for certain “warrior practices” by these militants, who “whip each other while dancing” …

And the article continues:

Mary de Rachewiltz … pours out her dismay. “This is another way of putting Pound in a cage, like that of the Disciplinary Training Center of Pisa, where he was segregated, the Guantanamo of 1945. A tremendous damage, because it is born of a distortion of the meaning of his work, and because it runs the risk of compromising again his full critical recognition. An abuse, because in this way they corner him in an ambiguous dimension that goes beyond the reactionary toward a regressive cipher. And because they uphold him to youth of confused mind as a prophet who is so much more fascinating insofar as he is dangerous and forbidden.” For the heir of the poet, in other words, “we cannot remain diplomatic” while judging those pretending to be the “grandchildren of Pound.” They have elevated him to a cult object against an almost mystic-esoteric background. And they have placed him among their ideal ancestors, evoking as a slogan some of his phrases, “more or less inflammatory, fished here and there without logic” from the time in which he supported Mussolini. Which “for my father was the moment of fracture, very complex.” And which, for this reason, ought to be reconsidered, according to her, on the basis of often-neglected variables. Beginning with his vision of history, because, she explains, “he was more interested in ethics than politics. And about Mussolini he used to say, he would have liked educating him. And that Mussolini was destroyed because he didn’t follow the dictates of Confucius.” It is a defense that Mrs. de Rachewiltz, translator and philologist of the paternal work, who lives in Tirolo di Merano, allows herself with some discomfort. Because for her it should be the scholars who hold Pound’s memory close to heart who “fight against certain undue appropriations.”

And here is the sidebar:

Letter of CasaPound

“Come and see us Mrs. de Rachewiltz”

Gianluca Iannone, president of CasaPound, is ready to take his chance. He is prompted by Mary de Rachewiltz’s complaint to Corriere regarding the scant interest of cultural academics in her father. He denies he wanted to instrumentalize the name of Pound and takes credit for having “broken the stereotypes and overcome the ostracisms” weighted against him. “It is for this reason” — writes Iannone to Mrs. de Rachewiltz — “that we say come and see us. This is an official invitation. Come and see us, overcome the useless polemics based on nothing. Come and see if really anyone here is forcing Pound in a new cage. Come and see us and judge with your own eyes and without interested mediations what is the commitment of our human community in carrying forward day after day the battles that were Pound’s.”

All of which parallels the appropriation of Pound by the Tea Party Movement (noted here last month). Stay tuned for further developments.

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